What is Decision Making? : In its simplest sense, decision-making is the act of choosing between two or more courses of action. In the wider process of problem-solving, decision-making involves choosing between possible solutions to a problem. Decisions can be made through either an intuitive or reasoned process, or a combination of the two.
Intuition: Intuition is using your ‘gut feeling’ about possible courses of action. Although people talk about it as if it was a ‘magical sense’, intuition is actually a combination of past experience and your personal values. It is worth taking your intuition into account, because it reflects your learning about life. It is, however, not always based on reality, only your perceptions, many of which may have started in childhood and may not be very mature as a result. It is therefore worth examining your gut feeling closely, especially if you have a very strong feeling against a particular course of action, to see if you can work out why, and whether the feeling is justified.
Reasoning: Reasoning is using the facts and figures in front of you to make decisions. Reasoning has its roots in the here-and-now, and in facts. It can, however, ignore emotional aspects to the decision, and in particular, issues from the past that may affect the way that the decision is implemented. All the same, intuition is a perfectly acceptable means of making a decision, although it is generally more appropriate when the decision is of a simple nature or needs to be made quickly. More complicated decisions tend to require a more formal, structured approach, usually involving both intuition and reasoning. It is important to be wary of impulsive reactions to a situation.
Applying both reason and intuition
One way to do this is to apply the two aspects in turn. It is useful to start with reason and gather facts and figures. Once you have an ‘obvious decision’, it is the turn of intuition. In evaluating the process it is important to ask yourself the following: How do you feel about the ‘answer’? Does it feel right? If not, have another look and see if you can it work out in the best way. If you are not emotionally committed to the decision you have made, you will not implement it well.
Decisions need to be capable of being implemented, whether on a personal or organizational level. You do, therefore need to be committed to the decision personally and be able to persuade others of its merits. An effective decision-making process therefore needs to ensure that you are able to do so.
What can prevent effective decision-making?
There are a number of problems that can prevent effective decision-making. These include:
Luck of sufficient information: If you do not have enough information, it can feel like you are making a decision without any basis. Take some time to gather the necessary data to inform your decision, even if the timescale is very tight. If necessary, prioritize your information-gathering by identifying which information will be most important to you.
Too much information: The opposite problem, but one that is seen surprisingly often: having so much conflicting information that it is ‘impossible to see the wood for the trees’. This is sometimes called analysis paralysis and is also used as a tactic to delay organizational decision-making, with those involved demanding ever more information before they can decide. This problem can often be resolved by getting everyone together to decide what information is really important and why, and by setting a clear timescale for decision-making, including an information-gathering stage.
Too many people: Making decisions by committee is difficult. Everyone has their own views and their own values. While it is important to know what these views are and why and how they are important; it may be essential for one person to take responsibility for making a decision. Sometimes any decision is better than none.
Vested interests: Decision-making processes often founder under the weight of vested interests. These vested interests are often not overtly expressed, but may be a crucial blockage. Because they are not overtly expressed, it is hard to identify them clearly, and therefore address them, but it can sometimes be possible to do so by exploring them with someone outside the process, but in a similar position. It can also help to explore the rational/intuitive aspects with all stakeholders, usually with an external facilitator to support the process.
Emotional attachments: People are often very attached to the status quo. Decisions tend to involve the prospect of change which many of us find difficult; yet what we ought to keep in mind is to remember that ‘deciding not to decide’ is also a decision.
No emotional attachment: Sometimes it is difficult to make a decision because you just do not care one way or the other. In this case, a structured decision-making process can often help by identifying some very real pros and cons of particular actions, that perhaps you had not thought about before. Many of these issues can be overcome by using a structured decision-making process. This will help to reduce more complicated decisions down to simpler steps and to see how any decisions are arrived at. It is important that any planed decision meet deadlines. Many different techniques of decision making have been developed, ranging from simple rules of thumb, to extremely complex procedures. The method used depends on the nature of the decision to be made and how complex it is.
Facts of life in decision making
Every conscious moment is another decision. The cumulative impact determines the overall quality of life and the most important decision is ‘what am I living for?’ Some people think that decisions are made every once in a while, when a major issue comes up. Today we need to assert that very conscious moment is another decision. From the instant we wake up, we begin to decide: What will I eat for breakfast? How will I greet people today? Even if we yawn, turn over and go back to sleep, that is also a decision.
The cumulative impact of decisions, even though each is individually small, is what determines the overall quality of life; therefore do not take decisions lightly. Of course, different decisions have different impacts. If you don’t visit the National Theater, you miss out on fun. But if you don’t acquire wisdom for a successful career in your life time, it can have tragic consequences. For living, be serious. Ask yourself: What am I going to do today? This week? This year? What am I doing with my life? What are the possibilities? What can a human being achieve?
Living is decision-making
Consider the consequences of not knowing the real purpose of life. Anyone who says there are no answers to serious philosophical questions has probably not asked the right questions to the right people. Realize there are consequences of not investigating these issues. We have to research these questions and not give flippant answers:
How should I honor my parents/guardians? Does God exist?
How will I maintain honesty in business/job? Do I have free will?
How will I care for humanity? Is there an afterlife?
Many people make life-and-death decisions without thinking. If a decision is uncomfortable, we often brush the whole issue off and put it out of our mind. For example we might not question a doctor, a teacher, a boy/girl friend out of fear of offending him. Or we may choose a group of friends based on frivolous grounds, without thinking through the consequences. Beware of this trap. Take time to introspect. Clarify your important decisions. On what basis did you arrive at these conclusions? You may be surprised at how carelessly you have made some decisions that have a dramatic impact on your life.
Take decisions seriously
Figuring out what to do with your life is no less serious than the question of whether or not to have open-heart surgery. Would you decide on surgery by flipping a coin? Of course not! So do not make important decisions (or express opinions) on subjects you have not thought through.
Make decisions with a sense of responsibility. When tackling any issue, research it thoroughly. Get all the facts. Whenever confronted by a decision, relax. Do not feel pressured into deciding at that moment. It is okay to take the time to work out an answer.
Take proper precautions in decision making. Consider the various options and potential consequences. Should I buy that phone? Be friendly to that person? If you make decisions without proper precautions, you are bound to make costly mistakes in life.
Part of the difficulty is that many decisions do not have immediate consequences, or have consequences that we cannot perceive. When making a decision, check that you have judged the long-term consequences no less than the short-term ones. Speak out the potential consequences of your decision with other people, who may be aware of factors you have never considered. Similarly, when helping others, be aware of the fine line between teaching someone and making decisions for them. If someone asks for advice, do not be so quick to dictate directives, unless you are sure of what you are talking about. Imposing your opinion is an artificial solution and it will not stick and eventually the other person will grow to resent it.
Avoid fake decision making
There is a favorite sports pastime called ‘quarterback.’ This is the hindsight that football fans engage in, second-guessing how the coach or the quarterback should have used better strategy. Everyone has a brilliant opinion… about other people’s decisions! But ‘quarterbacking’ is hardly confined to football. We like to play decision making in areas like: ‘If I was president of this Country, or if I was the ED, or if I was God.’ Be careful. Judging other’s errors gives us a false sense of our own wisdom. But there is a good chance would have made the same mistakes.
Learn to say, ‘I do not know’
Modern society equates knowledge with importance. Therefore we sometimes fall into the trap of pretending to know because we are too embarrassed to admit we do not. Human beings make mistakes. The biggest mistake is to decide that you are not going to change your mind. If you make a mistake and are too embarrassed to correct it, then you are making a second mistake. In discussions with other people, train yourself to say, ‘I do not know.’ Even when you are sure, say, ‘it seems to me…’ Otherwise, once you are committed to a certain point of view, you may be too embarrassed to back out leaving you stuck defending a position you no longer believe in. Actually, saying ‘I do not know’ is no reason to be embarrassed. Being honest about your limitations helps clarify the gaps in your knowledge. Apart from being honest with yourself, you avoid to mislead others who will actually come to respect you more because of your honestly.
Few people will admit they do not know. Ask someone to define what is a good person, how to be happy or what is the purpose of life; it is unlikely the person will admit that he/she has never thought about it! Similarly, it is hard to admit if we have never considered whether there is God, and whether He spoke at Mount Sinai or to admit that when it comes to free will, we have been using it and we do not know what it is all about.
Your choices today decide your tomorrow
You make tomorrow today. For every choice you make today, tomorrow will tell the consequences of those choices. Take this for your example “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” Deuteronomy 30:19.
What is true is that God has a great future for every person He created and that includes you. God says “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11. No one is supposed to be exempted from God’s glorious plan. But through our choices we knock off ourselves from His plan for mankind.
Be open to someone bringing in another piece of evidence and be willing to change based on new information if it has any value. Go to others who know more. Respect their advice but do not play games with your life.
Be aware that your choices dictate the steps you take
The steps we take can be either towards a glorious or destructive future. We all make our tomorrow today. Many people for few moments of pleasure, gratification, fame, power, recognition have destroyed their tomorrow today. For every act, consider the consequences of choices. As example is Esau who sold out his birthright just to satisfy his hunger momentarily cf. Genesis 25:29-34. He could have waited few more minutes to prepare his own meal. Besides, missing one meal would not have killed him as he said. Consequently, when he sought his birthright back, even with tears, he could not get it back cf. Genesis 27:34-38. It was too late! Also Samson for fleshly pleasure of unlawful sex, ‘fornication’ had his eyes plucked out, his glorious destiny crushed to a level of a prison house grinder. He became a laughing stock and eventually, his life was cut short because of few minutes of pleasure cf. Judges 16. It is better to deny yourself some things even if people mock you and preserve your tomorrow today. Our destiny is dependent on nobody but each one of us and God. Therefore we should not allow people to dissuade us from making right choices. Choose to endure the mockery today and enjoy the honour and blessings tomorrow.
The living model of better choices
Joseph had a glorious destiny mapped out for him by God cf. Genesis 39:6-20. Though, he had many opportunities to make the wrong choices, he chose not to until he secured his throne as the number two most powerful person in Egypt. For instance, if he had agreed to sleep with his master’s wife, he would never have seen his dream come through. This is how you can ensure right choices for a better tomorrow now: Fear God: God will teach you how to make right choices when you fear him. To fear God is to reverence, respect, and obey Him. God is ever ready to lead His children in the way that they should go cf. Psalm 25:12. Study and meditate on God’s word: The word of God enables us to discern good from evil. The more of God’s word in us, the more strength and grace we have to make right choices cf. Isaiah 7:15. Think before you talk or act: Do not be in a haste to do anything no matter the pressure. Always consider the consequences of choices. Be slow to speak, but quick to hear cf. James 1:19. All this is because our tomorrow is truly great despite what it may look like today. What matters is that our choices however they seem to be simple today make our great tomorrow.
Why is responsible decisions a way to wisdom?
Living means growing. If you do not make decisions, you will not grow. The most important decision to make is: what am I living for? Making good decisions will make your life real and the more informed you are, the better your decisions will be. Do not make any decision you are not qualified to make. It is advisable to evaluate fairly and not to be based on prejudices. Be a honest judge and not a lawyer when making a decision. To live rationally and meaningfully, we all need to be willing to admit that some time we do not know. It is only when we make balanced and good decisions that we can determine our life path. Anytime you or me want to change, it is up to each one of us. Any useful decision is first of all personal before we share it out to others.