How would you characterize your best personal decisions?
Think about it.
What is coming to your mind?
- Are you thinking about producing results, personal growth, or a great outcome?
- Are you thinking about a more balanced living as a result?
- Are you thinking about fast decisions, in which you joyfully skipped the agonizing pain of analyzing all options?
Any of these or something else?
Best decisions is not what matters
While we like to talk about good and bad decisions, the factor of goodness is completely irrelevant in a decision making process. Why? Because the goodness criterion is hard to implement into this process.
“Bad” and “good” is all about judgment which you can only make while looking back, isn’t it? You judge your decisions as good when you experience its benefits or you produce results that exceeded your projection from the past. You can call it “connecting the dots” or “understanding”. It doesn’t matter.
There is no way to assure the decision you are going to make will be any good for you. Why? Because you cannot truly foresee its benefits, costs and consequences. And in addition the evaluation depends on the context and the time frame. What you judge as bad now may turn out to be considered as good later on. Hasn’t that happen to you yet?
The consequence of the above is far reaching. The challenge is not about making best or even good decisions. We cannot take this aspect into account. Instead, the challenge is to make effective§ decisions.
Effective decisions lead us towards becoming who we aspire to be and doing the things we aspire to do. Effective decisions lead to a transformation either on the level of who we become or how we approach things in life, and ultimately what we have. These are consciously made decisions.
Effective decisions are intuitive and/or informative, fast and congruent.
Intuitive decisions integrate both emotion and rational thought in a creative way. They utilize knowledge yet they make use of the subjective evaluation of what matters in the moment. They are led by inspiration, insight or a high level perception.
Fast decisions do not necessarily mean decisions in a split of a second, but in a relatively short time. Fast decisions mean that they can be made in the presence of little information, partial information and/or uncertainty. We need information but only some as too much information inhibits decision making.
Congruent decisions mean that we are in alignment with them. This is crucial because decisions either inspire the beginning of a transformation or direct towards a change. And this requires action. When integrity is missing it will be hard for you to take action steps. A part of you who is unhappy with the decision will sabotage the action taking, optimal focus or the working towards the results. You may still rip some benefits, but often below what it could have been.
The effective guide to effective decision making
Set up a time limit and make a decision. Be it an hour, a day or a week, whatever it needs to be for the given case. Make it simple and fast. You will improve with practice.
- Rational thought: Use analysis, information and previous knowledge to learn about the situation. Enumerate the options.
- Emotional pruning: Trust the feeling of what feels s right, important or interesting to prune the tree of options. Stop at a few alternatives.
- Test the alternatives: Play the scenarios against your mental models, or simply visualize where the alternatives lead to. How the involvement feels. Be specific.
- Trust: Carefully observe how you respond to each scenario and make the final choice.
The points 1-4 above coincide with the intuitive decision making. There are two simple strategies that will help you develop trust and confidence in the final choice. These are placing yourself into a decision process and using the yes/no inner guiding system.
“Is it like me?” – integrating who you are into a decision process
The key understanding here is that decisions are creative outlets for self-expression. Decisions will inherently lead to a new experience or change, hence you may evaluate a decision by the perception of how you will fit or go with it. In the act of a similarity search or comparison, you will compare the thing with the ideal you, the you to become.
When you are considering a few options, you may ask yourself:
- Is this bag / jacket /computer / TV set / car like me?
- Is this job like me?
- Is this house like me?
- Is this country like me?
- Are these colleagues like me?
- Are these friends like me?
- Is this meal like me?
- Is this holiday like me?
This is something that you can feel or know. If you really don’t know how to answer such a question, use the tools below.
Tool #1: Make a list of five features describing the thing itself. How well will these adjective describe you?
- Are you open, tolerant, individualistic, courageous and organized as the country you want to live in?
- Are you slick, sophisticated, modern, compact, and well-rounded as the desk you are considering to buy?
- Are you red-loving, detailed, spacious, elegant and classic like this bag?
Give yourself a minute or a few at most to make these evaluations. Mind becomes more creative in the time limit.
Tool #2: Consider your 5-10 personal values, such as intelligence, openness, honesty, friendship, individuality, humor, etc, whatever matters to you the most. Obviously you need some time to determine your values first. Ask yourself. Is the subject of your decision reflecting the values you appreciate the most?
- Is this company (offering you a job) having similar values to the ones you have?
- Is the neighborhood and the community around the house you consider supporting the values that are important to you?
- Is this bag / jacket / computer / TV set helping you to develop the values that matter to you?
Find it out.
Yes/No guiding system
Another practical way to look at your decision option is to pay attention to the signals and subtle cues from the body. Your body will communicate with you how you feel about each choice. If you are congruent with the decision then you will experience the positive ““Yes” in your body. Otherwise, in case of mismatch, you will experience the “No”.
How do you tell the difference?
Stand up and think about something that you really dislike, such as spiders, cleaning the house or talking to strangers. Thinking about it should make you emotionally upset.
How do you know that you do NOT like it?
Answer these questions:
- If you are seeing a scene in your mental eye, how does it look like? (Is it bright or dark, occupying the whole space, what are the shapes, etc)
- If you are telling yourself about it or hearing it in your mental ear where does your voice originate from? Whose voice is it? (You at the age of 15, your boss etc)
- What is your general feeling? (Tension, compression, gloom)
- What is your posture? (How are your shoulders or feet positioned? Where is your head pointing to?)
- Where is your gravity center? (Head, chest etc)
- How do you breathe? (Short, shallow etc)
- Where do you feel discomfort in your body? (Lungs, chest, stomach, shoulders)
- What are the sensations you experience? (Goose bumps, butterflies in your stomach etc)
Just feel the sensations. Intensify them by thinking about even more horrible circumstances concerning the thing you dislike. Remember the sensations.
Breathe a few times in and out and then repeat the same for the Yes-guidance.
Stand up and imagine something that you really enjoy, e.g. drinking delicious smoothie, resting in a sun, playing volleyball, painting, etc
How do you know that you like it while you are thinking about it?
Answer these questions:
- If you are seeing a scene in your mental eye, how does it look like?
- If you are telling yourself about it or hearing it in your mental ear where does your voice originate from?
- What is your general feeling? (Ease, expansion, joy)
- What is your posture? (How are your shoulders positions, feet, where head is pointing etc)
- Where is your gravity center? (Abdomen, tummy)
- How do you breathe? (Deep, long, etc)
- How do you feel joy / comfort in in your body? (Sensations in the lungs, chest, stomach, etc)
- What are the sensations you experience? (Thrill of excitement, tickling in your stomach, open shoulders etc)
Be as detailed as possible.
In these Yes/No situations above, the image you see will usually be in a different place and differ in qualities, colors, use of light etc. When you talk to yourself about a particular thing that you enjoy, this voice will be different from the voice about the thing you dislike. You need to pay attention to tonality, speed or volume. Your perceptions and feelings will be different in both situations. Your posture will be different. And so on.
Notice the differences and remember them.
Next time pay attention to your body cues and you will know which decision to make.
The need for a change
You can use the guidance above to find out whether you are in agreement with yourself concerning the daily issues: house you live in, job you have, clothes you wear etc. It is the first step to admit that some things around you are perhaps not like you. You may have overgrown them and you need a change.
Be honest and admit this to yourself. It is all right not to know what to do next yet or how to improve. When you admit the truth to yourself, you empower yourself to start searching. Explore actively and you will find out what to do.
It is possible that your decision will not be good. And this is all right because your goal is not to make optimal decisions. You cannot judge them beforehand.
Your goal is to make conscious and effective decisions that support you in your personal growth. If your future-Self is unhappy with the decision or its results, you can make a new decision by incorporating whay you have learned on the way. Since your decisions are fast, you gain extra time and a free mind to experiment and learn how to improve your decision making. And with practice, you will master it.
Time is now. Effective decisions are yours to live by.
§Note that there is a difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Efficiency is to do things right, i.e. use the time well for doing the tasks. Effectiveness is to do the right things, i.e. things that matter and things that produce results. And it is a fundamental difference.
A series of posts on decision making
Photo courtesy unkreatives, available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.