Decision Making - forgotten secret of every day life

Decision making is something we do without thought, without hesitation, without worry or comeback, each and every day. Yet in the big things, in those moments when our big project hangs in the balance, hesitation, self doubt and fear can come in and spoil our day (or worse). Why is that? Can it be avoided? Would knowing more about the 'making decisions' process better support and assist us - I think yes.

But we should remember that we are rather good at making decisions

Yet we should remember that we are very adept at making decisions. After all, us human beings are making them from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed

  • what to have for breakfast - cooked or cereal?
  • which shirt or blouse to wear
  • which way should I drive to work today
  • should I make a packed lunch or buy something out
  • he just said something to me - how should I reply?

and so it goes on. We are well versed in deciding things. And most of the time there is no problem with that. We make these decisions (almost) without thinking. The moment comes and goes, decision made, life goes on. And if we did hesitate about all these (minor) decisions would any of us do anything, achieve anything.

So what is decision making?

This obviously depends on the situation or circumstance: We may be

  • going through with an agreement
  • making a choice
  • concluding an action
  • determining our best way forward
  • diagnosis a problem and taking action
  • making a judgment call - is it this way or that?
  • expressing an opinion
  • persevering with a course of action to overcome obstacles
  • creating a precedent in our lives or within the greater picture of life
  • assessing the probabilities and choosing the best looking alternative
  • resolving a situation that has remain unresolved for some time
  • moving on to the desired result
  • selecting from a list of alternatives
  • terminating a previous course of action and starting off in new direction
  • stating a verdict on the situation we find ourselves in

So, there is a little more to this decision making process after all . . .

So what is the problem with making decisions?

Certainly looking at the above listing we can see why we might not manage this decision making process every time, or at least as well as we might. It looks complicated. It looks as if there is a problem around every corner. What we conjure up can be what puts that wall in front of us, those unseen hurdles. Those obstacles that we would like to avoid if at all possible.

Here are some possibilities for us to think about in our decision making. If we make the decision before us, and take this route, then the following are options

  • this is rather personal, I must get this right
  • the outcome really does means something to me
  • the outcome is very important for our future
  • we could be judged adversely by the outcome
  • my career is on the line - I must get this right
  • this will affect a lot of people, I must take care
  • this is a disputed action, I hope I get it right
  • do I have all the facts before me
  • I wish I could think better
  • I wish this was not being left to me to decide
  • procrastination is getting in my way
  • I wish I could get this right all the time
  • I wish I could pass the buck

These alternative scenarios give us a picture of what we can start thinking about that will freeze us in our tracks. That will make decisions seem like hard graft rather than something we should do, and can do, quite naturally.

And, what is behind these difficulties

Some things come to mind that we should be aware of in our decision making

  • we don't want to lose face
  • we have made it personal when it need not have been
  • we don't want to disappoint
  • we don't want to affect others adversely
  • we should not be making this decision, it should be someone else
  • this has far reaching repercussions and this puts us off
  • first day on the job, or we are inexperienced
  • first day on the job, or we are inexperienced - and we want to make a good impression

These and others are perhaps underlying the situations and circumstances where we may have difficulties, or at least think we do (which may be enough).

What qualities are useful in decision making?

We all have these qualities to a degree. The following starts the list

  • determination - to make this decision and move on
  • discipline - to tackle things in a logical order
  • thoughtfulness - to consider the angles, particularly when it affects other people (and what does not?)
  • control over one's emotions - not to make a knee-jerk response when a more considered riposte is required
  • being able to take time - an impetuous response may well be a mistake
  • think before we act - our impulsiveness may be our downfall; yet this can give us the energy to respond and respond with motivation and confidence
  • seeing the wood for the trees - being able to analyze the alternatives
  • the ability to reverse a previous decision - and right a wrong or to learn from previous actions
  • to be able to take advice
  • to know that our choice may not be the best and seek clarification
  • being able to be decisive - particularly when the chips are down and the pressure is on
  • being happy to take responsibility for what is happening

Would it help if I was decisive?

Being decisive is something we can admire in people but what is it?

  • to be firm
  • to be definite in what we decide
  • to be resolute
  • to take critical actions when required
  • to decide but to show others our intentions
  • to be clear in our actions
  • to act and for our intentions to be unmistakable
  • to be unequivocal in our response

This all sounds a little heavy, but at times we all show some of these qualities. To be decisive is to act and see your action through, but in a flexible, thoughtful manner - so we can all do that, can't we?

Is being dispassionate the answer?

Should we be dispassionate in our decision making? Would this help? It would seem too, in that we 'could' act without feeling or care BUT this is NOT a stance we should be looking at or taking - because

we are human beings with feelings, and should respect that in others, too everything is not black and white, and should not be treated as such we need to see the full picture and realize what impacts on others we need to think of what we can contribute and not just what we can take

We should not get bogged down in the details, but we should think about the consequences and repercussions of what we do.

So we can make decisions, whatever they are?

Yes, of course we can. We all do - each and every day.

It is only the bigger ones that need thought. And they will have a real and perhaps unseen impact on our lives, and that is why we hesitate over them. We need

  • To be able to see the bigger picture
  • To see other people's points of view
  • To act for the greater good and not just your own
  • To be able to take the 'us' out of the decision making process
  • To act from the heart and not just the mind
  • To care and feel about things and what we do
Each and every day

Decision making is an every day occurrence. (Is it not similar to goal setting in its occurence in our lives?) It is something that we can improve. We can put more of 'us' into the process. We need to think and feel more about the outcomes and repercussions. We need to put ourselves in other people's shoes. But we also know that (at times) we cannot please all the people, and sometimes cannot please ourselves either.

If we make decisions and take decisive action, AND keep other people in 'our' loop, then we are going in the right direction. Good communication is a must. We should think not just of ourselves but of others, too. Don't focus on the decision (and any surrounding problems), rather look at the positive affects and benefits that we can all share from our actions.

Realize you can make decisions. Decision making - know that you are rather good at it. You can improve, but then so can we all. Act for yourself and for the greater good and you will be making an active and fruitful contribution to the life we all lead.


To learn more about decision making and to look at decision making from different angles please follow this link to my decision making website