Decision-making is a necessity we all have in our lives today. Gone are the days when someone, just sitting somewhere, had the privilege to take all decisions and communicate them to everyone else to execute. Instead, today we face challenges in every area of our lives that need our attention and insist on our reaction toward each of them. Take marriage for example – back in the day, the parents decided which you would marry in the family. But, at the same time, today, it is a personal decision with all positives and, sometimes, negatives it can bring in our lives. And the same approach goes with our professional and social lives. Our choices define us as individualities and, at the same time, demand our direct contribution to what the outcome of our decision can be.
With so many opportunities and challenges simultaneously, every person faces a complex life situation, where choosing the right approach may be doubting at first and not so rewarding. Moreover, with all the consequences of our decisions, the stress level increases enormously daily. And this is to say that on one simple and shiny day, we may face the inability to make decisions caused by the fear of what the consequences can cause to us and others. This obstacle makes people weak in decision-making and “spares” some of the best decisions we can produce.
In the psychological literature, many researchers of the decision-making process present different approaches toward making and executing the best judgments. In the leadership and management literature in 2021 – more than seventeen thousand articles and books share what it may look like to make the best decision that creates positives for us and others.
In my experience, I have met many people who try to get to the best decision by analyzing the decisions they have never taken and going through possibilities that may never happen. These people I call “dreamers” –think and talk too much instead of acting accordingly. In their heads and minds, there are many opportunities and ways to become rich, powerful, successful, happy, etc., but in the end, non of these work the way the person expects or delivers the results that have to lead to success.
Trying to fight this decision-making stigma, I have read myself from many sources and have interacted with many people. But in the end, I have often ended with the same mediocre result, just having a long list of possible decisions that may lead to success in different areas of my life, but nothing achieved at all. In such a situation, I was more than unhappy but simultaneously motivated to find a way to make better decisions that create powerful and positive impacts. In that search, with the help of a hired coach, I have identified six steps to help me choose the best decisions in my life and work. The model is a simple but, at the same time, powerful sequence of steps to help avoid or at least minimize mistakes toward the path of delivering outstanding results. Look for yourself.
Identify a reasonable set of possible outcomes
An often made a mistake from my side was that I have always wanted to look at every decision. No matter how unrealistic the decision may have sounded, I wanted to experiment if it can work somehow toward a specific situation. Nothing wrong with that one, but it only loses you time. There may be many solutions to a particular challenge and many decisions that may positively affect a specific environment. What makes the decision suitable is the level of impact compared to the level of resources used to achieve that impact. With that simple formula in my mind, I soon realized that no matter the number of decisions possible, those working best bring balance between what is expected and the number and amount of resources needed to make It happen. The outcomes are many in front of the untrained person. The most challenging task is not to execute all opportunities but to find those who sound most reasonable in the current situation. Making that short analysis can cut up to fifty percent from the possible outcomes and save precious time invested in the most meaningful, impactful, and reasonable options.
Identify your preferences for a payoff for each outcome
Not every outcome is OK when you have the final results. And not every effect is worse than expected. Depending on the person/people and the situation, one outcome may look acceptable or not acceptable. Defining a reasonable outcome for each decision we take is a prerequisite for lowering stress and having balanced decisions that lead to results. The skill in this step everyone should develop is to critically look at the outcomes from the action planned and decide which of them are leading to positive outcomes. That simple action can decrease stressful decisions and point to those creating value.
Estimate possible wins from outcomes
With the preferences set and list of possible decisions, now comes the time to evaluate the outcome of each decision and rank it toward your understanding. What may look like a winning decision for one person may, at the same time, be a losing decision for another. For each current situation, the decision maker should be able to define the outcomes that will bring them to a win instead of making them doubt what is happening.
Outcomes from different decisions and in other situations may have a different impact. To ensure that you will get the most significant effect from each decision, you must focus on identifying the complete list of possible positive outcomes. Their strength and impactful create the power of the decision. Combined outcomes from particular decisions make it likely or unlikely to happen. Defining the best list from results depends on how you assess them and what this assessment leads.
Repeat steps one to four
Yes, you read it right. What ninety-five percent of decision-takers mistake is that after forming the list of possible outcomes from a decision, they do not recheck them. Checking the list of possible outcomes refines the list and cuts those outcomes that are not adding enough value. With that action, you save time, effort, and energy, by creating the final list of the most valuable options to choose from.
Compare options with one other
Now you have the list with the most valuable options, and it is time to start executing them in practice – right?
The answer here is a big NO. The last step in choosing the best decision for a particular situation is to rank the remaining options. With the main idea to invest time in the most rewarding ones, the last step is to help you rank the final options list. This eventually happens when you look again at the criteria you have set for the final result and compare each option with them. That comparison ranks options in the list from those most likely to lead to the great result you are searching for to those least contributing to that results. And with that final list, choose your best option and go with it. …
And if something goes wrong with the first option, you will always have a backup plan called the second, third, and so on options.
Decision-making is a complex process that can break the results you achieve. Executed only formally, this process often leads to mediocre results, not adding much value for you and others. But with careful examination and analysis of possible actions and ranking them toward the specifics of the situation, the individual cannot only control the fate of the results but also save most of the resources typically invested in decision-making and execution.