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How We Make Decisions

We think we’re smart. We think we’re Thriving. We think we make good or at least decent decisions. Well, turns out that might not be entirely accurate! While decisions are made with a combination of rational thought and reason, some emotional context thrown in for good measure and sometimes a dash of intuition it is often helpful have a good understanding of these component parts so we can more consistently make those good decisions which led us to where we want to go.

Thrivers who are most successful, and I’ll let you define that any way you choose for this, also tend to be those individuals who consistently make good decisions. What’s a ‘good’ decision? One that leaves you with a positive outcome or propels you forward. Do Thrivers who are successful make the occasional ‘bad’ decision from time to time? Sure. The difference however is that they do so with significantly less frequency and therefore the impact isn’t likely to be felt as greatly.

Mike Myatt, a contributor to Forbes magazine, has a nice way of thinking about decisions and the pieces we use to make them. He states there are four basic components to how decisions are made: gut instinct, data, information and knowledge. Clearly those decisions made just from gut instinct and data are quickly made but often not productive. Decisions made from information are also reasonably easy to make but is also subject to theory and opinion, which are not facts. Decisions based on knowledge, which combines wisdom with facts, tend to be the most helpful to us in the longer run.

According to Myatt, two other components to keep in mind when looking at the information and data we have to make decisions with are reliability and bias. How reliable is the source of your information and data and what might be an underlying motive of that source.

The number of choices we have in front of us to any given decision oddly enough is critical in whether we’ll be happy with our choice later down the line! The fewer choices, the easier the decision and the easier it is to be happy with it. This piece of information comes to us from Barry Schwartz, PhD, who wrote, “The Paradox of Choice”.

Myatt lays out a fairly standard set of guidelines for decision making include looking at what is motivating you to make a decision to start with, putting your decision through a cost/benefit analysis if possible, look at the risk vs reward piece, think about whether or not its “The Right Thing To Do” and finally, make sure you have you a back up plan. Here’s his suggestion however that is a game changer – subject your decision to public scrutiny. Myatt asks you to think about your decision as if you had to lay out your reasoning on the front page of the newspaper. What would you say? What would your family think? Your closest friends? How do you feel about it now? Did that change the way you thought about your decision?

In the days ahead as you strive to Thrive I’d invite you to think about your decisions through this lens and see what happens. I suspect you’ll notice a change! Please remember that not all decisions require such high level examination – roasted chicken or salmon for dinner is unlikely to need such effort – and at times and for some decisions, good enough really is good enough!

 

Wishing you all the best in your decision making to Thrive!

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