Posted by Adam Blanch on 26 September 2014
In military-officer training, there is one universal teaching: “decide or die”. Officer cadets have this drummed into them, and those who fail to do it usually fail to graduate. In the field of battle, even a poor decision gives your troops a better chance of survival than no decision at all. The same is true in the field of life.
Why do most people avoid decision-making? Generally, it’s because they are afraid of being held accountable for the consequences. They would rather accept the role of follower than the responsibility of decision-maker. Decision-making is what successful people do. The first step in becoming a good decision-maker is actually deciding to become a decision-maker. The following tips can help:
- Accept failure: Not every decision you make will be the right one. Every successful person has made the wrong decision – usually more than once – but they learned from it and kept deciding.
- Use a system: Great decision-makers often appear to make their decisions at a moment’s notice, but that’s because they’ve become adept at their personal system of deciding. There is no perfect system. You can use a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, a risk-benefit analysis or dozens of other approaches. The more approaches you have, the better and faster you’ll become at decision-making.
- Good enough is good enough: There’s nothing that bogs down a decision quite like trying to get the perfect outcome. You will never know all the facts or all the options, and you’ll never be able to predict all the consequences. Decide, and then decide again later if it isn’t working.
- Consult, consult, decide: If you have time, seek the opinions of people you trust. Most people are happy to help, but remember that their opinions are only options. In the end, you need to trust yourself first.
- If stuck, relax: If you really can’t decide, don’t decide until you absolutely have to. Instead of chewing on the problem over and over, put it to the back of your mind. Many great decisions have been made by people who had a flash of inspiration while they were doing something else.
Decision-making is a skill that improves with knowledge, training and practice. How do you make important decisions – intuition, data analysis, counsel, strategic planning? Share your wisdom.