Every result you have had in your life so far is in part the result of something larger; your decision-making process. We do not control what comes into our lives or what happens to us, but we do control how we react and respond to what happens. Even in the most difficult of circumstances we still have a decision to make as to how we will respond. If you want to read an amazing story that illustrates this, read “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. It will blow your socks off.
How you make decisions in life has more impact on your life than anything that could happen to you.
This is a bold statement, but stories like Frankl’s testify of the strength of the human spirit that has a reason to get through whatever life has thrown at it.
But, most of us will never face what he faced.
Our greatest challenges, most of the time, fade in comparison.
Yet, they still have an impact on our lives.
Therefore, the question remains: how do you make decisions when it comes to the real important stuff in your life? What is your process? And, do you have a process to make effective decisions?
If you’re unsure, in this post I’ll share with you a proven process for making effective decisions.
Our decisions have power.
Results coach Tony Robbins once said,
“Using the power of decision gives you the capacity to get past any excuse to change any and every part of your life in an instant.” – Tony Robbins
Decisions are the key to changing our lives.
It is quite an amazing idea, really. Just think about it.
I woke up this morning and even though I have responsibilities, I can decide what I want to do with my day and how I will spend it.
The fact is, you can decide to literally start walking down a new path instead of the one you are used to.
Now, some might say at this point, “no I can’t, I have responsibilities and I have to work.”
But if you think about it, you still have the decision whether to show up or not.
Any responsible individual will, but the reality is you have the power to decide not to.
There will be consequences of course, but the point I’m trying to make is, we can decide at any point in time to stop walking down the usual path and take a new one.
If you wanted to be friendly (for example), you can literally decide to be friendlier today. Right now. Straightaway.
You don’t have to wait for permission, or someone to tell you, or wait for the right time etc. You can simply decide to be friendlier, and start behaving friendlier.
Most of us (reading this post at least) have the freedom of choice. We can decide if we want to show up, how we want to show up, and what we’ll do when we show up.
But, there is a caveat.
Robbins also said,
“A real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken a new action. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided.” – Tony Robbins
A lot of people think about making decisions, but never really do. They never take action towards the goals they have.
If there’s no new action taken, you haven’t truly decided. That’s an important point to remember.
As long as you talk about something, or think about it, but you haven’t taken any new action towards the very thing you desire, you haven’t made a real decision yet.
You’re still indecisive.
But, back to the original point. Our decisions have power.
They can make or break our lives.
Never step into the trap of believing that your circumstances are solely responsible for the results you have in your life at this moment. It simply isn’t the whole truth.
Yes, of course, our circumstances can make it extremely difficult for us.
But, our circumstances alone do not have all the power to decide the outcome of our lives.
What we decide and choose to do as a result of our circumstances, play a huge role.
It’s hard to think of a challenging area of my life that didn’t become challenging due to poor decision-making.
I know for a fact that my life would have been different (better or worse) if I made different decisions at pivotal points during my life.
For example, I still remember to this day how one of my ex-girlfriends and I had a huge argument about three months into the relationship.
I was ready to walk out, but she convinced me to stay.
After five years and a lot of regret and time wasted later, I ended the same relationship for the same reasons I wanted to walk out for all those years before.
Of course, I grew as a person and figured out what I wanted in a partner as a result of that decision to stay in this particular relationship.
For example, a few months after this relationship ended I met my wife and we got married within eight months and are still happily married more than 10 years later.
So decisions do have consequences. We don’t always know which way they will go, but the point remains; our decisions have power.
We all know that wiser decisions lead to a more successful and lower-stress life. When you make effective decisions, your life is more enjoyable and satisfying.
But it’s not always that easy to make effective decisions. Especially not when we are emotional, reactive individuals, or when we lack a process to make effective decisions.
But it’s crucial that we learn how to make effective decisions because it can save a lot of time and heartache. We don’t have to learn everything the hard way.
Sometimes it’s better to reflect a bit longer and choosing a better way to go about things before you set off.
Let’s look at how.
Master the art of decision-making and enhance the quality of your life by following this proven process:
Decide what you’re trying to accomplish.
What is the end result that you’re hoping for?
To maximise your income? Strengthen your relationship? Minimise the financial or emotional cost? Advance your career?
Be clear on the desired outcome of your decision before you do anything.
This might seem like a very simple, commonsense point, but don’t underestimate the power of this first step.
I’ve helped many of my business clients save a considerable amount of time in meetings, by starting each meeting with a clear end in mind.
Oftentimes we go about things willy-nilly, seeing where we end up, but that’s a very ineffective approach. Both for time management and productivity.
Before you decide to do anything, get very clear on what you’re trying to accomplish, then work backwards from there.
The late Stephen Covey called it “starting with the end in mind.”
2. Make a list of your resources.
Imagine you had to make a home repair.
You’d determine which tools you had available for the job and then make a plan based upon those available tools. You might also purchase new tools.
You’d also want to know which parts of the job require outsourcing.
We call this, measure twice and cut once. Again, it’s common sense but not always common practice.
- What resources do you possess that are applicable to following through on your possible options?
- What skills do you possess that will help you follow through?
- Which skills do you lack but will be required to complete the process?
- Who do you have? Who do you need?
Having clarity about what you want to achieve is great, but then you also need clarity on what you have available (and what you will need) to achieve your desired outcome.
Therefore, take stock beforehand.
A great saying I learned from one of the world’s greatest high-performance coaches, Brendon Burchard, goes,
“The time for a map is before you enter the woods.”
Make sure you have the resources you need to achieve the outcome you desire before you set out.
Don’t fall into the trap thinking, “She’ll be alright; I’ll get to that later.”
99% of the time she won’t be.
Brainstorm possible choices. Avoid judging your options too quickly.
Just brainstorm and make a long list of possible choices and options.
Don’t worry about evaluating them all right now, as you can do that later.
Just get your ideas out and onto paper.
A good rule of thumb I follow is, once you’ve written down at least 10 options, the best one will jump out at you.
Right now, I’m reading a book called: Become An Idea Machine Because Ideas are the Currency of the 21st Century by Claudia Azula Altucher.
The question this book considers is, HOW DO I TRANSFORM MY LIFE?
And the answer is simple: come up with ten ideas a day.
It doesn’t matter if they are good or bad, the key is to exercise your ‘idea muscle’, to keep it toned, and in great shape.
Oftentimes we come up with one or two options or choices and stop there.
That is premature, however.
The more we exercise our “idea muscle” the more creative we get, which means we end up with more options to choose from.
So take some time to brainstorm.
If you want to involve other people, that’s up to you.
As long as you don’t skip this part of the process.
Talking it through with someone else might also give you a lot of clarity.
In fact, sometimes that’s all we need to know what the next step is.
4. Consider the odds of success.
This is a simple part of the process. Discard any solution with a poor chance of success.
I follow a very simple rule of thumb – if it doesn’t feel right in my gut, I move on.
But please, for the love of all that is holy, do not convince yourself of something when you know in your gut that it’s not the right thing to do.
I’m sure you’ve done this as much as I have.
You stand before a choice, and you know that the one you’re about to make is the wrong one.
You feel it. You know it. Other people tell you.
But you still ignore all of that and do it anyway. And then you pay the price.
Seriously, save yourself a lot of time and heartache by considering the odds of success before you set out or invest your time, energy and money.
If it doesn’t feel right, chances are it’s not.
This is of course not bullet-proof, but I’ve found it to be highly accurate personally.
5. Consider the energy, time and money involved.
For example, an above-ground pool costs much less than an in-ground pool. A pet parrot requires more time and attention than a cat.
People on average are very poor at considering the long-term consequences of their decisions.
We are very good at softening things in our minds
Yet, and this comes back to the point I made at #4, we need to pay more attention to our gut.
That inner voice that we silence so quickly when it speaks up in resistance.
But this voice can sometimes also be the voice of fear rather than reason. In that case, not listening to it is the better decision and course of action.
We need to learn how to distinguish between the two.
Before you make any commitment, it is wise to consider the investment you’re about to make as well as the ROI (return on investment).
If it doesn’t add up, perhaps you need to consider more options before moving ahead.
I know that we love falling in love with our ideas. But the reality is, some of them simply suck. They will hurt us.
We need to have the courage to let some ideas go, and have the discipline to stay unbiased and objective as much as possible when it matters.
And the time that it matters most, is “before we enter the woods.”
6. What are the risks?
You also need to consider what can go wrong and what the ramifications are?
A pet bird is harder to get rid of and can live five times longer than a cat. Birds can also be much more expensive, so more money is at risk.
Simply chucking in your job because you can’t spend all your time on what you’re truly passionate about, is perhaps shortsighted.
You still need an income to buy yourself some time.
You might get to a point where you can spend all your time on your passion.
But if that time isn’t now, you need to consider the risk of resigning from your job.
And since we are on this idea of “passion,” let me just say one thing about that quickly.
The word “passion” at its root has the meaning of “suffering.”
To be truly passionate about something, actually means that you’re willing to suffer for it. You’re willing to do the hard yards.
But we live in a time where the word passion is thrown around like candy, and everyone thinks they are entitled to sit at home and only spent time on the things they are passionate about.
The reality, however, is that in order to spend time on the things we are passionate about, we have to earn it. That is just the way of the world at the moment.
Granted, the Internet has made it a lot simpler for all of us to spend more time on our passion, and connect with others that share this passion.
But the fact remains, we still have to do the hard yards (suffer) to earn the right to spend more of our time on what we love.
That means, we sometimes have to do the things we dislike in order to do to things that we do like. It also means that sometimes the cost is in the form of money, energy and time.
And I encourage this. It is in the moments of challenge and struggles that we are formed and sculpted into better people.
We are not worse off as a result of it but better.
We will be able to serve our passion better in the end and as a result of struggle.
The challenge is to find a way to align our passion (now) with what we have to do (in the short run).
If you are passionate about giving people advice but you’re “stuck” in an office cleaning job, here’s what I suggest.
- Firstly, know that what you’re doing right now doesn’t need to be forever. You can always make a decision to move on.
- Secondly, start practising your listening skills and coaching abilities with the people you are surrounded with at the moment. Don’t wait. If that means your fellow office cleaners, or friends or family; then so be it.
But don’t step into the trap of thinking black-and-white, or what is called “all or nothing” thinking.
If I can’t run my own coaching business full time, then I won’t coach at all.
That’s a silly mindset.
Not considering the risks of your decisions, before you take them, will hurt you.
And like I said, we’re great at softening the consequences of our actions.
That means we make them less severe in our minds even though they are in reality.
Be wise my friend.
7. Is the upside worth the risk?
Yet in spite of all of that, and while some options are riskier than others, the greater potential rewards are often worth the extra risk.
Therefore, you also need to consider, how much do you stand to gain?
Back to the ROI, or return on investment.
If you discover that your decision is riskier than other options but the return on investment is greater (and to some extent, certain), then perhaps it’s the better choice.
But, you need to work that out for yourself. Your situation is unique to mine, and everyone else’s for that matter, so it’s up to you.
My suggestion to you is, consider whether the upside is worth the risk or not.
8. What are the long-term implications?
A different way of asking this question is, “what is the possible cost of the decision I’m about to make?”
- Who will be affected by my decision?
- What does my decision mean 10 years from now?
- What will I gain and sacrifice in the long-term?
I would really encourage you to ask the hard questions before you commit to any decision, rather than after the fact.
Pull your potential decision apart with these long-term cost-related questions, and see where it ends up.
If it stands the test of time, great. If not, then at least you’ve saved yourself a lot of time, energy, and money.
9. Can you trust yourself to follow through?
This is a vital question to consider.
Can you trust yourself to follow through?
A good decision that you can’t complete is no better than a poor decision or no decision at all.
Sometimes the solution with the best likely outcome is too challenging to implement. Maybe because you don’t have the time or resources. Or maybe it’s just not the right time.
- Do you have the skills and the stamina to follow through?
- Do you have the mental toughness to persevere?
- Do you have the inner strength and heart to bounce back when there is a setback?
- Do you have the right people supporting you? Do you have any people supporting you?
If you want to know how to answer this question, simply look at your life and results over the last 24 months.
See if you can spot a pattern.
If say for example, you’ve decided to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the last 24 months; how is it going?
- Could you stick to eating healthily most of the time?
- Did you work out regularly?
- Have you lost weight?
- How did you deal with temptations?
- How did you manage unsupportive people, like family and friends?
Or, have you mucked around with inconsistent results and frustrating behaviour?
I know we don’t like hearing this, but as people, we love seeing ourselves in a more favourable light than what is reality.
We believe that we are less at risk of experiencing a negative event compared to others, i.e. it won’t happen to us.
Psychologists call this the “Optimism Bias.”
So rather than relying on a cognitive bias in your mind, review your actual results instead.
They are a good prediction of what might happen in the future.
If they tell a story that you can’t trust yourself to follow through, at this moment and not saying that you won’t in the future, perhaps you need to reconsider the decision you’re about to make.
But the ball is in your court. We can all change and transform our lives in an instant.
I’ve done it, and many others also. You could too.
Just do so with your eyes open.
10. Keep your values in mind.
Our behaviour is directed by our values i.e. What we deem important to us.
Therefore, many options will be unacceptable to you due to your values.
However, depending on how much we want something, many people will overwrite their values (in the short run) in the hope of obtaining the desired result.
Sadly they end up regretting this later on.
Again, we are very poor at determining how future consequences will impact us because it’s simply too far out into the future. We think we can make accurate predictions, but the truth is we can’t.
Therefore, keep your values in mind and you’ll be less likely to regret your decision later.
What’s important to me?
How will this decision I’m about to make impact what I truly value, in the long run?
11. Avoid taking too much time to make a solution.
There are have been several studies on the differences between “satisficers” and “maximisers”.
A satisficer looks for the quickest, easiest solution that meets their criteria. That doesn’t mean they settle. It means that they accept the first solution that satisfies their needs and run with it.
A maximiser continues searching until the best possible solution is found.
Studies consistently show that satisficers are more successful and happier than maximisers.
What that means, therefore, is to avoid spending more time than necessary searching for a solution.
Some experts talk about analysis paralysis.
It is the same idea where people over analyse things to the point where it paralyses them.
They are constantly searching for the next best thing or the perfect solution.
One good way to assess whether you are doing this or not is to take stock of your results (again).
Take any area in your life where you would like to see better results.
Health. Career. Business. Family. Finances. Fitness. Personal development. Any area.
If you’ve been focusing on this area for more than 6 months but you have no improved results to show for it, yet you spend a lot of time researching, reading, watching webinars or attending seminars on this; chances are you’re an Information Paraplegic.
The best way to deal with this is to stop analysing and researching and commit to at least one action step that will take closer to your desired outcome.
That’s it. Very simple but effective.
There you have it, a simple process to make effective decisions.
You and I both know that making good decisions is important. I don’t need to convince you of this.
In fact, most challenges in life could have been avoided with wiser decisions.
But, most people take too much time to make decisions and they make decisions poorly. And, even worse, the surest way to ensure that you never make any progress is to never make any decisions.
The reality is most successful people make wise decisions, decide quickly, and follow-through.
Write that down and put it on your fridge.
Improving the quality and speed of your decisions may be the fastest path in 2017 to a more satisfying and enriching life.
So, assess your decision-making process, read through the process I gave you here, and make the adjustments where needed.