How to make choices and decisions

  1. Know your tendencies and values

We all have parameters to meet in the form of our mental ‘filters’ – unconscious often, our mind filters incoming information (and there is a lot of it every minute of every day! 20,000 pieces of information apparently!) through our unique filters that have been created by our previous experiences.   Filters we have created or  developed come from our values and beliefs that we’ve developed throughout our lives to date;  hence teens have less, children and babies even less information to work with!

Filters include things like what we expect to happen in certain circumstances based solely on what we have seen/heard/felt before – previous experiences colour our present situations all the time.   Being aware of these filters – of YOUR filters – means you can override them if required, you understand why you’ve made one decision rather than another option, and what you have to do to make the most informed, effective choice that meets your needs now and in the future!

Sometimes these filters are from outside ourselves but have been embedded into our Self – values, beliefs, expectations and needs – but really what do YOU alone really need and want in your life?


2. Choosing and Maintaining

I want a simple life but tend to get caught up in the western idea of ‘things’ v experience – when I travelled, experience was all and I had a rucksack, a few sets of clothes, toiletries, iPod for contact (not always a phone or at least a SIM card for where I was!) and the right shoes for three occasions – beach thongs, walking Toms, hiking trainers and comfortable sandals to travel!  Now I’m back, I have a flat, furniture, tools, equipment, a TV, tables, ornaments etc etc etc

I can stop, take stock and get rid of things which I am doing again!   I don’t need it, I don’t even want most of it!   But that stopping, assessing and choosing is the hard bit often!

  • Make time to stop and think (and flow like a great river – let your mind roam, let it work it’s magic and come up with ideas and helpful insights you wouldn’t otherwise ‘think’ of!)
  • Take advice (see below) – talking to people and saying it aloud makes it real and accountable to you; listening to people plants new seeds that create ideas or change your perspective for new options and opportunities


3. Consider the Opposite

In a meta-analysis of 50 years’ worth of judgement and decision making research published by Harvard Business School, one piece of advice for making a difficult decision that came up time and time again was to get an outsider's opinion.

The researchers found that talking to those detached from the decision has three main benefits:
  1. Reducing your overconfidence about what you know
  2. Reducing the time it takes to make the decision
  3. Increasing your chance of entrepreneurial success
We all have our personal biases when faced with a decision.

We want to believe one way is right even if the information doesn’t stack up. Instead of staying impartial, we look for information or opinions in line with our own.

The power of the outsider comes from escaping the cognitive biases we all fall victim to when working closely on a project—for example, the Confirmation Bias, described as the tendency to favour or spin new information so that it re-affirms what we already believe.



4. Confirmation bias

This is the tendency we have to only choose (unconsciously) to see what we want to see – the things that reinforce our choices, our decision or what we want v need perhaps.  You have made a choice that may now be uncertain or you keep wondering so you will decide that it is right and anyone else would have made the same choice, had valid reasons.  You are right to do that!

The key things to remember when making choices and decisions are:

  •  Know yourself well – your foibles, your NLP preferences of communication and learning, your ‘strategies’ for actions and reasoning for your behaviours in given situations.
  • Understand human interactions – relationships, emotions and influencing factors for others as well as you!
  • You can find there is an overload of information – so if, like me, that can cripple you choice making then limit it – design your own plan of what information you need and why, understand that more will be detrimental and sometimes, you can take calculated risks that work out! I have, I did, and it was great!  That has changed me in that now I am more confident, I can make choices and take risks even just a little!
  • I conform apparently – yet I will rebel too, and I will stand up for my thoughts. What do you do when your values are challenged? When you have made decisions that others challenge? Understand why you think and feel and learn new ways of looking at things – just in case!
  • What do you do when you are faced with a difficult choice?  Only one will work but neither is ideal or easy. You make it on the pros and cons, or at the last minute because your procrastinated so long and had to jump!
  • Do you then accept that choice and the accountability that comes with it – this should be part of the decision making? If not, then the doubt creeps in insidiously undermining you, eating away at you!