How to Make Great Decisions
Making great decisions that lead to great outcomes ALL of the time is nearly impossible. There are simply too many factors that are out of our control to deliver a perfect decision-making score every day, every month, every year. Things like weather conditions, traffic, acts of nature, the economy and kids are just a short list of things outside of our control that could very well impact our decisions. Attempting to account for and control all of these factors could easily lead us to struggle in making good decisions and can often leave us paralyzed!
Learning how to make great decisions most of the time, however, is a very real possibility. The question is, what are the criteria that one should consider in order to make great decisions?
Why People Struggle to Make Decisions
Before we dive into the criteria for making great decisions, it’s important for us to start this discussion by understanding decision-making itself and what makes the question, “how to make decisions” so challenging for so many people.
The struggle that many people have when it comes to making decisions stems from the beliefs they have in relation to those decisions.
What does that mean? It means that our beliefs determine our actions or inactions. For example, as an executive, if you believe that moving forward with a business decision could be too risky, you might feel reluctant to make that decision. On the other hand, if you believe that hiring a highly recommended CFO will alleviate your load and save you a ton of money in the long run, you will probably make that decision enthusiastically. What you believe to be true drives the decisions you make.
So what’s the problem? The problem is that often we have several beliefs that may be at war with one another. Here’s another example…
Your friends ask you to join them for a night out on the town. You are already tired and you have an early meeting scheduled for tomorrow. You believe that going out will leave you exhausted for the following day BUT your friends are awesome and it’s always a good time when you go out with them. You believe that if you don’t go, you’ll be missing out on some well-deserved fun.
Opposing beliefs create a struggle when making decisions, leaving many in a state of decision-making paralysis.
A Lack of Information or Knowledge
Without knowledge and accurate information, decisions can be hard to make.
If you don’t know much about digital marketing, it may be hard to make a decision about how to improve your website, which social media platform to leverage or how much to invest in online advertising. While most business owners understand the value of digital marketing and feel strongly motivated to take some kind of action, it’s easy to understand how the lack of knowledge and useful information can lead to spending a whole lot of time and money without any guaranteed result. This juxtaposition leads some to withhold making any decision until complete information and knowledge is acquired.
Fear of a Negative Outcome – Fear of Making the Wrong Decision
Anticipating a harmful or unwanted outcome can prevent people from taking action.
As an executive or a business owner, there are so many decisions that you make on a regular basis. If they are significant decisions, any one of them could debilitate or even sink your company. Hiring the wrong senior leader, discontinuing a product line, purchasing too much inventory, investing in a weak marketing strategy, etc… imagining a negative outcome can lead to self-doubt and insecurity when making decisions.
Fear of Making a Limiting Decision
The potential of being stifled by a decision down the road often plays a role in delaying decision-making.
What if I make this decision and I get stuck? What if I can’t get out of it? What if there’s a better opportunity down the road but I can’t take it because I’ve committed to this decision? What if I am not sure that this is 100% right for me? I am not prepared to limit my options, even if the option in front of me is a great one.
How often do people get cold feet around the issue of marriage? They don’t want to feel trapped and they certainly don’t want to limit their options. What if someone better comes along? It’s not uncommon for relationships to fall apart because of this fear.
Fear of the Unknown
Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.
There are countless stories of individuals who have stayed in a dead-end job or an awful marriage because they were simply afraid of the alternative. People remain stuck in a difficult situation because they are frightened of the possibility that things could be worse. They stay because they are familiar with the current state of affairs. Even though the situation is far less than ideal, they consider it to be less stressful than the unknown.
The Formula for Making Great Decisions
So what is the best way to make decisions confidently? What is the best way to make decisions that allow you to sleep at night?
Here is a formula that you can use to evaluate whether your next big decision is right for you or not. There are 4 basic criteria against which to check your decision.
If the decision doesn’t meet ALL FOUR CRITERIA, it’s a decision that will likely result in costly sacrifices and will yield results that will ultimately slow you down from reaching your goals.
The H.E.A.L. Formula
Here are the four things to ask yourself when making a decision:
Is It Healthy?
Is this a healthy decision? Will it leave you feeling good − emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally? What will the impact be on your health in the long run? Will it be a decision you will still feel good about tomorrow? A week from now? A month from now? A year from now?
If you’re thinking of staying up until 3 a.m. to catch up with friends, that’s fine, but choosing to do that every night might not be a healthy move. When you are considering a decision, take a moment to imagine how that decision might feel in the future. Picture yourself living with that decision down the road and determine whether it’s a decision that will fuel you or deplete you over time.
Is It Engaging?
Does it draw you in? Is it interesting? Does it light your fire? If it’s not something that captivates you or keeps you engaged, but rather something you feel obligated to do, it’s not something you will be happy doing in the long run. Over time, you might feel bored, disengaged, frustrated and even resentful.
Even if the decision leads to a short-term benefit, a long-term commitment may be costly.
Is It Aligned With Your Values?
Living in alignment with your values is critical for your sense of peace and harmony. The moment you make a decision that compromises your values, your personal integrity comes into question, triggering a state of internal turmoil and the feeling of regret.
When making a decision, ask yourself if the decision supports your values and whether it reflects the kind of person you want to be in the world. What is important to you? Does it align with your priorities? Is this a decision you will be proud of? If not, it’s probably not a great choice.
Will It Lead You To Your Goals?
Will this move you toward your goals and desires, or will it lead you away from them? You may not realize it, but you have a subconscious list of desires and goals you want to achieve. Making the right decision can actually help you attain them. For example, if your goal is to lose weight but you decide to eat a bag of chips right now, you may be sacrificing a long-term goal for a short-term desire.
Making the right decision will bring you a sense of peace. A decision that causes you to feel at odds with yourself or torn up indicates that it may not be the best decision for you. If there are any lingering feelings of cognitive dissonance, perhaps the decision needs to be tweaked. When a decision comes with ease, if it provides a sense of relief and if it’s one you feel proud of, then it’s a decision that’s right for you.
If you’re unable to check off all four criteria – Healthy, Engaging, Aligned with your values, and Leads to your goals – then perhaps this is a decision worth reconsidering.
The H.E.A.L. Formula
Once You’ve Made a Decision…
So you’ve made a decision – how do you make it a GREAT decision?
Get 100% behind it. Know that it’s the best decision for you and even if there are challenges that come along with this decision, be completely committed to making things work and overcoming those challenges. It’s worth it!
Make the best of it. Even if there are circumstances beyond your control that might impact your experience, make it a decision worth remembering. Bring a great attitude to the decision, make it fun, turn it into an adventure or an advantage, or at the very least view it as a learning opportunity.
Life Happens. While this may contradict the first guideline to get 100% behind your decision, once you’ve done everything in your power to make a decision work, and it’s still not working, it’s OK to change your mind and go in a different direction! Cut yourself some slack – we’ve ALL made bad decisions. One bad decision does not necessarily mean that you have to live a lifetime sentence.
We help our coaching clients make decisions that are right for them and we help them recover from decisions that were not so great. If you are struggling to make an important decision in your life or struggling to deal with a decision you’ve already made, schedule a complimentary coaching call with us. This conversation alone will have a huge impact on your perspective and will provide you with the clarity you need to make decisions that are right for you.