Want to Succeed in Life, You Need to Make Good Decisions
But do you rely on a Decision Process, Decision Foundation, or both?
I have a question for you… Do you have a decision-making process or a decision-making foundation?
I mean, do you follow a templated structure to the right decisions? A checklist that gives you decision confidence?
Or, do you have a foundation built on certain knowledge and understanding that you use to make decisions? Do you make decisions that align for you, or for the data?
Perhaps, it is both… I want to give you some insight into the differences and merits of each and why it's important you refine it. Because, as simple as it seems, good decisions are the key to your success.
Your life changes the moment you make a new, congruent and committed decision — Tony Robbins
Life is the sum of all your choices — Albert Camus
There was an old man, sitting out the front of an electronics shop. I stood there debating the features of a sound system with the shop assistant, and the old man, who overheard our conversation offered this advice.
‘What are you really buying this for?’, he asked. ‘I want to enjoy my movies, and be able to play music from my phone’, I respond. ‘Which systems do that?’, he asked, ‘well, all of them’, I said.
He smirked and said, ‘if you know what you want, you need to prioritise the systems against what is important to you, and the decision can be made’. I realised that if all of them did what I wanted, I actually wanted the best value, highest quality audio. So, I did the research and made the decision.
Mark Twain identified the dichotomy of decision-making as follows: “Good decisions come from experience, but experience comes from making bad decisions.”
As an example, here are the five steps you can use to make a good decision, they are a decision-making process and in essence, what I used to buy the sound system;
- Identify the purpose of the decision. What are you trying to achieve with this decision and what goal are you moving towards?
- Gather information on your options, and bound the problem space. What are the potential paths forward? Assess your alternatives, what is off the table?
- Weigh the evidence and consider the consequences of each path forward.
- Make your decision and take action in the direction of that decision.
- Check and evaluate your decision.
This process offers comfort to people that prefer the guidance of process and the structure of the assembling their data and reviewing their options. But, there are some areas in which this process is compromised. This is the cognitive biases that we are often unaware of.
In assembling information on options, decision-makers will often turn to sources that support their sub-conscious preferences. For instance, in purchasing a sound system, I wanted good value. So I looked for the systems on sale.
The salesperson told me, ‘of all the sale systems, this is the best value’, pointing at one of the systems. He then went on to describe why that was the case, but by anchoring my starting point there, when I asked about the features of other systems, I was subconsciously comparing it with that one. I sort out data to support the fact that that one was the best value.
These biases are hard to identify, and as such you need to seek out differing opinions. Question your motivations, and review your decision criteria.
If this way of decision making seems to structured, or that there is not enough time to always follow a process for decisions. There is another way.
‘How do you anchor your decisions?’, asked a mentee one day. I asked them to expand. They explained that they sometimes struggle to identify whether the decision they are making is the right one for them, not the right one agreed by some consensus.
They felt that too often they were making the decision they thought everyone expected them to make, rather than the one that they probably should make.
This is where having a decision foundation comes in. There is one keyword that Tony Robbins used in the quote;
Your life changes the moment you make a new, congruent and committed decision
Congruent; adjective. In agreement or harmony.
This is the key to making decisions from a foundation, understanding your congruency identifiers.
I realised that decision making requires an understanding of what it is that is central to you, what it is that defines your congruency.
It took me some time, but I figured it out. I worked out what it is I needed to have a strong decision foundation. I needed to understand my values and personal philosophy. I needed to understand my starting point, and the direction I wanted to go.
I found my values through the work of Brene Brown, who in her book Dare to Lead provided a framework for identifying your core values. They provide an energy bucket that guides my interactions with myself and others. When I am aligned, congruent, the interactions energise me.
The next thing I’ve identified is an extension of one of those values, Growth. Not growth in the dictionary defined way, but the desire to be better tomorrow than whatever it is today. These two things allow me to make decisions that are aligned and congruent with my values and my philosophies.
There are people that say, ‘you can’t ignore the real world’ in making decisions.
This might be true, in most situations, but you shouldn’t ignore this foundation. It is why you need to blend both of the decision making systems.
Why you need both
You’ll find that you run into people that rely on one decision-making process over the other.
These people will have moments of confidence in their decisions but be faced with points of doubt. They might say that, even though the data says this is the right thing, it doesn’t feel that way.
Or, I believe this is the right decision but I can see so many reasons why it isn’t.
It is in these moments that you need to use both.
Follow the process, and find your congruency. Or, in defining the problem space and the decision required, understand the guiding thread through the process to the decision that is most congruent.
By balancing both, you allow the strengths of both to find you the answer you most need.
And to succeed, you need to make consistently good decisions. But, if you do make a decision that turns out to be poorly aligned with what you needed. Make sure you learn from it. Evaluate the aspects of that process, and its congruency with your foundation. I am certain that you will find areas that you can improve.
And, after all, that’s what life is all about.
Inspired by life. Leadership, Growth, Personal Development. Engineer and Sports Enthusiast. Top Writer in Leadership. https://medium.com/@spurtapurton