We all have choices to make throughout our life. Some are trivial and straightforward, like “what’s for dinner?” Others are more complicated and defining, like “will I ask her to marry me?”
Irrespective of the magnitude, decision-making follows a similar pattern and can be made through either an intuitive gut-reaction, a more measured process, or a combination of the two.
Intuition sounds like a very unscientific way of weighing up the pros and cons of the situation you face, but it’s a combination of past experience and your own values. Don’t underestimate your intuition, it’s worth listening to, as it’s what you have learnt about the big, bad world. One word of caution: your perceptions of life are not always accurate. If you are going to listen to the voice of intuition as it sits on your shoulder, whispering into your ear, take a moment to examine why this suggestion appeals so much, and if it’s sound (not just a sound).
The counter-balance to intuition is reasoning: using available information, facts and figures. This removes most, if not all, emotion from the decision-making process. It can be that calm, reassuring, “you know it makes sense” voice on your other shoulder (but not in a Del Trotter tone).
So, when’s best to use either, or both?
Intuition, generally, is best deployed when the decision is of a simple, needs to be made quickly, or has little or no negative consequences should it go pear-shaped. No real risk to your self-confidence, belief or integrity if it goes wrong.
More complicated decisions, with potentially larger implications, may require that formal, structured approach. It’s harder to argue against facts, and you can point to the ‘science’ if it falls down around you.
Sometimes, though, the two strategies can compliment each other.
It’s useful to start with collecting and analysing hard facts and figures. Once you think you have a sound ‘decision’, switch on your intuition. How do you “feel” about the option? Are you “happy” with it?
If not, look again, and see if you can work out why not. If you’re not convinced it’s right, you will be less likely to see it through. Even then, decisions need to be deliverable, whether they effect you or those around you. If you can’t “sell” it to yourself, you may not be able to convince others to buy into it.
There are a few things, however, which can get in the way with your decision-making.
If you don’t have enough information, it can feel like you are making a decision without a foundation. It’s worth double-checking what data you have, and where you may get more, if needed, being careful not to overload yourself.
Too much information is a separate problem, as having a shed load of stuff can leave you in a position where you “can’t see the wood for the trees”. This leaves a risk of confusion, or prevaricating, which can cause you to seek even more evidence: and so the cycle continues.
When faced with a difficult issue, it’s tempting to draw in some help. While it may be useful to gather folk around you and try to get a decision by consensus, it can be difficult to get a desired outcome by committee. Ultimately, someone has to make a final call. As Princess Leia said in The Empire Strikes Back, “I am not a committee.”
Then, of course, there are those involved in the process who have vested interests which are usually simmering in the background and not openly proposed or shared. They can easily get in the way of effective decision-making. It helps if the people you trust to offer solutions are people you can trust, and with whom you can have that meaningful, honest chat.
Finally, there is the impact of emotions getting involved.
This can be through a fond attachment to the way things are. Any decision may been a change to the status quo, and this can be a bigger challenge than you think. You’d be surprised how many people like to drink their tea from a very specific mug.
The opposite to this is to just not care one way or the other. In some circumstances this can be very helpful, helping to identify some very real pros and cons options in the cold light of day. In others it can make progress difficult because you attach no personal value to the decision. A shrug of the shoulders is hardly the sign of a determined resolve to “get on with it”.
Time to take that leap of faith, or keep drinking tea from that mug?
“If you’re just safe about the choices you make, you don’t grow.” Heath Ledger