Everybody makes decisions on a regular basis, so it may seem a bit odd to write a post about it. However, what you’ll find when you look around our society is that a lot of people are pretty bad at it. No wonder, because the first step to making a good decision is…
1) Know what you want. This seems rather obvious, doesn’t it? Everybody knows what they want, don’t they? Not hardly.
People who know what they want know what their short and long term goals are. This is surprisingly uncommon because a lot of people just live in the moment and don’t think too much beyond tomorrow. But, if you don’t know what you want out of life, how can you get it?
Many people also have never consciously sat down and thought about what their values are. You may say, “Gee, what difference does it make whether money or freedom means more to me?” Well, what if you were to be offered a job tomorrow working 50% more hours than you’re currently working, but for a lot more money. Would you be happy if you took the job? The people who know whether money or freedom is more important to them probably have a pretty good idea about the answer to that question.
So, start out by thinking about your dreams, your goals, and your values. What do you want out of life? If you’re going to get it, what goals will be required over the short and long term? Make an actual list of your values and things that are important to you — and then rank them. In other words, once you know yourself and what you really want, you’ll be in position to….
2) Fully evaluate the decision. Sometimes decisions are easy, but many of the tough ones in life are difficult because as Thomas Sowell has pointed out, “There are no solutions, there are only trade-offs.” So oftentimes, doing one thing means you have to give up something else. Maybe it’s time, maybe it’s money, maybe it’s an opportunity. This is where knowing what you want comes into play. If you know what you want, it gives you a way to judge which trade-offs are worth making.
For an important decision, feel free to take your time. Proceed carefully. Look at the pluses and minuses and even then, you may still find both options are very closely matched. So, what do you do then? You…
3) Make your choice and don’t look back. One of the reasons a lot of people don’t like making decisions is that they’re terrified they’ll make the wrong choice. However, there’s something you have to remember: Even if you make the best possible choice given the information you have, it won’t always lead to the best possible outcome. That’s just how life works. There are no guarantees.
So, once you know yourself, have fully evaluated a decision and made it, don’t revisit it unless new information comes in. Moreover, if it ultimately turns out that you made the wrong call, don’t kick yourself. That’s self-defeating behavior that only conditions you to try to avoid making decisions in the first place.
Now sure, once things have played out, you should go back to evaluate your choices to see if there was anything you can learn from the experience, but flogging yourself or endlessly thinking “what if” isn’t helpful.
Summary: If you know what you want, fully evaluate the decision, and make your choice and don’t look back, you’ll learn to make smart decisions over time.