How to Make a Decision You Won't Regret
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Life is all about making decisions - choices. Here are some thoughts on the process of making a decision on any subject that may help you to stress less, and seldom regret your decision.
1. Question Your Question
Carefully consider whether the question you are trying to decide is actually the best question before you invest much energy in the answer.
The easiest ways to modify your question are to make it either broader or more specific, so begin with those. As an example, suppose I am trying to decide whether to buy a new car or a used car. Broadening the question might be to ask how to best address all my transportation needs, and to consider less mainstream options such as taking public transportation during the week and renting a car on the weekends. Narrowing the question might be to begin by asking how much I can afford to spend on a car.
More challenging, but potentially even more fruitful, is to examine your original question, and attempt to look at it from different perspectives. Ask yourself why this question needs to be answered. Repeat, until you have identified the root question. Then either take the root question as the one to be decided, or let the root question suggest another question that really does require a decision.
To continue with the example of buying a car, you may observe that your current vehicle has been in the shop a lot lately, causing you cost and inconvenience. So you might consider the root question to be, "how can I best get convenient, reliable, low-cost transportation?" But you are probably also concerned with comfort, and prestige, and other issues. There is no easy formula for determining the optimum question to be addressed, but you are much more likely to make a decision you don't regret if you take time to refine your question first.
Remember that even the best answer to the wrong question is not useful.
2. Consider the Importance of the Decision
Allocate time to making a decision proportional to its importance. Invest time in deciding who to marry, even if the decision appears obvious. Don't invest much time in deciding which gas station to use - your time is much more valuable than a couple of cents per gallon.
Ask yourself about the consequences of making a non-optimal decision. If the consequences are minimal, make a quick decision and move on. If the consequences would be lifelong, take the time to consider the question from many perspectives, and consider many alternatives - including unconventional ones.
3. Look for Information and Opinions, But Accept the Final Responsibility
If this is an important decision, do research and ask people you respect. But remember that only you bear the consequences of the decision, and only you have the responsibility to make the decision.
It is easy for a friend to say you should get married, or divorced, or to buy a new car. That friend doesn't have to live with the consequences of the decision.
4. Write It Down
Don't try to make important decisions in your head.
Do the "question your question" exercise above with paper and pencil.
When you have chosen the best question, write it at the top of a blank sheet of paper.
Down the left side, write all the possible decisions you could make. Write everything that comes into your mind.
Across the top, write the criteria for the decision - how you will judge whether it is a good decision.
Draw lines to make a grid of possible decisions and criteria.
Rate each possible decision on each criteria.
Using the example question, "how should I get to work," the possible decisions would include car, public transportation, bicycle, and car pool. The criteria would include cost, time, and comfort.
Use the sheet to get a sense of how the potential decisions rank. Then make a second sheet that includes only the more likely alternatives, and only the more important criteria.
Now you have a concise statement of the problem to wrap your mind around.
5. Don't Second Guess Yourself
For important decisions, take your time and use the tools above to make your decision. Then focus all your energy on implementing the decision you chose. Don't waste time and energy looking back and second guessing yourself.
Thank you for reading my article How to Make a Decision You Won't Regret
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