Making Better Decisions
I’m sitting here staring at my desk staring at the stacks and piles covering its surface wondering what to do next. I’ll bet I’m not alone. In fact, I bet you’ve found yourself sitting at your desk staring off into space wondering the same thing.
It’s not easy choosing what to start on. After all, that’s why they’re on the desktop arranged in stacks and piles in the first place. I arrange them so I— someone who primarily operates utilizing the right hemisphere of the brain when approaching what has to be done next — that’s where they have to be until I decide.
Once I’ve finally made the choice, a mystical switch is toggled and my brain function shifts to the left hemisphere of my brain where things are more organized: more analytical.
I don’t know how or why that transition occurs the way it does. All I know is that shifting between both hemispheres of the brain was the same way I worked in the shop, both behind the desk and out on the shop floor.
I’m just glad I’ve finally realized that’s what was happening so I could engage both hemispheres in the process of making better decisions—more rewarding choices.
So, what’s the magical process that will result in better, more powerful decisions?
The first thing you have to know is that this process is neither guaranteed to be successful, nor is it magic. Like everything worthwhile, it takes thought and effort. In other words, work. But, like everything worthwhile, it is worth the effort.
For me, every decision starts with revisiting your Why. Experience has taught me that conflict, anxiety, and frustration are all inevitable when your actions are not consistent with your purpose and your purpose is—or, at least, should be—a direct manifestation of your Why. So, the very first step has to be ensuring that whatever it is you are about to choose is aligned with your Mission, Vision, Goals, and Objectives.
Once you’ve done that, it’s time to harvest information. Start pulling together everything you need to know surrounding the choice you are about to make.
Identify your options. Keep in mind there will always be unforeseen consequences that will flow out of the actions you take. Recognize that, in order to move forward you, will have to force yourself to set aside your natural fear of those consequences.
Remember, the fear of making the wrong choice is real. It can cripple even the strongest among us. One of the best ways to combat that fear is to ask yourself, or your leadership team: your wife, husband, partner, significant other, manager or crew—what the worst possible outcome of your potential decision might be.
Essentially, you are performing a premortem, which is an examination of how and why the patient might have died before death and brainstorming possible causes. It starts with questions about the choices that would most likely lead to an undesirable outcome. What went wrong? Why did it go wrong? And, most important: What could have been avoided to ensure a different outcome?
Once you have explored alternative perspectives and limited your options, understand that, regardless of how hard you try to anticipate that unknown future, you will ultimately have to choose. There are forks in the road and you can only choose one.
Try hard not to be swayed by social pressure or outside influences. And, perhaps most important, be aware of the tendency to fall prey to confirmation bias when it comes to making any decisions. Confirmation bias is the natural enemy of good choices. Something we must be aware of if we’re serious about the choices we are forced to make countless times each day.
What is confirmation bias? It’s the way we selectively choose, process, retain and use information to support something we already believe. The way we bend information to reinforce something we already believe to be true.
Once you have followed the process and made a decision, don’t look back.
If you followed the process and made the best decision you could on the basis of all the information available to you at the time, there is no reason to look back. The path you’ve chosen is the right choice. The right choice for you. Your path forward.