Blog: 12min | Podcast: 20min| Video: 7min
They can take milliseconds or years to make, and can result in hope or heartache. Welcome to decision-making.
There’s already thousands of articles on the subject, so why publish another one? Here’s why.
Maybe you’re like me. Perhaps you’ve felt the obligation to make the right decision, every time. It’s never going to happen. Period.
However, in more recent times, I’ve figured out how to reduce the pressure I often self-impose. By simplifying my approach and managing expectations, decision-making now requires less mental energy.
“Successful people make decisions quickly, and change them rarely. Unsuccessful people make decisions slowly, and change them often.” - Peter J. Daniels.
By now, you’ve no doubt picked up that all my articles, podcasts and videos all centre on this single idea; unearthing simple ways to create significant outcomes. So, how can this be applied to decision-making?
You don’t need crazy, ugly, complicated matrixes.
I’ve bought a great deal of business books, attended seminars and listened to podcasts, many of which include tools to master decision-making. Yet many of them left me feeling a little confused - ok, very confused; I was nodding and smiling, but my were eyes glazed over... inside the matrix...
Many of those systems relied on you living a linear life, void of the randomness that a fulfilling life usually invites. Some of the systems presumed that you’d have a comprehensive checklist on hand, should a life-altering decision suddenly pop up.
“Making a decision takes a moment, living a decision takes a life-time” - Sherif A. El-Mawardy.
While it’s true that for our jobs/businesses, structured decision-making structures should be embraced, chances are your personal life isn’t quite as concrete.
You need a simple, intuitive approach.
Just because the clothes fit, doesn’t mean they look good on you (aww snap!). And that’s exactly how I felt about the methods I researched. So, I spent some time thinking about the problem of why they didn’t fit. And what I found, was, well, a bit embarrassing.
When I create client projects using design, photography or film, balancing the tension of form and function comes naturally to me. However, it seems that when it comes to my personal decision-making, it’s a different deal - emotional intuition plays a greater role (something you can’t find in a flowchart).
Solution: Intuition with Intention.
If we don’t use complex ‘systems’, then what do we use? If life is a combination of curves and straight lines, then the way we approach decision-making should be exactly the same.
I skipped the complicated matrixes and ugly flow charts, and instead taught myself to allow intuition (subjectivity) to coexist with intention (objectivity). By simply looking at decisions through both of these lenses, the answer eventually becomes self-evident.
Putting it into action.
About 5 years ago, I bought a piece of land and built my first home. Needless to say, it’s a process that involves making a huge amount of choices; some small, some significant. Most of these are based on hard data, such as budgets, timeframes and product options.
However, it also involved making choices on the emotional side of the fence - soft data. The plot of land was located in an area of our city, which had a troubled history, but was undergoing a renewal. People were originally fearful of buying in the area, given its past.
For some reason, I knew that it was exactly what I needed to do. It turned out to be one of the best choices I've made. (Full disclosure: banks honestly don’t care about your intuition when it comes to loans!)
After sharing the idea with family and friends, I felt it was the right move. No doubt you’ve experienced the same thing. Moments when you just simply, well, knew. Listening to our God-given intuition and instinct is one the most powerful skills we can cultivate.
Your parents may have taught you to listen to that voice, and to trust your gut when it comes to reading people, choosing friends and making important decisions. There’s no hard data for that; but intuition does improve with practice.
Resist the urge to overcomplicate. Seriously! Let me share you how I deal with the influx of thoughts as they arise.
- Write out the decision as a sentence.
- Re-write it until you've created a more economical version, while still including the key ideas.
- Underline the key actions/objects that the decision involves.
- Look though the list of 'simplifiers' (below).
- Hold your sentence up against your top 5 'simplifiers'.
- Answer the questions that emerge.
- If needed, repeat using different simplifiers, and more closer to your final decision being made.
Below you’ll find two lists of thoughts that I've used to analyse my decision-making over the years - 1) Intuition (subjective) and 2) Intention (objective).
From these two lists, I've chosen a handful to use as 'simplifiers', or key questions, that get used to process decisions when they come up.
Explore the two lists below, and choose for yourself five that resonate with you. When a decision arises, you'll then have five go-to 'simplifiers' to prevent you from overthinking it (something I've very good at!).
Here’s the top 5 ‘simplifiers’ that I've chosen:
- Am I imitating other people’s decisions?
- Am I putting too much expectation onto this decision?
- Have I made time to listen to the small, quiet voice within me?
- What is my instinctive response?
- Will my choice be congruent with other areas of my life?
- Do I know my values? If I do, then the answer will be more obvious.
- Am I confident about making a choice? If yes, then insecurity won’t choose the easy way out.
- Will the outcome serve the bigger picture for my life?
- Do I acknowledge that decision-making will cause me to experience inner-conflict?
- What’s my plan to deal with this inner-conflict?
- Have I considered the cost of regret?
- Am I listening for a “Yes” or a “No”?
- Could I be making a start while listening for a “No”, rather than doing nothing while waiting for a “Yes”?
- How do my choices demonstrate generosity toward the others involved?
- How do my closest family/friends feel about the options?
- After my choice is made, will I feel the need for other’s approval?
- Do I know the difference between a ‘good’ and a ‘great’ option?
- Is my choice a reflection of what I need or what I want?
- How can I attain perspective?
- I accept that significant decisions can be hard to make, and I shouldn't be surprised when they are.
- Do I have a track record for making good choices? If yes, be encouraged.
- Am I making permanent decisions from a temporary emotional state?
- Is my physical state influencing my decisions?
- I know when to not make a decision.
- I know when to let others make a decision for me.
- I know that indecision is the most dangerous decision of all.
- Am I ready for change? If nothing changes, nothing changes.
- I am prepared to be either right, wrong or surprised.
- How will I collate the counsel I receive from my family/friends?
- I accept that sometimes the right thing is not the popular thing.
- Once I make a choice, I am committed to pursuing it.
- How will I balance hard data (objective) with soft data (subjective)?
- Is there a way to validate or stress-test a potential option?
- Am I being more loyal to my past or future?
- Am I being pressured into making a decision immediately, or can I have time?
Over to you.
- What 'simplifiers' did you choose? And why?
- What other tactics do you use to streamline your decision-making?
- Consider how the following is true for you: "May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears” - Nelson Mandela.