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How to Make a Damn Good Decision

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing."

- Theodore Roosevelt

A damn good decision is better than a good decision. It’s so good it deserves a bit of mild profanity to properly express just how good it is! Your ability to consistently make damn good decisions - those that align with your values and achieve your goals - determines how successful you will be in life.

Follow these steps to nail it.

STEP 1: Determine potential impact.

Most of your daily decisions will not have much impact on you or others. What shirt you’ll wear, which door to use, etc. Low risk for making a bad choice. BUT if the consequence of the decision is potentially huge – follow this process.

STEP 2: Identify the goal.

What outcome do you want this decision to achieve? Think beyond the obvious. For example, is your goal to buy detergent or to get your clothes clean? Know your desired outcome before you start.

STEP 3: Identify your options

If you only see two options, you need to look deeper. There may be other options you have yet to consider. Sometimes we see a decision as “do something” or “do nothing,” when there could be more than one “something” that may work.

STEP 4: Gather relevant information

Ask yourself these questions: What data do you need to make a well-informed decision? Is that data currently available? How can you get the information in a timely fashion? Can you still proceed if some data is missing?

STEP 5: Assess your emotion

If you have a strong emotional reaction around the decision or a potential outcome, it will distort your ability to decide with clarity.

You should either:

1)wait for the emotion to cool

2)give the decision to someone w/o the emotional connection

STEP 6: Tune into your cognitive biases

Your ancient brain wants you to make choices that are easy, safe, and comfortable. It also wants us to focus on fear and suspicion.Consider if you are leaning toward an option for any of those reasons, then re-set your decision lens.

STEP 7: Leave pivot room

Determine how easily you can adjust if the desired outcome is not achieved.

- How soon and often will you need to re-assess?

- Will you be able to back up and go with another option?

- Can you test the decision on a small scale or sample first?

STEP 8: Use your values as a lens

First, determine your core values. If you don’t know what they are, it’s high time you do. Write them down. Consider how well each decision option aligns with your values.

Maybe all options align well. Often, some do not.

STEP 9: Make a damn good decision

Make your decision and record:

-what you decided

-why you made that decision

-how you will implement it

-how you will measure the outcome

POST SCRIPT: Prioritize process over outcome

Don’t judge the decision based solely on a single bad or good outcome. Examine whether the outcome was caused by the process or happened in spite of the process. Many factors contribute to outcomes that are outside of your control. If the outcome was bad, don’t beat yourself up.

- Steve Haffner, decision performance and productivity expert

Want to learn more about improving your thinking and decision making?


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