The Better Decision Making Process
You make thousands of decisions each day. Many of these are simple choices that involve low stakes and low stress. Some are more challenging and require some genuine thought. A rare few require you to bring out the very best in your decision-making brains. The thread that remains consistent in all of these is that making good decisions is an essential piece of daily life.
Businesses and individuals alike have sought after ways of making the best decision possible and doing so consistently. That consistency is important. It’s what keeps you moving forward, prevents harm, and allows for a snow-ball effect of positive momentum. So let’s look at how decision making works and how you can have better decision making consistently in your daily life.
How Decision Making Works
You started making decisions the moment you were born. You chose to cry and who to trust, you chose how to respond to spinach and how to express yourself when you wanted that special toy or blanket. These decisions came instinctually to you at first, but as the decisions became more complex you started to learn new ways of making decisions.
You were influenced by those closest to you as you learned how certain decisions affected them, how they effected your own world. As you continued to grow older, you continued to practice different methods of improving decision making, leading you to your current style and preferences.
You now are likely faced with far more difficult decisions. Should I go to college? Should I date them? Should I quit my job? What organization should I work for? Where should we go on vacation?
All of your decisions have their own opportunities and challenges, benefits and dangers. You make decisions based on your past experiences and the input of others. You make decisions based on your own priorities and objectives. But all too often people start from scratch with each decision that is at least moderately challenging. All of this wastes times, kills your productivity and can keep you from making the best decision possible. Because of all this, you need to understand the basics of decision making before creating your own personalized system.
Basic Decision Making
Basic decision making has 4 simple parts
There are a variety of formulas for decision making. These give you a great starting point and outline, but they do not go far enough in taking into consideration your own individual personalities and needs.
The decision making model you will see here branches off from the traditional systems to realign with your purpose. You will look more in depth into what is necessary to make better decisions based on who you are, taking into consideration all of you. This makes this process unique to you with your own nuances and styles. But it unites us all with a framework that can provide consistently good decision making along the way.
Step 1 - Understand the Decision
Like any good decision making process, the first step is to identify the decision. This might sound straightforward at first, but there are details to be highlighted.
Good decision making has identified the broad decision that needs to be make. Better decision making looks at discovering the root question. It looks at finding out what you actually need to decide on in any given situation.
People tend to get this wrong. They think they have identified the decision when really they have just noticed a symptom or really only part of the question. You need to dive deeper, to understand the root of the decision first before trying to solve it.
Think of this decision like a tree. What you first notice and what seems to be the obvious decision is the tree itself. You can see individual branches and parts but you are still not identifying the root of the decision.
Let’s say your original question is, “Should I take this new job?” This is pretty simple and we can see all of the parts to the equation – pay, travel time, environment, work requirements, etc. These are all real considerations and the question itself is a good one. But you can go a step further. The root of this is what makes it your own, the decision that you alone are facing and must make. The root question might be something more like, “Do I want to commit to this lifestyle?” or “Will this job allow me to thrive?”
These questions get more at the heart of the decision and give you a lot more clarity on how to move forward. Dig a little deeper into your decision and look for what questions you are really trying to answer. These are at the heart of your decision. You may end up back at the same original question, but now you will know why you are asking it and have greater clarity moving forward.
Step 2 - Determine Your Priorities
Now that you know what the decision you are tackling actually is, it’s time to set your priorities. Your priorities should be a reflections of your purpose, values, and your current goals.
Purpose – Your purpose is how you filter your world and how you know what to pursue in life. It is what defines you and gives your broader life direction and meaning. When you know your purpose, you have an automatic filter for priorities. This allows you to see more about what decisions would better fit with your broader purpose. This should reduce your list of options and produce a good starting point for your decision.
Your purpose is what gets you moving in the right direction, heading north to the end goal that you are ultimately striving toward.
Values – Your values are another essential tool for decision making. They are how you determine what is important in your life and how you better understand what is meaningful for you. These values are reflected in your purpose and allow for a deeper dive into it. Combining values with purpose allows you to move deeper into a decision that will accurately reflect who you are.
Your purpose will serve as a guide and get you moving in the right direction. Your values will help you choose the right road that will keep you moving in that direction.
Current goals – Your current goals step you out of the macro world and back into the moment of the decision. By sorting through your priorities, you are setting up what you hope to accomplish with this decision. This is a great time to look back at the first step and remind yourself of what you are really trying to answer. What would the best outcome be? What is the path that will lead you there?
With your purpose and values moving you in the right direction and even on the right road, your current goals will put you into the right lane. You will know that you are able to take whatever exit ends up being yours and that you know what to look for in your desired goals.
Step 3 - Gather Information
Now that you are moving in the right direction, on the right road, and in the right lane, you can gather the information you will need to make your decision. You will likely already have a lot of your own personal information in hand through steps one and two. Now you need to gather the information that your priorities are telling you needs to be found.
Since your priorities have set your path for your, look back at them and think about what input or data you need to fill those priorities. There are some important sources for your information as you engage this process.
Experience – Your own experience is so important to so many decisions. Even if the situation you are in is new and different, you may already have a wealth of information from other experiences. The truth is, whether or not you choose to, you will likely already be factoring in your experiences as information. Seeking them out and understanding them will provide you with greater clarity and allow you to make better decisions.
Stakeholders – Stakeholders are those individuals or groups who will be effected by your decision. In the investment world, anyone who has investments in or is sustained or benefited by that company is considered one of its stakeholders. You may first have to identify who your stakeholders are before making the decision. This will take some time and care as you seek to understand how your decision might affect them.
The Decision Itself – Another great resource is the decision itself. People oftentimes read through a situation or come across a problem and then leave it behind to make their best “judgment call.” The problem here is that you may accidentally disregard some of important details. Go back to your decision and review the facts. Just like in the courtroom as attorneys work to review the facts of a case for the judge to rule on, it is time for you to act as judge and review the facts of the case.
Intuition – Your gut or intuition is an enigmatic part of decision making. It is a sense of right and wrong, of hesitation and excitement. It is difficult to define but you know it when you feel it. Your intuition is often right and can give you the nudge you need to make a difficult decision. Trust in yourself and allow your intuition to guide you down the right path when the options are tight or too similar to separate.
Step 4 - Priority Based Evaluation
Now that you know what decision you are trying to make, have set your priorities well, and have gathered the information, it’s time to evaluate that information. This is how you go from a pile of information to a select few pieces of relevant information.
Your priorities should be your guide here, combing through the information to see what lines up with your purpose, values, and current goals. The hard work of determining your priorities should already be done. Like a gold prospector in a river, you already have the materials in your pan and you have the tray to sift through it. You just have to put them together.
It may be helpful to detach some from this process, to trust in the work you have already done. If you notice your gut telling you to go a different direction than what the evaluation is seeming to say, try to understand the reason behind your hesitation and add that to your information or priorities.
Step 5 - Make A Decision
When you have finished evaluating your information, it’s time to decide. This is an surprisingly important step since many individuals will go through the whole process and then never act on their decision. A decision left in evaluation is left unfinished. Just because you know your answer doesn’t’ mean you have actually made a decision.
Decisions require action, movement. They require you to put some faith in your decision and move forward. Without this crucial step, people fall back into analysis and the “what ifs” that inevitably come up. Your job in this moment is to make your decision and to put your weight behind it.
There is one last part to all of this. If you are stuck in a situation, even after your evaluation, make a decision. You are likely in a situation where the outcomes are neither better nor worse than another. If you are reading this article, you likely want to find ways of being more purposefully productive. You cannot act on your purpose or be productive unless you commit to a decision and act. Be brave and go forward with your gut.
Bonus Step - Reflect on Your Decision
Reflection is a bonus step that can add to any decision making process. Reflection allows you to look back on your decision and see if there are lessons to be learned. This is part of a growth mindset and enables you to be more efficient as you go forward through your life. You will make decisions with more confidence and with greater speed if you are able to reflect on each decision well.
These reflections may reinforce your gut feelings and teach you to trust your intuition. On a similar note, reflection may increase your understanding of your priorities and values, essential components to living a life of purpose.
You encounter decisions every day. How you make your decisions can result in lost time and energy, frustration and confusion. As you develop your decision making process, be sure to be intentional. Be mindful of how you make decisions and what or who you are allowing to influence your work. Through this process you can become more efficient and productive and learn to live more in tune with your purpose.
If you have or plan to use any step from our better decision making process, please leave a comment with what worked for you! We would love to hear from you and wish you the best of luck as you make better decisions, live a life of purpose, and produce more for your world than before.