If you’re pondering the elements that comprise a situation in order to make a decision, at what point are you procrastinating or even paralyzing your progress? Within your answer lies a clue to your decision making style. Making decisions can be difficult in the best of situations. You may be responsible for the well-being of others whom the decision will affect, you could be distracted by emotional or physical stress, there might be ethical issues you’re struggling with, your personal values may be at odds with the best solution, or you may just be afraid of being wrong.
Within the decision making process, there’s a broad spectrum. Some people can size up a situation quickly and make a choice with little effect on the situation’s overall momentum. Others need to consider things from a variety of viewpoints in order to feel comfortable with a choice. Still others can’t seem to make a decision to save their lives on even the simplest thing. Each decision-making style has its downside, too: too quick and you might overlook a key element, too slow and you could miss an opportunity, not at all and you’ll be paralyzing yourself.
The goal of good decision making is to influence optimum circumstances. When we say we’re pondering a decision, we’re evaluating potential outcomes. We’re using the basis of our experience and knowledge to look for current similarities and make predictions as to likelihood or probability. Ethical issues, morality and personal values, attitudes and acceptability, social responsibility, and general information all contribute to decision making. It’s what we do with these factors that turns pondering into procrastination or paralysis.
Most experts agree that decision making happens within the realm of emotion first, and then facts are employed as justification for the decision. Factual data can weigh certain attributes; a decision can be made to seem more reasonable and appropriate with facts. If there is a strong emotional basis in favor of the decision, contradictory factual data can seem weak or irrelevant in the face of personal values or ethics.
How can we tell whether we’re using a good decision making process and taking the appropriate amount of time to make decisions? Obviously, outcome is the ultimate arbiter. But you can’t get to outcome until the decision is made. What can you do to improve the decision making process and achieve better results?
1. Assess your overall expertise on the subject. Generally, if you are not well-versed or experienced in the matter at hand, you will want to compare the available options. This can provide a higher degree of confidence in the judgment, even though it may have little to do with the accuracy of the choice that is made.
2. Trust your intuition. Eliza Fayle, intuitive mentor, describes intuition as “an extension of the senses” we use to process our world. She advises clearing away the distracting elements from the decision making process so that intuitive listening can occur.
3. Recognize the negative emotions that can trigger procrastination. There is an inherent conflict between delaying and doing. When you procrastinate a decision, it generally means that you want something else more (even if you don’t necessarily know what that is) than you want to make the decision. Recognize what that something else might be as part of the decision making process and go back to steps 1 and 2, utilizing comparatives and general intuition.
4. Know that the perfect is the enemy of the good. Pete and I know someone whose kitchen has been torn apart for over two years while she mulls over the perfect design. Stuck in the limbo-land of indecision means settling for a situation that is dissatisfactory over a lengthy period of time. Do you really want to treat yourself that way? Remind yourself that you’ll be satisfied with the best decision you can make given the facts and circumstances and give yourself an ultimate deadline, which creates a higher level of accountability.
5. Assess your anxiety level when it comes to decision making. If the smallest decisions stress you out, understand that this isn’t something that happens to you, it’s something that you’re doing to yourself. Take responsibility for sorting out the ethical issues, understanding the structure your personal values take, and select the outstanding decisions that will have the least effect. Getting into practice like this will ease your comfort level.
Success in any area of life is dependent upon decision making. Deferring decisions to others, or succumbing to self-inflicted paralysis is a way of abdicating responsibility. At work, this can mean you will not advance into leadership. In your personal life, this can mean that you’ll be stuck. Analyzing a good decision making process and ensuring the way you make your choices and the choices themselves are in alignment with your personal values and ethics can mean a higher degree of confidence and progress overall.
What is your decision-making style?