Decision-making skills are essential capabilities for every person that wants to live his life consciously and independent. Nevertheless, many people seem to lack these skills and feel more comfortable if another person makes the decision – even if these decisions could influence their lives negatively. Allowing others to decide over one’s life does not only open room for manipulation but also takes away the burden of responsibility, which is why many people rather accept this kind of “deal” than being actually responsible for something.
Recently, I noticed something that I personally found really interesting: Whenever a statistical institute or a newspaper conducted a “yes or no” poll there was not only the option given to choose between “yes” and “no“, but also a third option for those people who struggled to come to a decision, the “I don’t know” – “I don’t care” – “Maybe” – alternative. One of these polls was about a current affair that was widely discussed in the media, however, more than 31% of the participants had absolutely no opinion towards the question of the survey and couldn’t decide whether they were for or against it, which is why they choose the impartial option. I didn’t found the fact alarming that the majority of people decided to vote against it by voting “no”, everyone is free to have his own opinion, but the fact that nearly half of the participants had absolutely no opinion about a topic that could influence their lives, was rather disturbing for me.
Decision making has got a lot to do with responsibility in general – responsibility for your own life and the responsibility for the outcome of your decisions. People who struggle to come to a decision are trying to avoid the responsibility that arises out of a decision. It is always easier to free oneself of the responsibility for a decision than to bear the burden of responsibility on one’s shoulders. Doing so will not only reduce your own responsibility, but it will also become relatively easy for you to find someone to blame for your mistakes, whenever you fail. This might be a very comfortable feeling, but it also takes your own independence and freedom to live your own life consciously and responsible and makes you dependent towards the decisions of others and their ulterior motives. Not taking responsibility will transform you from someone who takes action and makes decisions for his own life to a helpless victim without any chance to have an influence on its current situation. Ask yourself the question if you really want to let that happen!
It is time to regain control over your life!
1. Conceive an opinion
Every person should have an opinion towards topics that are widely discussed or could affect one’s life. The importance of forging one’s own opinion should not be disregarded, even if it leads to a biased or even completely wrong point of view. I’m sure that since you read the last half sentence you might completely disagree with me and think something like “this is totally wrong” or “how can he say that?”. Nevertheless, I haven’t finished, as #1 is being complemented by #2, where it is getting really important.
2. The willingness to change your mind
The importance of having an opinion cannot be stressed out enough, but even more important is it to be willing to change one’s opinion, whenever we notice that we were wrong, biased or manipulated. Changing one’s opinion and admitting to be mistaken is something just a view people really can, as the vast majority will find it difficult for various reasons (ego-driven, self-confidence, it’s easier to blame others than oneself, etc.) to acknowledge the fact that it was them who were mistaken about something, even if presented the true facts.
3. Every story has its two sides
My grandfather, whom I consider to be a very wise man, once said that every story has its two sides and if somebody presumes to forge an unbiased opinion about it, he would have to discover these two sides. His statement left me thinking a while, the first time I heard it, but he’s absolutely right. Now, what we normally tend to do is to hear one side of the story about an event, incident, etc. and we start to forge an opinion out of the information presented. This is completely natural, but in many cases, it is simply not enough to just rely on one perspective/side for something to be true. What has that got to do with the subject “decision-making skills”? Well, here is a simplified example. Just imagine you would be the boss of ten employees and one of them suddenly has a severe decline in performance, comes too late to work on a daily basis and neglects his duties and responsibilities. Regularly, you would have to fire this employee immediately as he is causing your company a net loss on a huge scale, but that’s just one side of the story. The other side can be discovered by gathering some information about the reasons and the motives behind the employee’s actions. You might find out that he has currently a very tough time because of the death of a near relevant and just need some days off to collect his thoughts. If you would have left the other side completely undiscovered, you would have fired your employee (maybe even if he was your best), instead of giving him just a little time to handle up the situation… The above-named example was of course very simplified, but it illustrates my point. So how to discover another side of the story?
- Gather information, from as many sources as possible
- View things from another perspective
- Discover the motives behind actions
- Judge the alternatives and consequences of decisions
4. Overcome decision making obstacles
With an increased difficulty and complexity of a decision, there are also more obstacles with the decision-making process involved. Some of these obstacles consist of
- Lack of Information
- Negative consequences
5. Discover alternatives
With every decision that must be met, there are at least two possible alternatives you can choose from; otherwise, it wouldn’t require a decision to be made. Nevertheless, there are often by far many more alternatives out there we can choose from than we think; unfortunately, not all of these alternatives are taken into account as they often aren’t even recognized or discarded immediately. The key to discovering more alternatives is an unbiased open-minded mindset. Try to think about those alternatives and choices you haven’t taken into account, yet and evaluate the possible outcome of this specific alternative.
How do you sharpen your decision-making skills?