People make decisions all the time; what time to wake up, what to put on the dinner menu, to take a shower or not. Many decisions barely make an impact on one’s consciousness. Other decisions are more complex; what to study, to relocate to some distant place, to marry someone, how to raise children. Sometimes decision making can be really hard while on other occasions it can feel natural and spontaneous.

Some people make impactful decisions on a daily basis, such as closing down factories, letting people go (firing) or sending soldiers to war. Others make less weighty decisions, such as what movie to watch or where to go for a vacation. Irrespective on what is being decided on, good decision making processes share some common characteristics. Solid decisions are based on three key characteristics, namely action, reflection and consultation.  

What is decision making?

Starting with the basics, SILKMentoring defines decision making as a process, where you manage conflict and stress while gathering sufficient information to arrive at a just decision. This is done by daily exposing yourself to situations that allow you to use all your learned skills and capacities in your decision-making moments. Some decisions require more information gathering and consultation with other persons. Others are more intuitive and are a result of the influence of knowledge gained, life experiences, and trusting that little voice in the back of your head.

Adora Svitak, says that “the first thing anyone can do, about any issue, is get informed”. This means that in order to be able to take good decisions, one first has to do the research. Read up on the material that exists out there. Talk to the experts and those knowledgeable in the issue being managed. Call friends and contacts and see what they can share. It is always useful to gather facts and figures and use solid reasoning to make a choice. Decisions tend to improve when the “intuitive filter” is engaged. “Intuition is important because it can provide answers to the really important questions we personally have. When a person is able to suspend their knowledge, the information they receive on a constant basis, the positive and negative experiences they have faced in life, what is left is the intuitive heart and spirit – a purer source of answers to life’s deepest questions. Our intuition tends to be a solid guide when choosing life paths and making difficulty choices”. Your intuition in the decision making process is important because it asks: Is the solution you are considering right? How does it feel? If it does not feel right, why doesn’t it? Answering these questions helps you commit to the decision emotionally. Being emotionally committed will help you feel invested in the success of the choices you want to carry out. You will want to carry the decision you made through.

Conflict and Stress while Decision making.

While you are seeking answers for the decisions you want to take, there are moments when conflicts arise or when you get stressed by the weight of the task. It is good to remember that 10% of conflicts are due to difference in opinion. 90% are due to wrong tone of voice (anonymous author). The tone of voice is not just the rhythm and volume of the sound. It is your personality shining through and the language used.  This shows that 90% of the time, there is no true conflict. Therefore, you have to manage how your communication and tone is received by others and how you project yourself to them.

Stress is another matter that can hinder your decision making, so in order for good decisions to come about, it needs to be managed. Stress management is a science unto itself. Suffice it to say that your range of choices spans yoga and meditation to medication (not our recommended choice!). As you work to manage your stress, this quote by Mark Twain might be really helpful. He stated: “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” Whether valid or not, stress is a normal condition when you have to make difficult decisions, the main point is to ensure you do not succumb to it. In the end, “a diamond is just a piece of charcoal that handled stress exceptionally well”, so learn to manage yourself.

The Role of Action, Reflection and Consultation in Decision Making

There are many ways you can expedite your decision making. . You can flip a coin or pull straws. There are mind maps, majority votes, SWOT analysis and feasibility studies. Whichever tool you use, to decide is always better than linger in indecision. Uncertainty and fear are primary causes of indecision which eventually lead to a downward spiral of more fears and uncertainties. It is a dangerous cycles which can ultimately leave you feeling depressed and powerless. Avoid indecision at all cost! It is better to move in the wrong direction than to not move at all! If making wrong decisions worries you, there are ways to improve your chance at success. First is Action. Took the wrong action? Learn from it, correct it, apologize if necessary, and then move on! Reflection is also important. As the saying goes, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Reflection is the key to evaluation of your actions (including other people’s responses to them) and adjusting your future course of action. Consultation finally might be the most dignified way of striking a balance between action and reflection. Consultation is the act of conversing with other people about an issue, asking their point of view, advice and opinion on a certain topic or action before acting. Though you are ultimately responsible for your own decision making, consultation will help you better understand a situation and learn from other people’s perspectives and mistakes. Never be too proud to involve others in your decision making!

How to improve your practice of Decision Making:

1. Taking decisions is a uniquely human trait (animals don’t decide, they act on instinct) Hence, surround yourself with people of quality or capacity who have taken lots of decisions in their lives. They can help you make better choices, arrive at more options to choose from and think of situations which you probably would not have considered otherwise.
2. If you are stuck and cannot seem to break out of your thinking pattern, change the environment you are thinking in. A change in scenery is similar to a change of perspective. Instead of considering just your options, a change in environment can allow you to think about the options of others, or a complete 180 degree shift in your looking glass. Changing your environment can be the equivalent of “taking distance” from the decision you have to make, helping you to see it with more clarity.
3. What kind of decision maker are you? If you make decisions based on consulting other people, consider making a decision alone. If you are the kind who usually makes decisions alone, consider consulting as many people as you trust. Changing your style to finding solutions and answers while making decisions will help you develop your decision making toolkit. .

One final thought, if it seems to you that the decisions you need to make in life are becoming harder or that their consequences appear to be much greater, be thankful, this means your capacity is growing – you are growing as an individual. Trust that the Universe will not test you beyond your capacities!