5 Steps to Good Decision Making
May 1, 2011
Each day we are faced with situations in life that require us to make choices. Some of these choices are easy, and at times, some of them can be difficult. Easy decisions consist of things like what clothing you should wear; most people choose what to wear based on the season of the year, the weather of the day, and where they might be going. Other easy decisions consist of things like what to eat, what movie to see, and what television programs to watch. Decisions that seem to be the most difficult are those that require a deeper level of thought. Examples of difficult decisions consist of thinks like where to attend college, what career path would be best, and/or whether or not to marry and start a family. These types of decisions are difficult because they are life changing decisions; they shape who we are, and they shape our future.
Making good decisions is a method that must be learned. It is not something with which we are innately born, but merely a step by step process that is usually ascertained from life experience. Most adults know that experience can be a costly, ineffective teacher that teaches more bad habits than good; and because decisions can vary so obviously from one situation to the next, the experience gained from making one important decision is often times of little or no use when another decision-making problem arises.
When making decisions, there are many steps that can be taken; but when making good decisions there are really only five steps that need to be considered. These steps are as follows:
Step 1: Identify Your Goal
One of the most effective decision making strategies is to keep an eye on your goal. This simply means identifying the purpose of your decision by asking yourself what exactly is the problem that needs to be solved? And why does this problem need to be solved?
Figuring out what’s most important to you will help you make good decisions. When you know the reason why you have making a particular decision; it will better serve you in staying with it, and defending it.
Step 2: Gather Information for Weighing Your Options
When making good decisions it is best to gather necessary information that is directly related to the problem. Doing his will help you to better understand what needs to be done in solving the problem, and will also help to generate ideas for a possible solution.
When gathering information, it is best to make a list of every possible alternative; even ones that may initially sound silly or seem unrealistic. Always seek the opinions of people that you trust or speak to experts and professionals, because it will help you to come up with a variety of solutions when weighing all your options for a final decision. You will want to gather as many resources as possible in order to make the best decision.
Step 3: Consider the Consequences
This step can be just as important as step one because it will help you determine how your final decision will impact yourself, and/or others involved. In this step, you will be asking yourself what is likely to be the results of your decision. How will it affect you now? And how will it affect your future?
This is an essential step because it allows you to review the pros and cons of the different options that you listed in the previous step. It is also important because you want to feel comfortable with all your options and the possible outcome of whichever one you choose.
Step 4: Make Your Decision
Now that you have identified your goal, gathered all necessary information, and weighed the consequences, it is time to make a choice and actually execute your final decision. Understanding that this step can cause some people a lot of anxiety is important because this is where you have to trust your instincts. Although you may still be slightly indecisive about your final decision, you have to take into account how this makes you feel. Ask yourself, does it feel right? And does this decision work best for you now, and in the future? When you answer those questions back, you should feel good about the result.
Step 5: Evaluate Your Decision
Once you have made your final decision and put it into action, it is necessary to evaluate the decision and the steps you have taken to ensure that it works. This final step is probably just as important as step one, if not more important, because it will help you to further develop your decision making skills for future problems. This step is also fundamental because it may require you to seek out new information and make some changes along the way.
Remember, this step requires some patience and it can also encourage perseverance. Why? Because it may take some time to see the final outcome. Recognizing that if the first decision is not working, you may have to go back to step two and choose another option. Always looking for and anticipating unexpected problems will help alleviate undue stress, if and when a problem occurs.
Although these five steps can help assist in simplifying the decision-making process, there are some common drawbacks that you must also take into account. Consider these:
► Misidentifying The Problem
Many times the problem will be obvious; but there may come a time when identifying the main problem is not that easy. When this issue arises, figuring out exactly what it is, and where you need to focus your efforts will save you a lot of time and energy in the long run.
► Having a Single Source
When considering the consequences, you must be open to a broad choice of alternatives in order to find the best solution. This can become a problem if you rely solely on a single source of information because that one source may not b reliable, or may not be completely inline with the problem; thus altering your chances of making the best decision.
► Having Too Many Sources
Having a variety of sources is usually not a bad thing; but not in every situation. Collecting as much information as possible can be very helpful at arriving to a decision, but an overload of information can leave you confused and misguided, and prevents you from following your intuition. Remember, trusting your gut instincts is a major key to making good decisions.
► Overestimating the Outcome
When making a decision and putting your plan into action you should have taken care to weigh all your valid options. Making a decision based upon an outcome that may not be plausible will not help you solve the problem.
► Poor Timing
Time can be a futile friend. Sometimes it is good, and sometimes it is not. When making major decisions, it beneficial to take your time in order to make the best choice from your options. But understanding the timing process is crucial because sometimes it is best to delay a decision, and other times delaying a response can cause more problems. There are also times when making a quick decision is advantageous because it allows you more time to make necessary changes should problems arise.
In summary we all have to make many decisions throughout our daily lives. Some of these decisions require little effort, while others require more time and deeper thought before coming to a final solution. Remember, there are five basic steps to good decision making. Why is those five the ideal number? Because a significant part of decision making skills is understanding and knowing a simple technique; and also regularly practicing that technique. When there are more steps than we can count on one hand, most people tend to either forget a step, or misconstrue the order in which the steps must be taken.
If you follow these five steps, and also remember the common pitfalls previously addressed, you will be well on your way to making good decisions for yourself.
For more information on decision making skills, you can read: Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better Decisions by Hammond, J.S., Keeney, R.L., and Raiffa, H., The Right Decision Every Time: How to Reach Perfect Clarity on Tough Decisions by Kopeikina, L., or How We Decide by Lehrer, J.
About the Author
Kescia D. Gray, RN, MS, PHN, CHES is the owner and president of GrayKo Clinical Consultants, LLC. Previously published in Corporate Wellness Magazine, she is also an international author and speaker. Some of her most recent works includes co-author of Raising Healthy Children in an Unhealthy World, The Teen Handbook for Self-Confidence, and Transformation: Reinventing the Woman Within.
About GrayKo Clinical Consultants, LLC
GrayKo Clinical Consultants, LLC is a health and wellness education company dedicated to providing quality education programs, workshops, in-services, and seminars tailored to individuals, groups, and corporate clients. Their detail-specific program plans can be customized to fit your needs in order to foster success at meeting your goals of better health, increased productivity, job satisfaction, health safety, and more. Subject content related your needs and the needs of your company may include, but is not limited to stress management, emotional wellness, personal development, diet, and exercise. To contact Kescia Gray, please call (866) 653-2570, or go to www.graykoclinicalconsultants.com.