The inspiration for my Top 5 Strategies for a Better Future - Improve your Decision Making Skills came from PicketBrain and their “3 strategies for radically better decision making”. In their model, the three strategies consist of Manage your Emotions, Create a Vision and Control your Needs and Neediness.
For everybody who has read my previous posts I don’t need to point out that in my approach I am not so much interested in the mainstream notion of decision making for future business success, but rather am I interested in the way people do and/or should approach decisions in their private life that will shape their future.
While I would like to keep the first two components from the existing model, my complete Top 5 Strategies for a Better Future - Improve your Decision Making Skills are as followed:
- Manage your emotions
- Create a vision
- Develop a plan - Future planning
- Believe in yourself and your decision
- Take responsibility
1. Manage your emotions (from PicketBrain)
Decision making is an emotional event. Emotions bog you down and cloud your ability to make good decisions. Medical science has shown that we make decisions emotionally, not rationally. The data behind this theory points to a small, almond-shaped part of the brain called the amygdala.
The amygdala receives the information before it is passed on to the cognitive part of your brain. The amygdala is primarily responsible for controlling our “flight vs. fight” responses.
Its purpose is to help us react quickly, without really thinking through the situation. This is good if you are confronted by a hungry tiger, but not so good if you are faced with deciding which job offer to take or any other life-changing event.
Based on this theory, science also suggests that 78% of what we think is wrong. Therefore, controlling your emotions and changing how you think is a big contributor to making better decisions. To do this, you must work on your emotional state. If you sometimes struggle with controlling your emotions, try these ideas:
- When confronted with a decision, create a visual image of a blank slate
- Pay attention to your body’s physical clues
- Don’t get too high, or too low, when confronted with a tough decision
2. Create a vision (from PicketBrain)
Your decisions are also formed by your vision. When you see something, clearly and personally, your opportunity to make a better decision is improved. Consider wearing seatbelts in your car. Many studies have proven, without a doubt, that wearing a seatbelt can dramatically improve your chances of surviving a car accident. So, why do some people ignore this? The answer may be they have not visualized the outcome of their decision.
If someone you know refuses to wear a seatbelt, ask what he or she think would happen if they were travelling down the highway at 70mph and hit a tree? Ask them to visualize what this would look like in the future. Perhaps, a different decision would be made. On a similar note, every year around the time for the prom our local high school puts a wrecked car in front of the building. The purpose for doing this is to give the administration the opportunity to show, or visualize, to the students what can happen if they drink and drive after the prom.
This technique is more powerful and effective than quoting statistics which may not be heard by the students. However, they do grasp what a wrecked car looks like and the tragic outcome of making the decision to drink and drive.
3. Develop a plan - Future planning
In the plan you should clearly identify what exactly are my options, who are the important actors affected, usually one would start with her- or himself and then family or friends, and what outcome would be desirable for each of them. Think how each option you have in front of you affects them (most importantly how they affect you). Then consider what, once you take the decision, this will mean in terms of concrete actions that need to be taken in the immediate future. Be aware of spillover effects and what problems some of the required future actions can potentially cause.
Overall, it is just important that you are very clear about what the implications of a decision are, what actions are required in the immediate future, what additional adversities these actions can cause, and what needs to be done in the longer run to make the decision a successful one. This leads me to the most important component of my Top 5 Strategies for a Better Future.
I think this is probably the most important part of the decision making process that will turn any decision into a positive outcome for your future. It is based on a very simple fact in life - we can’t run a randomised control trial (RCT) on how a situation would have turned out if we had taken a different decision in the past. We only have the example of the decision we took. Therefore, any decision you are about to make is the right one - why? Because it is up to YOU to make a decision the right one! Any decision can turn out to significantly shape your future and it is up to you to make this a positive influence.
In my example “First important decision in life” I could have easily chosen not to go abroad, as so many of my peers did. I would have never found out what I missed, and equally I now don’t know what I probably missed staying at home. But I took the decision to go and I went with a positive attitude, determined to make the decision I took the ‘right one’ for my future. I knew at the time that if I had the right attitude towards my decision and the trust, faith and confidence in me, that the year abroad could be the best time in my (then young) life - and that is exactly what happened.
5. Take responsibility
One of the most difficult parts of the decision making process is to take responsibility for the decisions and actions taken. However, it is undoubtedly one of the most important ones. Because while all the previous four points should help you to make the right decision for a positive future, everybody will err. The Top 5 Strategies for a Better Future - Improve your Decision Making Skills are not a recipe for always making the right decision for your future, but rather they will significantly increase the proportion of right decisions. So when it comes to the point when you realised a decision didn’t turn out to be the ‘right’ one and the results are not as expected, it is important to embrace that fact and try to learn from it.
If you take responsibility:
- You can never feel like you’re the victim of somebody else’s action or decision
- You can evaluate why the decision didn’t turn out well, identify the reasons and act upon them
- You fully ‘own’ your decision and actions, you can feel proud of them and others will respect you for that
- You won’t be scared of the consequences
- You can act as a role model for other people and encourage them to take action and responsibility for their future
A selection of additional important sources on this topic: