Making Good Decisions

by jblack

Learn some simple yet useful techniques for making good decisions when faced with the inevitable choices of everyday life.

Knowing How to Make Good Decisions is a Necessary Life Skill
Knowing How to Make Good Decisions is a Necessary Life Skill

"Decisions should be based on facts, objectively considered."─ Marvin Bower

Most of us are faced with making decisions every day.  How difficult or easy a person finds the decision making process is often related to how much confidence the person has in his or her abilities to make the best choices among available alternatives.

Fear of making a bad decision, one that we may later regret or one that causes us to miss out on some better, more fulfilling outcome can stymie our ability to decide at all.  The irony is that making no decision is actually a decision in itself since the passage of time or the circumstances usually makes choices for us.  In a paper published in the Le Bon Journal, author Anne Ku termed that concept as "the decision of indecision."  Often the decisions of indecision are the very types of decisions that people later regret the most.  That is one reason why learning how to make good decisions is an essential life skill.  Making good decisions is a life skill that most anyone can learn.

Consider Alternative Courses of Action

One definition for "decision" found at Merriam-Webster.com is "a determination arrived at after consideration."  Consideration here means an evaluation of two or more choices or possible courses of action.  Determining the best choice or course of action after considering all the alternatives is the definition of making a good decision.

The first step in good decision making is to identify all the available options.  Identifying the options can be a purely mental exercise but putting things in writing can simplify the process.

Visualize Predicted Outcomes

The next step in the making good decisions process is to visualize the expected outcomes for each of the available alternatives.  Using the best information available to you, consider the potential consequences, both good and bad, from choosing each particular course of action over the others.  The author of the article "Decision Making and indecisiveness tendencies in our nature," published at CharmingHealth.com suggests that "evaluating the pros and cons of all the available options" is one good method to accomplish this step.

Accept the Reality of Uncertainty

Nando Pelusi, writing for for MSN Health & Fitness noted that "much of our worry about making decisions stems from our irrational — and impossible — need for certainty" with regard to outcomes.  Especially in the case of important decisions, our felt need to get it right is so pronounced that we become indecisive and can't make a decision because we can't be certain we will make the right or best choice.  We must accept the reality that some degree of uncertainty will always be present.

Consider all the available options, evaluate the potential outcomes from each alternative, and then use your knowledge, education, experience, personality, and wisdom to make the decision.

Don't Second Guess

Lt. General Hal Moore, a Vietnam-era, decorated combat leader and recognized expert on leadership once said of decision making; "Don't second guess decisions. Face up to the facts, deal with them and move on to the next situation."  Make your decision, accept the responsibility, and accept the consequences.

 

Sometimes the consequences of our decisions will result in heartache instead of happiness, regret rather than fulfillment.  Yet a decision that seems a failure in hindsight doesn't mean the decision was a bad one.  Arriving at a decision after carefully evaluating all the options and giving due consideration to all possible outcomes using the best information available at the time defines good decision making.  Giving into fear, falling prey to "decisions by indecision" are the definitions of failure and bad decision making.

Sources:

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Updated: 01/09/2012, jblack
 
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