5 Ways to Improve Your Decision Making Skills
By Rima J Pundir
How often have you dithered while making a decision, not knowing which is the correct choice? Life puts us at crossroads many a time and choosing one road over the other by carefully balancing the pros and cons of each, listening to that gut feel and not letting others influence your decisions is very important – if you want to be happy with your lot in life… Decision making is an important skill that we all need to move up and forward, in our career as well as in life.
But Why is Decision Making So Tough?
Frankly, on any given day, we often end up making hundreds of small and maybe insignificant decisions. When to get up, to exercise or not, what to wear, what to eat, where to go, how to go and much, much more? These decisions are made in a split second and are easy enough to figure but because they don’t really affect the outcome of anything per se – our breakfast choice, as long as it healthy and filling enough, does not alter the future of us or the world.
This changes when the decision has been made complicated by external factors. What you wear to the office on a usual day is not much of an issue, but when you have that all-important interview lined up, then your outfit becomes an important decision-making process. If you have difficulty in making decisions, and agonize over your choices for days to come, wondering whether what you did was right, you need to stop. 1
While we would never advise you make split-second decisions and just plunge in without weighing the pros and cons – you do have to make the decision quickly and concisely and remember these thoughts.
- More thinking is not always good thinking.
- Learn to trust your intuition or gut feel.
- Give a deadline to decision making.
- Accept that you cannot always have it all; you might have to compromise a little.
- Finally, is a decision you took ultimately proves to be wrong – remember that life does hand you lemons sometimes.
How Do I Improve My Decision Making Skills?
Knowing that you have a problem with decision making is a good step. Recognize the signs – if you can’t even order dinner for yourself, then it may be time to polish up your decision-making skills, stiffen your spine and trust what your gut is telling you…
1. The 10/10/10 Rule To Make Tough But Necessary Decisions
Suzy Welch is a business writer for various respected publications and she invented a simple tool that can help us decide either way, how to move ahead. 2. Called 10/10/10, and described by Welch in a book of the same name, it advises that we think about the decision we are about to make on three different time frames: How will we feel about it 10 minutes from now? How about 10 months from now? How about 10 years from now? This tool basically helps us see things with a fresh perspective and makes sure that regret is not part of our life – if we can foresee that a decision we make now is likely to leave us with regret later, it means that you head down another road that foresees a happier future.
2. Face Your Fears And Then Move Forward
A lot of time, decision making paralyzes us, so to speak because we are afraid of the outcome. We fear the result our decision will bring and if basically are so anxious about it, analyzing it to the nth degree so much so we end up frozen in anguish. The key to getting out of this deep freeze is to face and name those fears. Write down the worst things that could happen with the decision you are about to make – for instance, you have a big problem with your spouse and want to air out your grievances. But you are afraid that this will lead to a big fight or even a separation down the road.
The next step is to see – can you cope up with that worst scenario? If it does come to a separation or even a divorce – can you cope with being single, can your children? Think about it long and hard and you might see that while your fears and the worst-case scenario are tough, they just might be manageable as well. 3
3. Stuck? Write Down the Pros & Cons
TED Talker Ruth Chang has a devised a simple way to expedite those decision-making skills. She says you write down the pros and cons of the decision you are about to make for there are no correct or incorrect choices. As people, we are subliminally dictated by our desires and need, even if we ruthlessly tamp them down. This solution is very effective when we are stuck with two choices, and both seem good. Stuck between two marriage proposals, two jobs or two schools for the kids… 4
If you list out the pros and cons of both your options, you will see the pros of one getting longer than the other – usually, your innate desire or your gut will be making the decision for you. Go with your gut and just leave everything else to the cosmos.
4. Be Careful of Miswanting & Making Decisions Based on it
Experts say that we end up making the wrong decisions simply because we end up confusing our likes, with our wants. As human beings, we are subject to our emotions and feelings. But feelings don’t really tell us where they come from – and since we often misunderstand their source, we end up not knowing what we liked about our situation in the first place.
Also, we may want something – and end up confusing the yearning with actual liking. So we may want to see the Louvre, but do we actually like it? We don’t know. We may want a new look… Do we like it? Don’t know…
So sometimes, our decisions should be based more on our likes, than our wants. For instance, we may want to take a trip to an exotic locale. But we know that we like being in the beautiful solitude of the hills, rather than the hub-bub of a Caribbean island. The decision should then be to go to the hills – for that is what we like… 5
5. Escape From The Paradox Of Choice
Many years back, decision making was easier than what it is today. Why? Because it did not involve so many choices. Buying a shirt was easy because all you had to do was choose the size and the color. Now if you go to buy a shirt – you got to choose the type, the fit, the buttons, the fabric, the cut, the stitch, the pattern, the collar, the color, the size, and the micro-size.
As Barry Schwartz puts it so eloquently in his TED Talk 6 – we have so many choices today, that each of our decision, be it good or bad comes with the unique flavor of regret – since we end up thinking maybe A, B, C or X, Y, Z was a better choice than the D I chose. And this happens everywhere – in our jobs, the sandwich we buy, the ice cream flavor we finally choose or even the car or the latest pieces of tech we so adored, but now wonder about…
The solution is to keep it simple – choose 2-3 alternatives, turn a blind eye to the others and go with your gut. As for the rest, let the world carry on dithering – you have made your decision, be happy with it. There’ll always be people who think of you the fool, for the choice you make. The point being, if you are happy, why should you care at all?