There are as many decision-making methods are there are people!
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We at TRUEpath believe that simplicity trumps complexity. Generally speaking, "Simple Works"! That is our rallying cry and the primary goal of all of our efforts in developing Decision-Making Methods, Processes and Tools. However, simple is not simple! In fact, it is extremely difficult to take something as complex as decision-making and boil it down so that it is easily remembered and used, which is the only method most of us will practically use. Of course, any method must produce quick and effective results, or it will not be relevant nor used more than once.
Toward the twin goals of simplicity and effectiveness, we submit our ideas for you to try out on an everyday basis and allow you to be part of our research team by sending us feedback on what you experienced. Together, we'll eventually refine these methods and invent new ones, through collaboration and a closed-loop process. Let's begin!
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Since simplicity is a primary goal, creating a process to guide decision-making should be simple also. We believe that the number "5" is an innately special number to humans since that is the number of digits (...hence "digital" in the name!) on a human hand, is easy to remember and portable. It requires no batteries or booting up and it seldom crashes although hands do take a beating at times!
This is the reason we use the number five, and its multiples, as a basis for our decision methods. To create a method that is easily remembered and simple enough for young and old alike to use, we have devised several methods based on 5 steps or 10 steps. "The TRUEpath HEAD & HEART Decision Method" is the latest concept we're studying to achieve a universal decision-making process in ten steps or less. Take a look at it and let us know what you think.
As you can see, this method requires both hands to make the best decision possible. Let's break it down into it's individual components in order to understand why each is important to almost any decision.
HEAD-HAND (left) & HEART-HAND (right)
(or port and starboard to you sailors out there!)
First, we break down the process into two parts, represented by the left and right hands. The left hand uses the "HEAD" for logic and reason as the "mechanics" of making a good decision. The right or "HEART" hand, asks five questions concerning how our decisions affect others, to help determine if the nuts and bolts answers from the left hand includes the human values that produce the TRUEpath in Life: Peace, Hope, Joy, Abundance and Love. After all, while robotic decisions may be functional, no one wants a negative human outcome even though the decision may be technically right.
A = ASK
Asking the right question is number one, because it is the number one determining factor in reaching the right outcome. The right answer to the wrong question rarely leads to success. Let me give you an example of this:
You decide to take a vacation. Great! Now that you have made that first decision, you can continue on in your decision-making process by asking questions like:
- How much money can I devote to a vacation?
- Given the amount I can spend, what places fall within that budget?
- What do I want to do on my vacation?
- Where can I do it?
- How will I get there?
- Where will I stay?
...and so on and so forth until you ask and answer all of the questions that are required to actually fulfill your choice. Now that you have made your decision, you finally come to the day you have anticipated for so long! You take a wonderful vacation, laying in the sun, and doing the things that make you happy. "What's wrong with that?", you might ask.
The problem is that you may have asked the wrong question right from the start. Instead of asking "Where should I go on my vacation?" you could have asked, "Should I take a vacation?" or even:
"What else could I do with my time and money that would satisfy my current wants and needs (...that is an important decision in itself!) AND allow me to satisfy my long term needs and goals for the future, which would be far more satisfying to me over the entire scope of my life?"
The problem was not taking the vacation per se. The problem was, not considering more important things, that could be far more useful and enjoyable to you over a longer period of time, such as getting out of debt, or saving money for the proverbial "rainy day" (which WILL come one day!) or maybe helping a family member or even a stranger in need.
That's why "ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTION" is number one! If your destination is East, you don't want to set out in another direction, do you?
B = BIAS
If you read almost any knowledgeable author's list of attributes needed to make a good decision, eliminating BIAS, or "Confirmation Bias" to be more precise, is found near the top. Why?
Confirmation Bias is defined by Wikipedia 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."
The reason for eliminating bias in the decision-making process is simple. You can't reach the best decision possible if you have already closed your mind to any options or thinking that are counter to the beliefs you already hold. Your decision will always be skewed and missing important information needed to arrive at the best solution or outcome.
Bias will likely produce the wrong answer, or a less than perfect answer, no matter how good you are at asking the right question.
C = Collaborate
You're probably a pretty smart person if you have read this far! And if you are a smart person, you're also smart enough to know that you, by yourself as an individual, don't have ALL the answers or can even ask the right questions.
We all need help from others because we all don't have the same experiences, education, and most of all, the perspective on life that others have. If we are going to make the best decision possible, we need to communicate and collaborate with others in making our decisions. This step will help you with step one, step 2 and if you are really open and honest, with all of the steps we advocate here. Be bold and courageous! Ask someone you admire and trust to share their valuable life experiences with you! And do the same for others!
D = Discover
One of the most common reasons decision outcomes fail, is that the decision-maker fails to identify an optimum number of options to choose from. Discovery of sufficient options to choose from will probably keep you from making a really bad decision. In fact, the more important the decision, the more work you need to put into identifying additional potential options to choose from.
There are some basic guidelines to follow here such as having more than two (2) and fewer than six (6) or seven (7) options in front of you. "Binary decisions", where you choose from only two options, may be a recipe for failure! There are many statistics on this subject, which I would encourage you to read, but in a nutshell, from three (3) to five (5) options will serve you better than either fewer or greater options.
We will elaborate on this important attribute in future blogs or articles.
E = Evaluate
Evaluating what you have discovered in the previous four steps, is often paid little attention or worse, none at all! What we mean by "evaluating" is better said as "Evaluating Over Time". The "time" part is really, really important!
Have you ever made a decision you regret? Come on now, tell the truth! Of course you have! We all have. What was the likely reason for that regret? Probably making the decision in a hurry, even when you didn't need to.
We humans are an emotional species, aren't we? Emotion is a needed social tool to communicate and express our feelings, and while generally a good thing, they often get the better of us. Managing emotions in the decision-making process will in large part help determine its outcome. Well-managed and you stand a good chance of a good outcome. Poorly managed and you will likely suffer the consequences!
As a rule, use this saying: "24 or more!" That simply means, put off your decision, if the situation allows, for twenty-four hours or more in order to lessen the negative effect of heated emotions. I'll bet you've put your mouth in gear before putting your brain in gear more than once! The same applies to responding to an email too quickly and sending it to far too many people!
Evaluation of our options, over time, will produce better outcomes. Simple.
You should now see why we refer to the Head-Hand steps as "mechanical" in nature, as they can be counted off in the order given for almost any decision type. The result will probably be a pretty good decision if you haven't cut any corners. However, we don't want to stop there because, what may be a great decision for us, may not ultimately be the "right" decision for others - or us. The Right-Hand steps we'll cover next, can determine success or failure for us all, and most definitely, including you! Stay tuned!
5 Simple Steps to a Better Decision
*This is one of the original methods we began with. While we have refined our methods since, this is a good starting place for discovering the thought-process we are following.
There are as many types of decision-making methods as there are decision-makers. Here are five that should work for you on almost any decision or choice you make.
The 5 Simple Steps to a Better Decision
- OPEN YOUR MIND! – Eliminate “BIAS“! We all have biases and if we start out the decision-making process without removing them to the best of our abilities, our outcomes will also be biased. Why is this important? Your decision will be limited by those biases and you will be making your decision with imperfect knowledge, perspective and wisdom which likely will preclude a satisfactory outcome. The only way to remove bias from your decision process is to be as TOTALLY HONEST WITH YOURSELF as possible! If you can’t be really, painfully, truthfully honest with yourself (and others), you’re going to introduce your biases into the equation which will skew the decision, and it’s outcomes, from the beginning. DO NOT go to step two until you can get past this step! If you don’t, why do it? You’ve already made the decision in part before completing the entire process!
- ATTAIN PERSPECTIVE! – Imagine that the top of your head flips open and out pops a ladder that extends upwards into space! This "metaphorical ladder” is how you gain the second requirement of the decision process – “PERSPECTIVE“! By climbing your ladder and pulling out your binoculars, you can increase your perspective by taking a 360 degree look around at all of the potential factors that you might have missed. You will then have the facts, figures and other information and you will be ready to proceed to the next step, prepared like a Boy Scout, for anything that comes your way!
- SEEK ADVICE! - Listening to the experiences of others and asking for their advice, will probably give you valuable information and perspectives you didn't think of yourself. Ask people you admire or trust for their advice or experience in making your decisions like yours. Listen and be grateful! You'll probably receive new information and perspectives you didn’t have before, in addition to their wisdom and different ways of looking at things that will greatly improve the chances for success.
- RESEARCH, REVIEW & REFLECT! - This is critical to making a wise decision! First you need sufficient information to identify as many options as practical to choose from. At a minimum, you should have three (3) or more options. Once you have the options in front of you, take time to review them for accuracy and applicability, eliminating those that don't measure up. Lastly, as a prelude to the next step, think carefully about the potentials risks and rewards of the options you've identified and how they can result in the outcome you seek.
- WAIT 24 or MORE! – The final best practice is to take your time before making your final decision, if your time constraints allow it. Not only will cooler heads prevail by helping remove any heated emotions, you may find additional information or that the situation has changed, either of which can help you make a better decision or avoid a really bad one. Time really is on your side.
There you have it! While this simple method isn’t a panacea for making absolutely perfect decisions every time, nor is it the only method, it should help you make better decisions as a rule. In fact, if you can count to 5 without pulling your shoes and socks off, you can make better decisions. Give it a go and let us know!