Updated: Nov 13, 2021
November 4th is National Use Your Common-Sense Day – a day devoted to sound and wise decisions. It’s hard to think of a challenging area of your life that didn’t become more challenging due to poor decision-making. Wiser decisions lead to a more successful and lower-stress life. When you make effective decisions, your life is more enjoyable and satisfying. We want our decisions to be effective. We want to feel fulfilled. Successful. And we want to be RIGHT.
We also try to make our decisions informed, rational and smart.
But that’s not how we actually decide most things. It is not how we decide who we will love,
or what is most important to us. In fact, we base the majority of our decisions on assumptions about what we think will happen next – and right now, we are in the middle of a pandemic and economic crisis that is proof we never know what will happen next – no matter how informed, rational and smart we may be.
The thing is, no matter what life throws at us, we have the ability to adapt, learn, evolve and grow. We can decide courageously, effectively and be unstoppable – no matter what happens next. We do that by using ALL of our decision-making power – most of which is below the level of consciousness.
5 POWER QUESTIONS FOR BETTER DECISIONS
There are 5 power questions that open up a world of possibility because they FOCUS on solution – from the inside out. Just to be clear : we are taught to consider our problems first, which is a process that happens from the outside in. By contrast, I am suggesting an inside out approach – used by coaches, therapists, psychologist and neuro experts –
Echoed by the well-known wisdom of Albert Einstein
You can’t solve a problem at the same level of thinking that created it!
We will briefly touch on each question. But they are:
What do I want?
How does this align with my values?
What direction am I headed?
What obstacles exist?
How am I owning this decision?
Master the art of decision-making and enhance the quality of your life by following this process:
QUESTION 1: WHAT DO I WANT?
Asking what do I want is a question we rarely stop to consider in depth. We assume we know, answers like “I want the economy to open up again” but that answer is still at the level of the problem. An answer I have more control over is “I want security and safety so I can thrive.” I may not have control over the economy, but I absolutely CAN find ways to strengthen my ability to thrive.
The answer to this question arises first through our intuition, which is the window into what it is we truly want for ourselves, and often points out creative and innovative solutions.
The rational mind represents 10% of our thought processes. Research shows us it gets fatigued trying to keep up throughout a decision-filled day. Think of like trying to lift and hold a 50-pound weight indefinitely.
The other 90% of our decision process is subconscious. When the part of our brain that controls our subconscious is damaged, even simple choices become impossible, such as what to eat – although the rational mind may be functioning perfectly. That’s how powerful our subconscious processes are.
Not only that, research shows we actually make up our mind 10 seconds before we are conscious of our choice.
So, our attempt to be rational about our decisions is irrational!
Enter our intuition. More than a feminine skill, intuition, when leveraged effectively makes us more productive, fulfilled, successful and even helps us create better relationships.
Steve Jobs said famously,
“Intuition is a very powerful thing. More powerful even than intellect.”
Einstein also had much to say on the topic, including:
“The only valuable thing is intuition.”
In 2016 a University of South Wales study devised a technique to measure intuition. After using this method, they found evidence that people can use their intuition to make faster, more accurate and more confident decisions.
The study shows that intuition does, indeed, exist and that researchers can measure it.
Our intuition can be accessed a number of ways – through meditation, mindfulness, solving riddles (which always require an intuitive leap) how we interpret symbols, signs and metaphors, physical sensations – like that “gut feeling” – all are great ways to practice this tool.
QUESTION 2: HOW DOES THIS ALIGN WITH YOUR VALUES
We all have priorities and values. It is important to know what they actually are. Doing so helps us navigate the obstacles we will inevitably face during a major decision. They become our guiding star. Once we have created a connection with our inner guidance, we can begin to get clear on what we truly value.
Many times, what we think we ought to value is not what we actually value, as demonstrated by our actions. So, it pays to look at our core personal values. To find yours, get my free Values Worksheet with exercises to explore what it is you really value.
QUESTION 3: WHAT DIRECTION AM I HEADED?
What you are moving towards is a big deal. Too often we are more worried about what we are headed away from – like pandemics – and less about what we are headed towards. The missed opportunities in that negative skew are incredible.
Negative self-talk and victimhood keeps us stuck because we are focused on what needs to change outside of us instead of what we have direct control over – our self.
Change happens first with us.
It is rarely – ever – motivating to move away from something. It is never motivating to repeatedly point at a problem, assigning blame, wallowing in all that is wrong.
What excites us is solution. What excites us is vision. What excites us is the promise of growth, freedom, power and passion.
QUESTION 4: WHAT OBSTACLES EXIST?
The more important a decision is to us, the more likely we have already experienced obstacles, and will experience more.
Even when we are cruising along, like my husband’s business in the live entertainment booking industry in February, can hit obstacles that are enough to devastate a thriving business. He was doubling in revenue year after year, and after COVID hit, he dropped to a third of his size earlier this year.
We can’t always know what challenges are headed our way.
That’s not the point. The important thing to know about risk is that we are always taking them, large and small, even when we think we aren’t. No decision is bullet-proof. The better question to consider is what risks might stop or slow me down in my decision. When I think like that, I naturally begin to consider ways through and around those obstacles. The result is that when unexpected obstacles do come up, I already have practice with how to adapt.
Risk demands we adapt. Expect to adapt.
QUESTION 5: HOW AM I OWNING THIS DECISION?
Until we commit to taking real, timely, measurable action on a decision, it isn’t a decision. It is just a nice idea.
Sometimes we look at the actions of others and find it difficult to understand what motivates them. But we are all doing the best we can with the information we have. When we recognize this dynamic, we are better able to accept the decisions of others, while still working actively to change our situation from where we currently are.
That implies we must take action.
There are have been several studies on the differences between “satisfiers” and “maximizers”. A satisfier looks for the quickest, easiest solution that meets their criteria. That doesn’t mean they settle. It means that they accept the first solution that satisfies their needs and run with it.
A maximizer continues searching until the best possible solution is found.
Studies consistently show that satisfiers are more successful and happier than maximizers.
Avoid spending more time than necessary searching for a solution.
The most successful people make wise decisions, decide quickly, and follow through. Improving the quality and speed of your decisions may be the fastest path to a more satisfying