It’s common to use the term “making bad choices” for those times when people make a mess of their lives.
Yet we all know it’s possible to make bad decisions, even if you don’t end up in celebrity rehab as a result.
We make decisions every day in our work lives, from deciding what to do when accepting a job offer.
And that doesn’t include some of the choices that really get me, like “What should I wear?” and “What do I want for lunch?”
The joke goes that when you don’t know how to make up your mind, toss a coin. When you’re waiting to see how it turns out, you’ll know what you wanted.
But there are better ways. You’ll be more successful at making important decisions if you first understand what makes some choices seem difficult and some seem easy.
Decisions get harder to make when these factors are in play:
High Stakes – When the consequences of your decisions will reverberate and have a significant effect on your life and the lives of others, they often get tougher – with reason. But don’t try to bulldoze your way through these choices. Acknowledge your anxiety and let it motivate you to really think things through.
Uncertainty – If you don’t know what’s going to happen, such as if your new job will last, or if the company is on solid ground, it’s harder to choose. The fact is that nothing is really certain, but try to get as much information as you can about the likelihood of different outcomes so you can place your bets wisely.
Inter-Related Factors – Rarely do choices stand alone, and it’s important to think of all the side issues which relate to different options. It’s also difficult, and it can lead you down so many paths you may be tempted to toss a coin. But don’t. Keep thinking, and just try to concentrate on the major issues.
Complexity & Uncertainty – Not only are there many factors in play in some decisions, they influence each other – and you can’t be sure how those factors will play out. For example, when you don’t know whether or not to accept an assignment because you might get a different assignment which might pay more but you don’t know if you’re going to get it and maybe you could even do both but you don’t know – it’s tough to make up your mind. Try to stay focused on the different possible sequences and don’t trip yourself up with your own unknowns.
Personalities – The human factor is one of the most important and unpredictable elements in decision-making. It’s hard to tell how people will react, but the way they do will have a significant impact on whether or not you view your decision as successful. How will your colleagues react to a lateral move on your part? Your promotion? Can your kids handle a move? These are things you need to take into consideration, but it makes the process more complex.
When I have to make a complicated decision, I always find it helpful to focus on what I really want to accomplish. Establishing an objective won’t guarantee that you will make the choices that get you there, but it can’t hurt.
The next step experts recommend is generating as many options as you can and writing them down. Don’t judge them, just record them.
Now here’s the tricky part – compare them. In some ways, this step is even more fraught than making your eventual decision. That’s because the way you compare your different options, and the information and standards you employ to do so, will have everything to do with your selection.
So give this step your all. Get the best information you can, from multiple sources. Look for a reality check and avoid trying to convince yourself based on your preconceived notions.
It’s helpful to present the information you collect in a way that makes it easy to see and compare. This is where business consultants really go to town with complicated graphs, matrices, arrows, charts and what nots. Take advantage of these ideas if they help you, but if they overwhelm you or simply delay your decision-making, move on.
Because your ultimate responsibility and goal is to take action. So do it. Remember that not taking action is action.
Next, see what happens. You can improve your decision-making by tracking the results of your choices. See how your interpretation of reality stacks up against actual events, and let that help you next time, because there will always be more decisions to make.
Like, what do you want to have for lunch?
by Danielle Dresden