Decision Making

Jan 20, 2021

The next important skill to master is decision making. Even goal setting involves a lot of decision making including what goal to aim for, what to tackle first etc. You’ll find there’s a lot of overlap in these skills, and, as you work through the list, you’ll get better at all of them.


Why Is It Important

There are two parts to the decision making skill. The first is to learn to make decisions and the second is to make good decisions. Both are equally important. If you don’t learn to make decisions and get in the habit of taking charge of your life, others will run it, and who wants that?

Decisions govern everything, from what we eat and wear daily, to big life choices like who to marry or what college to attend. Some decisions have a short and rather unimportant influence on our life going forward (like picking that bacon burger for lunch), while others have a long-lasting impact like taking on a mortgage or turning down a job offer.

Speed is another important factor. We live in fast times and are often required to make important decisions on the spot. Getting good at this will help us perform under pressure and greatly increase our chances of making the right decision.


How To Get Started

Ideally, decision making is a skill that we learn and practice from childhood. Some people emerge as adults comfortable making day to day decisions, while others have a harder time with this skill. In either case, the key to getting better at decision making in practice. Think of it as a skill like learning a new language.

It seems uncomfortable and hard at first, but the more you do it, the easier and more natural it becomes. Start by forcing yourself to make conscious decisions on a daily basis. Pick your breakfast instead of grabbing the same bowl of cereal you’ve eaten since you were five. Speak up when it comes to choosing a place for lunch, or what direction to take in a project at work.

Volunteer to make decisions as often as you can. The more you do it, the easier it becomes, and the better you get at it. That will also help you get over your fear of failure. Often the biggest stumbling block when it comes to decision making is that we’re worried about making the wrong choice. Get comfortable with failure.

Here’s the reason why this is important. Making mistakes and making the wrong decision is the quickest way to learn. Think back to when you were a child. Mom would tell you that the stove is hot and not to touch it. Touching it (the wrong decision) burns your hand. While it was the wrong choice to make, it taught you a valuable lesson. You now know without a shadow of a doubt that the stove is hot and that touching it is a bad idea.

We get this idea in our heads that failure is a bad thing and we must always make the right choices. Instead, start to embrace the possibility of failure. Make those decisions, make them quickly, and learn from the ones that don’t turn out as expected.


Improving Your Skills

Once you’ve gotten used to decision making, there are some additional things you can do to sharpen your skills. They are all about making decisions faster and making better decisions in the first place.

There’s no need to agonize over most decisions. Train yourself to make them quickly by putting yourself on a deadline. Grab a kitchen timer and force yourself to decide on a meal plan for the week in 60 seconds, for example.

Learn to trust your gut. Making quick decisions will help you do this. Your brain subconsciously does a lot of processing and helps you make the right choice more often than not. When we overthink, we tend to no longer trust that gut feeling.

Break down complex decisions. It's not possible to make every decision in a few minutes. When there’s a lot of information or variables involved, don’t be afraid to sit down and compile all the information you need to make an educated choice. Sort through what’s important and what isn’t.

Try pro and con lists. While they will not work in all instances, there are times when a simple list will help clear things up and help you make the best decision.

Realize that there isn’t always a best or perfect decision. Very often you’re faced with several equally good choices and need to pick the one that’s the best fit for you right now.

We learn from our experiences and decision making. Try keeping a journal with your thought processes and decisions for a while. Go back and revisit your choices and your decision making process with the benefit of hindsight.

Do you start each day without direction?

Do your family and friends often take the back seat to your work?

Do you feel stuck with little motivation?

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