“Did you ever have to make up your mind? Say yes to one and leave the other behind? It’s not often easy, it’s not often kind…” So says the Lovin’ Spoonful, at least, in their 1965 album Do You Believe in Magic?
Some decisions are easy, of course. Some are difficult; some are impossible if we don’t really have adequate information. Many decisions should be easy, but we can make them unnecessarily difficult. Case in point: Not having a clear understanding of what we want.
“Cheshire Puss, would you tell me, please, which way I ought to walk from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where —” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you walk,” said the Cat.
“— so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if only you walk long enough.”
— Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Another way we sometimes make the easy into difficult is by overestimating the importance or consequences of a decision. Here are some simple questions we might ask ourselves (but seldom do) which would help to qualify a decision: How much does it cost? How long is the commitment? Who is involved? Can it be changed later? Answers to these questions and some others can lead us to an intuitive assessment of the risk involved. Malcolm Gladwell says, “Truly successful decision making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking.” You almost never have complete information. You have to rely on instinct. But that’s OK. Of course, the more you know about a topic, the better your instincts are likely to be.
A third way in which we may complicate a decision process has to do with “framing” the decision in the incorrect way. Framing is the slant you put on the decision – i.e., the “glass half empty / glass half full” issue. Biases are a natural human tendency, but good decision makers try to be aware of theirs and compensate accordingly. The way you look at a problem will influence your choices. Consider Woody Allen’s take on it: “More than any time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”
If you’d like to explore how to make better decisions in your business and personal life, check out the one hour webinar on the topic which I presented through the support of HRDQ-U in August, 2015. You’ll learn a seven step process for decision making, along with dozens of other ideas to help you become more efficient and effective in your choices.