Do you remember learning your ABCs as a child? You probably used a “meme” to help you do so. Sing it now –
“ABCDEFG,HIJKLMNOP,QRSandTUV,WandXand YandZ-Now I’ve learned my ABCs, tell me what you think of me!“
The ABCs or “Alphabet Song” was an easy way to remember your alphabet and you probably have used it well beyond your childhood when you had to sort or alphabetize a list or for some other reason. This is a good example of a “meme” which is defined as “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture”
“Memes” can be used to help you remember many things and could be used to help people learn and instantly recall how to make wise decisions and choices in their everyday life. I have been on a search for decision memes for a while now and something caught my eye or ear recently that brought to mind the ABCs song so I thought I would use it as a model for creating an easy to use meme that would piggy-back on this ubiquitous little ditty. Here goes!
A = Ask (…the right question)
B = Biases (…eliminate them)
C = Collaborate (…seek advice)
D = Discover (…risks, rewards, consequences)
E = Evaluate (…all options for at least one day and night)
Now, you may have noticed that I stopped with 5 letters/steps and may be wondering why. You may also notice that we use the number “5” and higher orders of five in other methods and processes throughout our website. The reason for this is based on a belief that the numbers 5, 10, 15 and 20 have a strong attraction for all humans, in that most all of us are born equipped with ten fingers and ten toes, also known as “digits”. So even before mankind invented math, we were all “digital”!
Five is an easy to remember number and hopefully you have the full complement of digits on your hands (unlike my Uncle Broadus, a carpenter who had several unfortunate incidents with power saws and was missing a few digits as a result!), that you can use as reminders of simple lists or ideas. With this in mind, we will always try to use lists of 5 or 10 to express memorable memes that hopefully will spread like a virus around the planet.
Now for a short explanation of the ABCs of Decision-Making.
A = ASK THE RIGHT QUESTION:
An easy way to visualize and understand this first step and its importance is to think about taking a vacation. That’s a nice thought isn’t it! When you decide to take a vacation or trip, you probably start by stating a preference for your destination. That decision is likely the result of an image in your mind of how wonderful it would be to go there. That image could come from a photo, video, magazine article, story of a friend or colleague, or perhaps even a previous visit you made. So far, so good. We have at least one destination in mind. But is one enough?
If you stopped at this point and went online and purchased your tickets and booked your hotel, you might be setting yourself up for a less than expected experience. Why? Because you may have chosen the right answer for the wrong question. Let’s explore this seemingly simple decision a little more closely by ASKING a few more questions, such as –
“Can I afford to take a vacation or do I have sufficient resources to do so?” After all, you probably have other people to consider and their preferences, affordability and time availability. Do I have other financial obligations that need to be taken care of first before my pleasure? What requirements such as time, passports, vaccinations, security risk and other questions need to be answered before making a decision?
But more than these rather obvious questions which are made after the fact, shouldn’t you ask a more important question that might take precedence over your original question? I’m referring to potential questions like; “Is a vacation, no matter how much I might want or deserve it, what I need to do or is there some other pressing need that I should consider before expending the time, effort and expense of taking a pleasure trip?”
Maybe a vacation shouldn’t be your first question and maybe it is, but thinking about and asking the RIGHT question is the only way to get to the RIGHT answer or outcome you seek. So the first step should always be “Am I asking the right question?” After all, getting the right answer to the wrong question might in the long-term put you on the wrong path to failure rather than success. In other words, “STOP & THINK ABOUT IT!” By just stopping to consider or reconsider the decision you are setting out to make, you’ll be far ahead of most people that never give it a thought and end up dealing with the consequences.
B = BIAS and why it is so important to be aware of and to eliminate.
What is “Bias” or more to the point when discussing Decisions, “Confirmation Bias“? Wikipedia defines it as: “… the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities.”
This is step two for a reason, which is that when you start the decision process with existing biases, you’ve already “poisoned the well” so to speak. Another way to say this is that you cannot arrive at the “best” decision if you have ruled out certain information or options because they don’t fit your personal view of life. You have thus precluded perhaps what could be the right decision for you and others by only considering one point of view – yours!
This is a subject that literally requires a book to discuss at length, and many books acknowledge this “trap” and present methods for eliminating them. But a book, no matter how good, won’t do us much good here as any good meme is short and easily remembered by definition. Otherwise it wouldn’t be popular enough to pass from person to person like a virus, which is what we decided to do when we asked the right question, which is, “How can we best help people everywhere learn to make better day-to-day decisions and life-choices so they can achieve Peace, Hope, Joy, Abundance and Love in theirs and others lives?”
We’ll be posting much more detail on each of these 5 steps and on “bias” in particular, as we accomplish our mission. In the meanwhile, I would encourage you to learn more about Bias and how to make better decisions by eliminating it. We would like to leave you with this one take-away thought to consider in regard to bias:
“If you aren’t willing to be totally honest with yourself, and others, by identifying and removing your personal biases from your decisions, and knowing that the outcomes of those decisions will not be the absolute best for both you and others that might be affected by your decision, why start at all?”
By including your biases, you’ve likely doomed yourself to failure at the beginning of the process and there is no reason to waste your time and effort by moving to Step 3 or beyond!
I know that sounds brutal, but it’s true. It’s not easy and it’s not popular but we think you’ll find the success in whatever it is that you’re seeking by doing the hard work of eliminating bias in your decision deliberations. Make the decision to avoid bias!
C = COLLABORATE! Seek advice, knowledge and perspective from others!
Collaboration, which also implies “Communication”, is of tremendous value when seeking to make the absolute best decision you can! After all, none of us has all the answers, even though that sometimes is hard to admit!
The real key for this step is two-fold:
- Discover New and Valuable Information we don’t have.
- Gain Perspective from the experiences of others than have “Been There, done That!“
While information, or data, is certainly important, in my mind, perspective is the most valuable in that with greater context come greater understanding. Information in the form of facts and figures is a requirement of any good decision, however understanding how those facts and figure relate to others or a particular situation cannot be over-emphasized.
We believe that finding one or more “mentors” that you can tap for advice and their wisdom, is a key factor in achieving success in life, business or whatever endeavor you tackle. The key to being mentored is to not decide on a mentor who is just like you or that thinks like you do! What would be the point? One of the major downfalls of many people is surrounding themselves with facsimiles of themselves. This produces an “echo chamber” where only a limited number of opinions or options bounce off each other and prevent other options that could be the missing link in a successful decision outcome, from being discovered.
Like rooting out and eliminating biases in Step 2, it takes courage and boldness to challenge your own experiences and assumptions. One way to prevail in this is to identify and ask people you respect and admire to counsel and guide you. You’ll probably find that most people are willing to help if you treat them with courtesy and respect, even if, and perhaps especially if, their opinion is different from yours!
Even better, be a mentor and help others make the right decisions!
D = DISCOVER Options, Risks, Rewards & Consequences!
Bring out the inner explorer in yourself! Seek out and find all of the options for potential solutions that you can. The more you find, the better your decision will be. (…generally this will be at least 3 and no more than 5 or 6 so as to have enough but not so many as to cause “paralysis by analysis!)
We all learned from childhood on that “Decisions have Consequences“. This is a true statement and one that you should always bear in mind when you start to make any decision. The problem is that far too many people either forget this or ignore it all together, which generally results in a big, negative, surprise after the fact.
The Discovery process is about being aware of and identifying all of the Risk, Rewards and Consequences for each of your decision options. I don’t think it is necessary to elaborate on each of these attributes as they are generally well known and self-evident, however suffice it to say that this step shouldn’t be short-changed unless you are willing to live with the consequences of a bad decision. That would kind of defeat the purpose of this exercise, wouldn’t it?
E = EVALUATE the previous 4 steps and the information you gathered to make a great decision!
Evaluation is the process of comparing multiple options, advice, perspectives, risks and rewards, over time, and finally any expected outcomes or consequences, to arrive at the best decision possible. It also implies taking the time to fulfill the entire process with as much reason and logic as possible and without emotions if possible.
I’ve found through the experiences of a lifetime, many of them with less than satisfactory outcomes I might add, that investing a little time at Step 5 can help avoid many negative outcomes while making successful decisions more often.
The reason for this is simple. Decisions made in haste are generally poor decisions. This can be due to short-circuiting the decision process, but most often its because of the negative effects of emotions that are unduly weighting one side or the other.
Commit this phrase to memory: “Wait 24 or More!” This simply means to put a little time between you and your decision. The old adage “Let me sleep on it.” is quite true and valuable. Another adage says: ” Act in haste, repent at leisure.”
The bottom-line is that if your decision allows, wait a day or two before making your final decision. You’ll take emotions out of the equation and be pleasantly surprised how many times you’ll find:
- The need for the decision has passed.
- The decision itself has changed or the environment you are making the decision in has somehow been altered.
- New and important information has come to light.
- New insights and options have presented themselves.
Whatever you do, unless upon pain of death, don’t make fast or rash decisions! Ruminate, contemplate, evaluate and process all of the things you learned in the first 4 steps and always seek to make the wisest decision you can!
Remember your ABCs and make your next decision a GREAT ONE!