“More than anything else, I believe it’s our decisions, not the conditions of our lives, that determine our destiny”
Effective decision making is a major contributor to success. We know this intuitively yet find ourselves in decision making traps which lead to ineffective decisions and unnecessary agony. New York Times Bestselling authors Chip and Dan Heath outline a process for examining the way we look at decision making in their new book “Decisive”. They provide readers with options that will definitely lead to more successful decision making. This blog will cover a few key points from their book.
This or That
When we find ourselves trapped between two options, we may be missing an important choice that could lead to opportunities that are beneath the surface. As coaches, we often ask our clients to think about “what else” when identifying pathways to success. What else is possible? This requires us to think outside the box sometimes allowing ourselves to think really big about ideas we may not have allowed ourselves to think about or believe in. The Heath brothers suggest that when we find ourselves in “either or decisions” warning signals should be going off for us. One technique I use effectively with clients is to ask “what would door number three or four look like?” Challenging ourselves to think about a number of options may take more time yet it can lead to experiences that we might not have believed possible.
Have you ever made a pros and cons list to help you make a decision? I believe that pros and cons lists are effective in surfacing our thoughts about the decision. However, we must be vigilant to ensure that we do not allow our own bias for a specific decision negatively impact the final decision. This is really difficult. When most people are trying to make a decision they tend to have a preference for one option over another which makes it difficult to be completely forthright with the weighting of the options. I frequently ask clients to make the list and then leave it for a couple of days (when possible). This keeps the emotionality out and tampers down the ego when trying to make a decision.
What Would Have to be True
Another exercise that the Heath brothers share is to ask yourself “what would have to be true for this to be the right option?” We often make assumptions about our decisions that we do not challenge. By asking this question, we have to test whether we are exaggerating the upside positively while positioning the downside negatively or vice versa. This exercise also allows for a data collection/reality testing process that is often overlooked when making decisions. Think about how this question can advance our relationships when we are stuck between choices and find ourselves in opposite corners from our partners.
Ooching is a combination of inching and scooting. When trying to make a difficult decision, dipping your toes in the water may be a safe choice. If you are trying to decide whether you want to join a club, attending a meeting or two before joining would be a form of ooching. Another popular way of ooching is finding an athletic store that let’s you return shoes if they are not right for you….even after you have worn them! Ooching does not work however, when you have a major commitment to make!
Set a Tripwire
Given that 95% of our behaviors are habitual, you may want to set a tripwire to ensure that you do not fall back into your habits once a decision has been made. One extremely helpful idea is to build a plan for reminding yourself about your decision should your habits take over. If you are trying to change a specific behavior in order to be more successful, setting a tripwire to evaluate progress weekly can alert you to falling back into autopilot. Tripwires can also help remind us that we do have a choice and can cap the risk of decision. Giving ourselves a period of time to engage in a new behavior can give us the space to try new things but also allow us to make a change should the decision not lead us into greater success.
Knowing that we have many more options that we thought we had with our decision making process and taking the time to evaluate these options can give us the freedom to make different choices that lead us in to even greater successes!
To Your Success!