How many decisions would you guess that you make every day?
We start making choices from the moment we wake up. The alarm goes off and the first question pops up – “Should I hit the snooze button?” Then there’s what to eat for breakfast, what to pack for lunch, and what to wear to work – all before you even step out of the house. Our days are flooded with decisions.
So, would you estimate you make 25-50 choices each day? Maybe 100-150?
Actually, according to lecturer Eva Krakow of the University of Leicester, that number is closer to 35,000. Every day, more than we blink (16,800) or even breathe (22,000), we are making decisions.
Of course, they’re not all major decisions. But given how much practice we have making decisions, it is odd that many of us have not honed this skill to our maximum potential.
7 Questions to Gain Perspective
In one McKinsey Global Survey, only 20% of respondents felt their organizations were “excellent” in their decision making. In fact, the majority of respondents felt that time set aside for decision making was not used effectively – which is alarming when more than 25% of them reported that decision making took up the majority of their work time.
At the end of the day, many of us aren’t great at making decisions because we’re just not sure how to go about it. But with the help of the right problem-solving perspective, we can see problems more clearly and address them effectively.
1. WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?
When an executive once presented former president of the Ford Motor Company Robert McNamara with a choice, McNamara asked him, “What did you choose not to do?” He wanted assurance that this executive had looked at all the options before choosing, weighed them out, and decided soundly.
Some options may not be great. They might not be convenient, cost-effective, or practical. But when making decisions, options are the best tools that we have when crafting the ideal outcome. The more options we have, the more potential exists for creative solutions, the more new ways we can see the decision, and the better prepared we are to make the choice.
2. WHAT IS THE RISK?
One reason we hesitate to make decisions is because every choice has a price. What is the risk of making the decision – and of not making the decision?
“Risk” is a scary word for some; they hear it and think, “cost,” as if the worst has already come to pass. But nothing gets done without any risk at all. Walter Wriston, former CEO of Citibank, said, “All life is the management of risk, not its elimination.”
John Maxwell offers two principles for assessing risk when making decisions: if you can take the worst, take the risk, regardless; and know when enough is enough.
3. IS THIS DECISION TIMELY?
On timing, French-British businessman James Goldsmith said, “If you see a bandwagon, it’s too late.” And many ambitious entrepreneurs and opportunity-takers live by his words, getting in as quickly as they can. It’s true that most poorly timed decisions are late rather than early. But how can we know for sure if a decision is timely?
When it comes to vision, there seem to be two camps: the balloons (those whose strength is seeing the possibilities) and the paperweights (those who remain grounded). Timing a decision well requires you to walk the line between them – having enough discipline to see what is real and enough imagination to see how it could be soon. What do you see, and what could it turn into? Whether or not to act now depends on your answer.
4. DO I HAVE STAYING POWER?
Painter, poet, sculptor, and architect Michelangelo is widely considered one of the greatest contributors to the Renaissance. His rendering of David remains one of the world’s most recognizable figures of marble. Yet, for the last quarter of his life, he did not finish a single sculpture. The artistic value of his work is undeniable, but the question remains, what could he have accomplished with a bit more staying power?
As we make predictions and projections, we often cast the best-case scenario. But as a rule, most of our efforts will take 50% more time – and 100% more money – than we anticipate. Taking that into account, it’s important to face every decision with the question, “Do I have the stamina to see this through?”
5. WHAT ARE THE LONG-TERM RAMIFICATIONS?
Newton’s third law of thermodynamics reminds us that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” And the butterfly effect elaborates that even small actions can have major and long-lasting reactions. What might the next month look like if you make the decision, or don’t make it? The next year? The next ten years?
6. HAVE I ASKED FOR ADVICE?
We don’t have to bear the responsibility of making a decision on our own. Others have gone before us and gained wisdom from their mistakes and successes. They have studied subjects, been places, seen things, and lived experiences that we have not, and we can make wiser decisions when we learn from them.
But not everyone can give you advice that will benefit you. Before asking for input, answer three questions about the source:
- Will this person take my questions seriously? In other words, will they tell me what I need to hear, and not just what they think I want to hear?
- Is this decision within the area of the person’s expertise?
- Does this person have time to think about my question?
7. AM I AFRAID TO PULL THE TRIGGER?
Sometimes, we know when a decision must be made. We know it’s the right thing to do, the risk is manageable, and the time is better than ever, but we don’t move. Why? Because at its core, decision making is difficult. It requires commitment and change, two things that many of us have a bad habit of avoiding.
As you assess the decision in front of you, ask yourself, “Am I willing to do what I know I should?”
What’s one step you can take today that will supercharge your growth?
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