Every day we are faced with decisions that require us to make a choice. Most of these questions are relatively small and are answered with ease, but some have the power to dramatically alter the direction of our personal or professional lives. To better your decision-making ability, there are a few questions that you should be asking yourself when making any judgment, big or small.
Question #1: What do I know?
The first thing that you should do when faced with an important decision is to access what it is you know about the present situation.
Perhaps you have dealt with a situation like this before. If so, what was the result? What, if anything, would have altered the result? Be sure that you take into account all of the factors at play. For example, who is involved and how can you expect their actions or reactions to weigh in?
Throughout this activity, make sure that you are dealing with real, objective facts, and not projecting any personal bias onto your decision-making process. Many people have a difficult time removing emotion from their opinion of the situation, but that often only clouds your judgment.
Question #2: What’s typical in these sorts of situations?
One of your best resources for decision-making is the past. This can include your own personal experiences, but should also cast a wider net. Open yourself up to a greater pool of information by looking toward relevant case studies that can provide guidance on your situation. Where were there unforeseen pitfalls? What factors had a greater influence than you might have otherwise imagined?
Remember, your gut can be misleading. Focusing on historical evidence—which is typically the best indicator of the future—can help you be more realistic and counteract any overconfidence than you might unknowingly be projecting onto your assessment of the situation.
Question #3: What is the probability of each outcome?
When reviewing past occurrences that are similar to your own, make note of the various outcomes that could potentially result. You will want to calculate the probability of each scenario in order to help you objectively weigh your options.
It helps here to actually learn basic statistics to help you calculate more realistic figures. Relying on real, hard numbers is also an effective way to help distance your emotions and biases from the situation and think about things objectively.
Question #4: What’s the worst that could happen?
Many people are extremely risk-adverse and tend to make their decisions based on the safest probable outcome. In many situations, where the risks are high and there is the potential for huge fallout, this is a wise strategy.
That said, sometimes the statistically “wrong” decision can be the right one for you. Consider what the actual worst possible outcome is, and determine whether that is something that you can realistically deal with. Even if the probability isn’t in your favor, try not to let fear and the avoidance of obstacles keep you from taking well-calculated risks, knowing it could mean failure.
Time to Make a Decision
Regardless of the weight of the decision at hand, the best course forward is always found through good prediction and judgment. By considering the above, you will be able to better assess the various factors that will affect the outcome, and remove any personal bias. The next time you are faced with a difficult decision, consider these four questions and the answer will become clear.