While some of us are decisive, others will avoid making decisions of any kind if they can help it. The majority of us land somewhere in between. The ease or challenge of selection often depends on current context and foreseeable outcomes, as well as interpretation of priorities, but even this ordering is a decision of sorts. I’ve asked myself, if decision making is time consuming and challenging, what are ways that can help with the process?
Questions I’ve come across to risk assess and to prevent the agony of the process:
1. What’s the worst that can happen? vs. What would the best outcome look like?
2. What is my greatest fear in making this decision?
3. On the flip side, what would be the opportunity cost? Another way to think about it is, what lost opportunity would occur if fear is left to influence decision making?
4. This is right about the time that I would ask, “what are the pros and cons?”
5. A most excellent question to ask is, “Why?” As mentioned by author and speaker, Simon Sinek .
The pros and cons list, despite being the obvious mechanism still leaves many stumped. If any of you have reached this point, I have learned from the most surprising lessons of all. We often think that those in leadership roles have made solidly excellent decisions to get where they are. In fact, if you have ever read the back stories of contemporary influential figures (Steve Jobs, Howard Schultz, Martha Stewart and Oprah, they have made their fair share of mistakes and confronted multiple setbacks and have somehow gone out of their comfort zone and developed the courage to learn and move forward from them, and despite them. And in some cases, leaders are not necessarily the best to learn from either, for more on “Why good leaders make bad decisions,” Harvard Business Review (Campbell, Whitehead and Finkelstein, 2009) provides behavioral insight on how leaders can over rely on experience and habit to consider choices.
In reality, why shouldn’t we take stock of our own individual contexts, where we are in life for example, and think about how a decision can affect ourselves and others around us from there? According to this article on pscyhcentral.com and others, going with your intuition can also be helpful, the question is do you trust your own gut? From observation people who make sound decisions tend to think about how they can manage the risks involved and potential outcomes in a timely manner, no matter good or bad, and take action. Many times over, they have a quick moment of reflection, asking themselves why before doing so. Reflection has been a constant companion in my life’s journey. Questioning why comes with the territory, though challenging, the key is not to over think it. Setting a reasonable deadline to make decisions can help too.