Five Questions for Making Decisions

Every day we rely upon our habits over actively making decisions, and on the whole for very good reasons. From an evolutionary perspective the cost of a decision is high; spending the energy and time to make countless decisions every a day is impractical. Like lots of our instincts that have been great for survival historically, they’re not great for life in the twenty first century. As technology propels us forward faster and faster, making a poor decision can mean finding ourselves off course by miles. Here are five questions to help you be more mindful about the decisions you want to make consciously.

What are the consequences of making / not making the decision?

Sometimes decisions don’t need to be made at the point you first start considering them. Make the decision at the last responsible moment. Give yourself as much time as can be allowed to learn more.

Although we typically use the word consequences to mean something unpleasant, I prefer to think of consequences as things that are observable, and have an identifiable causal link (even if they aren’t always predictable). Use what you know and the time you have to consider the consequences of letting things run their cause, or being more active in your involvement.

What are my duties?

These go all the way from yourself, to your family and friends, your country, and humanity and the world. We are part of the universe, not separate living inside like a building. What we do to others we are also doing to ourselves. These factors should be taken into account when making an important decision.

In the business world, this may be legal regulatory requirements or codes of ethics from your professional body. If you hold a position of responsibility within the organisation, consider the duties you have to those who the decision will affect. Seek out these people and ask them what their opinions are to help you have a wider contextual understanding.

Will it work?

Probably the most important question of the five, and yet potentially the hardest to understand. When the consequences are easy to understand then this question will be the easiest to answer. When the decision is around a more innovative problem is when things become trickier.

Does it align with my values?

To answer this that it helps to understand what your values are. To think about these you can ask yourself these questions:

  • Are there any behaviours that I’ve purposefully adopted? Why have I chosen to adopt them?
  • Why have I chosen to work (or not work) at the organisation(s) I have during my career?
  • At the end of the day, what do I look forward to most?

To act in a way that goes against our values, is to act against ourselves. Which leads nicely into the final question,

Can I live with it?

Will you be able to sleep tonight if you do this thing? Will you regret it in ten years time if you don’t? We’ve all made decisions and done things when we were younger that are hard to live with later, but we forgive ourselves because of our age at the time. Part of our personal, continuous improvement should include looking for ways to not fall into traps we’ve seen before or ones that we can predict. Listen to what your gut is telling you on this one.

Consciously Making Decsisions

It’s not an easy process to keep oneself mindful. Every neuron in our nervous system reacts automatically it those around it. The emergence of conciousness allows us the ability to control these impulses and be aware of our decision making and the impacts we have. To use this gift takes strength of will, but can itself be made an automatic habit given continued practice.

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