Freedom of Choice (Hot dogs or Hamburgers?)
The freedoms, that most people enjoy, bring with them a lifetime of choices. Every day we have to make hundreds of decisions in order to function at home and work. Some decisions are straight-forward and routine, like whether to have hot dogs or hamburgers. But others can be far more challenging.
The more decisions that turn out wrong, the more pressure we find ourselves under. The more important they are, the more we ‘feel’ the strain of making them. Often we lack the information we need to be sure that they’re the right decisions. That brings an added pressure, which makes decision-making even harder. If we’re not careful, we can get stuck in the decision-making process and never make it out until it’s too late. Fortunately, there are ways to relieve that pressure and stress.
Make a decision
There is no guaranteed formula to decision-making. You just need to make a decision, in time, that works. Don’t ‘freeze’ in the search for the perfect decision, because risk-free perfection doesn’t exist. Every decision has risk. That’s life. Do aim for excellence but be prepared to accept ‘good enough’ if time’s against you. If a solution is good enough for what you need, then it’s good enough. When time’s running out, go with the best solution that works. That’s the most excellent you can be.
‘Failure’ is not a dirty word
As humans we’re pretty good at dealing with failure. That’s a strength. Failure is not a dirty word, it’s a normal part of our learning and development curve. Everyone fails. It’s not a unique disaster that only affects us, it’s a common occurrence that takes us a step nearer to success. Plan for success. Prepare well in order to avoid failure, but don’t fear it. Accepting the presence of risk and failure will remove some of the pressure. Embrace them and adapt. Decision-making is a skill you’ll build up with time and experience. Failure really does help us to succeed.
To cope with failure and move seamlessly onto success, we need guidance, support and kindness from those around us. To persuade other people to do that for us, we need to do it for them first. When we offer our guidance, support and kindness, we’ll find others offer theirs back in return. Be a good friend and teammate. If you’re a manager, do this continuously.
Reduce the chance of disappointment
In life, the decisions we seem to regret the most are the ones which undermined our mission or cut-across our values. So when you’re in doubt, make a provisional decision and test it with two quick questions. Firstly: Will this help me achieve my/our mission? Secondly: Is doing this consistent with my/our values?
If the answer to either question is ‘No’ test out another option instead. If you’re not sure and there’s time to think again, try another option and see if it fits better.
Listen for your decision
Making decisions without truly engaging with the issues, severely reduces the chances of making good ones. Listening to people with experience can be incredibly helpful. Asking for assistance can make a huge difference.
In addition, your best defence to making poor decisions is your ‘gut feeling’ or instinct. To help yourself make better decisions, listen to your gut feeling.
Right and Wrong
Most decisions aren’t clear cut. Many of them are marginally more right or marginally more wrong, without being completely right or wrong. That makes lots of decisions difficult to get right. Nobody will find them easy. So if you’re struggling with a decision, cut yourself a break. Just do your best. Afterwards, if it turns out that a decision was mostly wrong, follow it up with another decision to reverse the first one, or to make its impact less.
“Now everybody has got the choice
Between hotdogs and hamburgers
Every one of us has got to choose
Between right and wrong
And givin´ up or holdin´ on”
John Mellencamp © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
We are all human. We’re not computers. We don’t know everything. We certainly can’t predict the future. Trying your best is good enough. Make the best decisions you can at the time and move on. Judge yourself on what you knew at the time.
Stick to your principles. When you’re feeling unsure, being true to your mission and values should see you right.
How you go about it, well that’s your decision.