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How To Make A Decision Easier and Reduce Stress – A Comprehensive Guide

By Celine Healy

decision making – wellness that works

Check out Essential Factors to Understand – Letting Go and Moving On

How to make a decision is the key to a transformative life. For personal growth.

That decision could be one step away from a new job. Greater abundance. Increased heath and wellbeing. A different life.

How to make decisions easier, is the hard part.

People generally know that decision making is key. However, they struggle with overwhelm. They stress out about making that commitment. They feel inadequate when then know they have failed to stick to a decision so many times in the past.

One more failure on their track record, could lead to a life-time of inaction. And. We don’t want that for you.

The aim of this guide is to inform and educate those desiring to make decisions easier, and also on what has been holding you back. And. Why this is the only approach you can take: reducing the stress around the process of decision making. Because, believe me, there is untold stress around this process.

Why do I say that?

Because stress is so pervasive within our society, that quite often, people do not realise the hidden implications of this insidious dis-ease.

Also too people are not aware that there are strategies for stress reduction, specific and natural, stress reduction techniques which, if understood and acted upon, could help people live a stress-free life. Making decisions easier. And. Then being able to activate those decisions into achieving their goals in life.

It is not about taking the first step in the decision-making process.

It is not about using more willpower.

It is not about trying to change the very essence of who you are.

This is about understanding what keeps holding you back from determinising why decision making is important. And. Why you are having such problems making decisions in the first place. Being committed to them once you have made them it, and sticking with that decision. Then, finally, how to overcome these issues so that you can make decisions easier.

If that is what you want then…

Let’s get into this.

Table Of Contents

  1. Definitions of decision making, the process of decision making, and stress reduction.
  2. What is the link between better decision making and stress reduction?
  3. Stress factors impacting on the decision making process
  4. Why is it so hard to make decisions?
  5. How to reduce stress around decision making?
  6. What are the skills needed for effective decision making?
  7. What is your decision-making style/decision making ability?
  8. Decision making models, tools and techniques – what is available for better decision making?
  9. Help me make a decision easier especially in tough times?
  10. How decision making relates to problem solving?

1. Definitions of decision making, the process of decision making, and stress reduction.

the process of decision making – wellness that works

Decision making is about using the logical, rational reasoning part of the brain to weigh up different alternatives so that you are able to choose between options, more easily.

When you try to weigh up the options you need to be able to recognise the pros and cons of each option, as well as the impact and effectiveness that choice would have on your life, or in that particular situation. It is a thought process about choosing the best option.

Effective decision making means being able to consider all of the options available. And. Sometimes people might need help with this process, because they may be clouded in their judgment and not be open to seeing different perspectives. If you tend to see things as either, or. Or, black and white, you may not be aware of some lovely shades of grey that might be more suitable, as choices.

When making decisions people can tend to catastrophise. This is where the extremes creep in. (There are other perspectives that we will look at later which are impinging on your decision making ability.)

Trewatha & Newport define decision making as follows:

Decision-making involves the selection of a course of action from among two or more possible alternatives in order to arrive at a solution for a given problem”.

The decision making process follows these kinds of steps:

  1. Defining the problem – your goal
  2. Gathering information and collecting data
  3. Developing and weighing up the options – consider the consequences
  4. Make your decision – choosing best possible option
  5. Plan and execute – strategise and implement
  6. Evaluate-take follow up action/change strategy as necessary

So, the process you go through can help you make more deliberate and thoughtful decisions, because you will have gone through the sifting and sorting procedures that decision making necessarily involves.

Stress and stress reduction

What is stress?

The effects of stress in people’s lives is the perception of a reality that an individual holds. Yes. We can all recognise and give examples of possible stressful events and stressor triggers such as: car accidents, loss of health, loss of a job, divorce, separation, a child’s illness and so on.

What we cannot imagine effectively is the impact that that particular event or trigger will have on a person’s wellbeing and mental state.

Physiologically, people respond to a stressor trigger or event the same way. However, what we do not understand is the impact on mental and emotional states. We can only surmise.

So, in this context, stress reduction is about changing how you respond to stress, physiologically.

Yes. We can actually change that habit. We will discuss this in-depth later.

So, what happens when people are making decisions (which can be stressful), they can make “cognitive distortions”, which are based around their beliefs and life experiences. These distortions tend to exacerbate the stress around decision making and the possible effects those decisions might have on a person’s welfare. (We will discuss this in Section 4.)

Why?

Because of the way people view the world which is based on their perception lens.

Understanding the meaning of stress can be vital to being able to do something about it. I have found that most people are not fully cognisant of the pervasive impact that stress has on their lives. Nor, in fact, of the impact that stress has on their ability to make decisions.

From observation and experience I came up with this definition.

My definition of stress is:

  • If you are struggling to achieve anything
  • If you are straining against something
  • You are coming from a position of lack
  • If you stuck are in a rut, or
  • If you are in pain, or have tension anywhere in your body/mind

… you are stressed.

In effect, as soon as you go out of a positive emotion and into a negative emotion or feeling, you are going into stress.

struggling with emotions – wellness that works

Some examples:

Struggling against a job you dislike. Straining against a deeply held principle which is in conflict with someone else’s opinion. Stuck in a rut means – continuing to repeat habits and not liking the outcome. Pain can be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual such as not being in alignment with your true identity. Tension is muscular which can then be transferred across to mental and emotional states. Coming from a position of lack – lack of money, lack of skills etc.

All of these situations create stress in people’s lives.

Why is stress so pervasive within our daily lives?

Briefly, it is because we have trained our body/mind in habitual stress responses to all manner of events or stressor triggers, whether “real” or “imagined”.

These repetitive responses (going into a fear pattern or feeling a negative emotion) around these types of triggers, then affect decision making in general. We transpose our bad feelings onto other events, in this case decision making.

How we respond to stress is via the Stress Response Mechanism. This is inbuilt into the autonomic nervous system.

It is part of our survival programs and was originally designed to warn us of pending danger when a dangerous animal was nearby, and was threatening to kill us.

We would sense the danger, and then have to make a very quick decision about what to do:

  • would we stay and fight, or
  • would we run and flee, or
  • would be so overcome with fear that we froze and did nothing.

What happens physiologically is that via the senses we have a thought. The thought then goes to the heart and the heart attaches an emotion to that thought – e.g. fear. The thought and emotion then goes down to the gut area and adds more information e.g.” I am not very strong and so I feel we should get out of here immediately.” This information then goes back up through the heart and back to the brain and the brain mobilises and then sends electrical messages throughout the body/mind to activate readiness for whatever decision we make e.g. ‘let’s flee.” Molecules are emitted and you will feel the fear or the anger or whatever emotion you first identified.

The problem with this automatic response scenario is that in today’s environment, we are no longer exposed to many threatening wild beasts. However, as a carry-over, we have not been able to shut down these habitual patterns of response. We tend to treat MOST information coming into our realm, as being threatening in some way.

Why?

Because we have these patterns of response ingrained into our physiology. Once ingrained we tend to choose that response pattern as our go-to method of responding, not only to stressful events or triggers, but to ALL triggers and events.

We have, by extrapolation, extended this “fearful” response pattern to all manner of decision making. Then, all decision making becomes a stressful event.

In today’s world we do not have many “real” threats impinging on our lives. Generally, the threats or stresses we have, are “perceived” or “imagined”.

They are not real. They are imagined. The problem is that your body/mind, your subconscious, cannot tell the difference between an event which is “real”, or an event which is “perceived”. So, what this means today is that most of our stress triggers are imagined or not real.

We tend to treat “ANY information” as “ALL information”. We tend to catastrophise and generalise.

This means that we have been training ourselves how to respond to those “perceived” threats and have developed an habitual response to those “perceived” stress triggers.

Most of our responses are “fear based”, e.g. if your boss carries out a performance review, we quite often fear the worst. If our partner says: “we must talk” we fear the worst for our relationship. If someone says something about us that puts us down, we quite often feel that they are attacking us and we go into “fear mode”.

So, if you are in a constant state of stress, and are on alert most of the time, being able to make decisions of any kind, will be difficult.

Why reducing stress is important?

We have seen above, that people respond to stress in habitual patterns. The behaviour is governed by our inbuilt stress response mechanism, which is an automatic function of the subconscious mind. When we continue to repeat these patterns of responses over and over, create synapses, or grooves. These grooves become our go-to patterns of how to respond.

So, if the decision making process is encoded with these patterns of response, you can see how it might be necessary to reduce the stress around how we respond to a trigger, so that our decision making process can become more rational, more logical, and hence, under more conscious control.

2. What is the link between better decision making and stress reduction?

Decision making is an on-going process in that every day we are placed in positions whereby we have to make decisions, or we think we are making decisions, e.g. What are we going to wear? What are we going to eat? Will I sit at my desk throughout lunch time or will I go out? Do I have enough money this week to pay all of the bills? What is my boss thinking of me? Will I pass the performance evaluation? My child is not well if I do not go into work today how will that affect my position? How will this affect my promotion ability? And so on…

opportunities – wellness that works

Many of these so-called opportunities to make decisions never actually eventuate. We procrastinate. We disregard them or we don’t bother making them.

The interesting fact is that many of our day-to-day decisions are not really decisions any longer. They have been relegated to our automatic response patterns, and hence have become habits.

Eminent biologist, Dr Bruce Lipton states that 95% of all choices we think we are making every day are in fact, habitual responses. Habits, rather than actual decisions. So, this means that only 5% of the time are we placed in a situation whereby we actually are making a conscious choice, an actual decision.

So, what we consider decision making is in effect, an automatic response.

So, just as decision making, of those things your conscious mind has decided are not important enough to be bothered about, has been relegated to the subconscious mind, so too is the situation with our responses to stress.

Our responses to stress are also automatic and have been relegated to the subconscious mind. This leaves us free to be able to call up the conscious mind when we need to make proper decisions about events or situations that require the use of our planning, strategising our creative minds.

This means decision making, and responses to stressor triggers or events, both lie within that part of the brain function, the subconscious. If this is the case then in order to be able to make more effective decision making and to be able to “respond” rather than “react” to stressful situations, we need to deal with the subconscious mind, to alter both of these things.

In fact, we will see that decision making has become a stressful event for most people and therefore that is why they avoid it, or at best, leave those crucial decisions until the last resort.

What this means is, that we need to resolve the stressful situations we find ourselves in, and the stress around the decision making process, at the same time.

How do we do that?

We do that by changing how we respond to stressor triggers or stressful events. We have to change or retrain our Stress response Mechanism.

3.Stress factors impacting the decision making process

There are many reasons for this dilemma. Initially we associate decision making with being stressed about the outcome and therefore choosing one thing over another automatically limits what we will have, be, or do.

We also fear missing out if we choose one thing over another. Choice reduces other available options.

stress impacts on decision making – wellness that works

People often associate decision making with a life or death situation. They catastrophise. “If I choose this then I will never ever be able to have that other thing again.”
People are generally unaware of the pervasiveness of stress and how it affects every aspect of our lives. Information and education are necessary here.Past experience has indicated that not many people have achieved their goals, so they have a negative bias towards not wanting to experience that failure again.

Stress has captured people within a negative state of mind and getting out of that and into a more positive frame of mind in order to be able to make decisions successfully, will then be limited. Past experience has taught people to be wary.

Also too, decision making can be hard because people may not be fully cognisant of their decision making styles and hence do not recognise the combination of processes that they undertake in each event.

Decision making can be hard because people may not have the skills or tools necessary for those tough decision to be made. They may not be aware of all of the information they need in order to be able to weigh things up and come to a sensible decision.

People may procrastinate and waste valuable time and then the use-by-date arrives and they may use some excuse, that it was not important anyway.

People simply may not be ready to make a decision at that time.

Or. The importance of that decision and the possible outcome is not clear. In effect, their “why” is not firm enough. And.

There could be many more reasons….

So, stress affects decision making. And. Decision making, in and of itself, can be stressful.

In summary: what all of these reactions mean is that because stress is so pervasive and has caused people to fail at decision making and setting goals, and not achieving them, then they regard the process of decision making as being stressful, and therefore they tend to avoid it at all costs.

4. Why is it so hard to make decisions?

Apart from the impact of stress factors, as discussed above, here are some of the reasons for this dilemma.

These reasons have come from the CBT literature.

CBT Therapists worldwide have come up with a list of “cognitive distortions” which give rise to ineffective decision making processes. (CBT means Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It is about helping people change the way they make decisions by examining their behaviour and what they are reacting to. In effect, being able to take a more conscious approach to decision making.)

cognitive distortion in decision making – wellness that works

“Cognitive distortions” mean that the conscious ability has been compromised due to ineffective beliefs which interfere with reality, and the ability to interpret effectively, in social situations.

The most common distortions include:

  1. As mentioned above – catastrophising. This means focusing on the worst possible outcomes and thinking that that will be the most likely choice. “What if I fail?”
  2. They rely on emotional reasoning instead of using a logical process. They use emotions to guide their interpretation of reality e.g. “I feel anxious. Therefore, I need to get a different partner.”
  3. People overgeneralise and tend to extrapolate from one single bad incident to the many, or all. From one bad choice they might tend to see all of the others as all being bad or negative. “This generally occurs; therefore, I will always do….”
  4. Black or white thinking – it is all or nothing. Because this kind of decision e.g. being rejected by one person, the thinking becomes “I will always be rejected by everyone.”
  5. Labelling – when people label things it puts a different light on all decisions e.g. “I’m not good enough.” “This choice is bad.” Categorising or compartmentalising events quickly rids us of indecisiveness., which is seen as a good thing as compartmentalising allows us to cope.
  6. People also tend to discount the positives as being trivial. This means they tend towards a negative perspective. “Those success came easily to me, therefore they are not important.”
  7. Blaming others for how they feel or how they make decisions or the decision itself e.g. “He made me feel less.” The person takes no responsibility for their thoughts, feelings or actions and they think that others have control over them. This leads to victimhood and a loss of control of taking responsibility for your own actions and behaviours.

So, you can see that having these kinds of “cognitive distortions” on how you perceive the world, can tend to distort your beliefs, your world-view, your decision making process, and the effect your decision making has on your life. These perspectives will add to the stress you may have around making any decision, or in the decision making process, in the first place.

5. How to reduce stress around making a decision?

I mentioned above that we all respond to stress physiologically the same way. If that is the case, then in order to reduce stress, we need to start at that level. The physical.

My approach to resolving stress around decision making of any kind, evolved out of observation and experience. I discovered this hypothesis.

reduce stress of decision making – wellness that works

My hypothesis is: There are 2 Secrets and 1 Key to unlocking those secrets to reducing stress, and hence being able to make decisions more easily, and these are:

  1. You need to repair your physiology first, and
  2. You need to increase your energy (which is a vibration – mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually) – in this way you will alter your default stress response mechanism from being in negativity automatically, to be one of being more positive – thus enabling a more rational, or conscious approach.

And

The KEY to unlocking those 2 things is: to change some small aspect of your stress response behaviour/habit – how you respond to stress, via altering your Stress Response Mechanism. By doing this you will change how you make decisions.

This hypothesis forms the basis of my approach to stress reduction and helping you make decisions easier. It comes from observation and experience over many years as a wellness and stress reduction specialist.

Stress is the basis of everything we do, say, think or feel.

It affects every decision we make or do not make. The interesting thing is that most people think they are freely making decisions on a daily basis. Yet. Scientists have proven that up to 95% of what we consider to be decision making, is actually habitual responses to situations.

This means that the conscious mind has relegated non-critical and non-creative thoughts, to the subconscious mind, via automatic responses. In effect, the conscious mind is too busy for those menial tasks. It is waiting for true creative instruction before it will act.

So, what we think is a decision making process has been affected by our perception lens, which has been conditioned and fashioned by our beliefs, our experiences, our attitudes, feelings, behaviours and interpretations of these experiences. These events and experiences form the framework through which we evaluate and quickly pigeon hole or discard, information that bombards us daily.

It is good or bad for us. Do I feel safe or threatened? Am I being controlled or not?

This framework for evaluation allows us to quickly filter massive amounts of information, so that we can find our position, where we stand, in life, or form our opinions.

Now. How we arrived at our framework for evaluating our world is via the programs we initially downloaded in our early years. (Without going into this topic in great detail, you can find an expose here: The Ultimate Guide to Letting Go)

Briefly. The role of our parents and primary care givers was to keep us safe and prepare us for later life. In most cases we just took on-board what those parents thought was appropriate for our survival.

The problem with that scenario was that some of those programs we downloaded as children, were based on false assumptions, were inadequate or were simply inappropriate for us to be able to experience events in a more positive way.

In general, we have adopted their beliefs and attitudes and behaviours. When we go through life, we may adjust those beliefs and attract to us experiences that either validate those initial beliefs, or expose them as being inappropriate.

In many cases we simply do not change those initial beliefs that have become so ingrained within our body/minds. We do not even question them. Nor do we grasp that these initial beliefs have such a hold on our present- day life, behaviour and choices. We are not consciously aware of the impact of our early childhood on our present-day perceptions.

Okay. So, knowing the above and knowing that the majority of our daily decisions we make are coming from the subconscious mind, the automatic, repetitious and survival brain, what we need to understand is how this part of our brain affects our current behaviour patterns.

What is the subconscious mind and how does it work for or against you in your decision making efforts?

The subconscious mind is basically one of instinct and survival. Within that space, in order to function effectively, we humans have relegated those functions that are basic to our survival, to that part of the brain viz. breathing, walking, talking, muscle movement, procreation, digestion, elimination, metabolism etc.

In-built within this part of the brain is our automatic Stress Response Mechanism. It was designed to help us survive. By extrapolation, we can sometimes feel that any decision we try to make, could well be threatening. E.g. if we choose this way – what would happen? If we choose the other way – what different outcome could occur?

Our in-built Stress Response Mechanism was devised to keep us safe from being attacked by wild beasts.

We have since carried on that automatic behaviour to the present day when we have become trapped within that stress cycle of reacting to imaginary events as being real. And. The unfortunate thing is that the subconscious mind cannot distinguish between what is real and what is imagined.

The trouble being that we are bombarded with so much information coming our way that we are unable to distinguish between a “real” stressful event or an “imagined” one. So, our body/minds are in a constant state of alert.

Since we feel threatened on a daily basis, necessarily, our decision making processes and ability is now tied up with these threatening feelings, and this has been stressful for us.

Decision making can be scary. People can see it as threatening. They could see it as terminal e.g. if I choose this way then I will never be able to do that “other thing”, ever again. There could also be a FOMO thing happening. If I choose this then there could be other opportunities or something even better that I am missing out on”.

There could also be a multitude of outcomes, either positive or negative, and this could be overwhelming.

Looking back at my original hypothesis, that since the Stress Response Mechanism is inbuilt into the subconscious mind, the process of dealing with threatening situations, which can occur throughout our lives, we are in a constant state of stress. Because of this, we will find that any opportunity to make a decision could be stressful.

A stressed state brings forth a state of confusion, cloudy thinking, fear, doubt, apprehension and so on. These emotions could well be as a result of cortisol flooding our body/minds during the stressed state.

Decision making is about wanting to move to a more preferred position, but, all of the effects of our beliefs, experiences, attitudes etc come into play during that process. Since the job of the subconscious is to keep us safe and help us survive, in most cases this means the subconscious mind wants to keep us where we are right now. In that safe position.

Any idea or effort to try to move out of now and into that more preferred position, will meet with opposition.

We will set our goals, but, most of us will not achieve them because of this overwhelming pull backwards, from the subconscious mind, back towards our safer position.

So, knowing all of this, enthusiasts all talk about “the decision” or “the decision making process” as being key to you moving forward. However, it is only one element to being able to move forward. The other element is the pull of the subconscious back to safety. This outweighs any conscious effort of willpower you might try to use.

The basic steps when trying to make a decision to move forward or set a goal includes:

  • Work out what you want/make a decision
  • Make a plan/strategise
  • Take action/implement

Theoretically, making the decision may be easy. Carrying it to fruition or sticking to it may be the real problem here.

People are generally not aware of the enormous pull of the subconscious, to keep them safe.

Instinctively, as soon as you go to make a decision your subconscious will go into “fear” mode. So, within the basic decision making process, step 1, above, working out what you desire or want to do, actually making that decision, can be fraught with fearful thoughts.

What keeps you stuck and unable to make decisions

See this diagram below on Empowerment.

Gaining Control Over Stressful States – wellness that works

Understanding the concept of how disappointment arise leads to resolution

This diagram represents the pull of the subconscious against your conscious efforts to: make a decision, go for a goal, be happy and so on.

This visual shows you the tip of the iceberg v the enormity of the rest of the ice-berg hidden below the surface. Out of sight and generally out of mind.

The effects of stress have been embodied within the brain/mind, the heart/your emotions and feelings and your gut.

Your reaction to stressor triggers or events has been trained into and ingrained in your physiology. These reactions to the Stress Response Mechanism become patterns of how you behave in an on-going manner, unless you have sought therapy, or have taken drastic action to alter these patterns. When you do that, you will alter your behaviour, and the outcome of your decision making.

If you do nothing to alter these patterns of responses, you will continue to get the same kinds of results.

The vast part below the line in this diagram, represents your subconscious mind and all these experiences, beliefs and patterns of response you have stored within your body/mind.

If your default response to a stressor trigger or event is negative, e.g. you emote: fear, doubt, judgment, act like a victim, be depressed and so on, this negative response pattern will be embodied into your body/mind and eventually you will train every fibre of your being, right down to the cellular level, to respond in an automatic negative way. Any decision opportunity will trigger these negative emotions.

So, e.g. if someone says something to you, you can react by brushing it off, turning it into a positive or by reacting negatively, emotionally. You will put yourself down. You will self punish. Or you may go into victimhood or become depressed.

If this is how you have responded your entire life, then this is the pattern that the subconscious recognises, as it feels that this response pattern is appropriate to keep you safe, in exactly the same position that you are already in. You don’t have to think about these responses and patterns. They are automatic.

Whereas, to feel positive, e.g. happy, goodness, kindness or appreciation, takes effort, as you have to consciously choose that way to respond. You have to use willpower to overtake the subconscious mind which, by habit, is in a negative default, automatic response, mode.

You need to be conscious to make rational decisions

To make rational decisions you need to be free of fear or negativity. You need to be conscious.

Being conscious and aware is your position of empowerment. This means you are present and in the now. When you are present you are not zotting back into the past or worrying about the future. It means you will be in control of your emotions and how you want to feel.

You will be able to make decisions. You will be at the place of choice of what you want to do. And. This results in freedom. Freedom from the past and all those things that have kept you trapped from making sensible decisions. As well as, being able to stick to them, and actually achieve those desired end results.

So, being present is your place of awareness, of empowerment, of control, of choice and ultimate freedom. So, if you want to be able to make and stick to a decision, without fear of failing, you will need to deal with some of the stuff below the line.

The number-one tactic people use to achieve this state of awareness is “willpower”. Sometimes, it works. It depends on how resilient you are and how much work you have done to lessen the impact of your subconscious mind.

People have suggested that if you are not achieving your goals and are using an enormous amount of willpower, this means your “why” is not strong enough. Why do you want to achieve that goal? Why is making that decision good for you. Why that decision will make you feel better in some way. They say it’s about strengthening the “Why” of why you want to achieve that goal.

I agree with that sentiment. However, to get to the place of your “why” being strong enough so that you are in flow, you will have needed to have done the necessary work on your subconscious, to be more present, and hence, more conscious.

How do you do that? How do you increase your decision making ability? How do you lessen the ties between the subconscious and the conscious?

Some people prefer to do resilience exercises. Some people use CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy- a counselling method which helps you identify behaviour patterns and then lessen the effect of them by altering your response to that emotion). Others use meditation.

Now. All of these methods do work and have been scientifically proven to work.

However, I prefer a more holistic approach whereby we help you clear up stuff at the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual levels. We do that be retraining how you breathe. This relaxes how you respond and along the way, you will gradually change those hindering, negative patterns of response behaviour.

This is about permanent change. Permanent stress reduction. It’s about finally being in flow so that things come to you more easily and effortlessly. In this way you overcome or bypass the need for excessive willpower.

Decision making will not appear to be such a threatening life or death, or fearful situation. You will then be present. Aware and in flow. And. You will have overcome willpower and the increased energy generated, will help you maintain that position of being above the line, in empowerment.

Above the line will be your new default response position to stressful events. Your happy place. And. Happy people can set and achieve goals much more easily than those who remain below the line.

So, that is the role of stress reduction in the decision making process and why it is imperative that you understand this so you can take appropriate action.

With that in mind, and assuming you have been able to reduce the stress around the decision making process let’s look at the different decision-making skills you might need in order to be able to make proper, effective, and conscious decisions.

6. What are the skills needed for effective decision making?

The important point here is to define the context in which you are making a decision. Is it a personal decision? Is it in the work place? Is it for a new career Is it relationship related? Is it a possible life-changing decision or is it one such as buying a new pot plant for your house?

I remember being in a situation whereby I was trying to decide which pot plant to buy and, seriously, you would have thought I was trying to decide on a 10-year career move. It was tragic. I was expending so much energy on trying to get the exact, right plant, it was laughable. So, you really need to work out that angle first. And. Remember the extremes. Most of the decisions you face will be towards the lowest end of the scale, or, at best, in the middle. They will not be, life or death choices.

the decision making process – wellness that works

With that in mind and keeping consistent with the priorities set-up above re definitions and the steps involved in the decision making process, viz:Our original acceptable definition was from Trewatha & Newport;

Decision-making involves the selection of a course of action from among two or more possible alternatives in order to arrive at a solution for a given problem”.

And.

The decision making process follows these kinds of steps:

  1. Defining the problem – your goal
  2. Gathering information and collecting data
  3. Developing and weighing up the options – consider the consequences
  4. Make your decision – choosing best possible option
  5. Plan and execute – strategise and implement
  6. Evaluate – take follow up action/change strategy as necessary

So, using these constraints let’s outline some necessary and desirable skills that you might need for effective decision making.

Selection of a course of action/from two or more possible alternatives/arrive at a solution for a problem

This means that you have been able to distinguish between possible course of action to take, and may have been able to whittle it down to the last few remaining items. The set of skills implicated, may include:

  • discernment
  • data gathering
  • clarifying what you want
  • being able to weigh up pieces of information – the pros and cons
  • being able to listen to your head and your heart
  • being creative
  • being able to work out long-term consequences and the economic cost/benefit of your choices
  • working out your priorities – is it a small decision or a life and death scenario
  • you will have worked out the impact of the final choice on your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual states
  • you may have asked a friend for advice and weighed that up
  • you may have looked at other people’s choices in similar situations and have been able to judge the effectiveness of that choice on their life or circumstances
  • you may have by-passed logic and gone with emotions
  • you may have based your choice on cost or colour or likeability
  • you may be basing your choice simply on gut feeling,

Proponents of utilising a logical framework for decision making purposes indicate that, if you try to skip any of the steps outlined in the basic approach to decision making, this then could lead to achieving poor outcomes. These theorists also suggest leaving your emotions out of the equation. However, we all know that the final assessment is always based on personal choice which revolves around emotions – how do you feel about this choice over that one?

You simply cannot beat writing everything down and separating items into positive and negative columns, and making your decision from there. In work situations the decision will be based more on logic. In personal decisions you will find that your emotions will always overrule logic. Witness any buying decision you make.

7. What is your decision-making style/decision making ability?

As discussed above, when making a decision, how to make it easier is to look at the context to see whether it is a business or a personal decision. Each context utilises different styles and therefore different decision making skills. Also, too, in a business setting the style would be more likely to be more logical or rational. Whereas in a personal situation, a person would use a more emotional approach.

how to make decision making easier – wellness that works

Business Decision Making Styles

The literature indicates that there are traditionally four different styles here:

Directive – this style relies more on the knowledge of the decision maker. The types of abilities and approaches include:

  • Relies on a rational or autocratic approach – the person uses his own knowledge, experience and judgment
  • When using this style, a person is usually looking at a short-term solution
  • They also tend to use their own opinions instead of asking for others’ input
  • They have generally used this type of knowledge and experience before – they have an example of a previous outcome
  • They will tend to only see a limited number of options as being the best solution, mainly because they have discarded others’ opinions and rely on their own
  • They tend to discard information that does not come into the realm of their experience
  • The do not consult with experts

So, a person using this style would have a great amount of confidence in their own abilities and would tend to get things done quickly.

Conceptual – this style relies more on an “outside the box” approach, having a broad vision, rather than a specific or concrete solution. The types of abilities and approaches include:

  • They look for long term solutions
  • They brainstorm ideas with teams
  • They have a more creative approach
  • They tend to gather lots of data
  • They evaluate lots of different alternatives
  • They accept all ideas – they do not limit alternatives
  • Sometimes concrete data goes missing from the analysis
  • They tend to like risky ventures that might well bring in more revenue or a greater outcome, to the detriment of a more concrete option

So, a person with style of decision making would tend to be someone who might actually find it hard to decide on an alternative, simply because there would be so many to choose from.

Analytical – this style relies more on being concrete and has less ambiguity than the other styles. The types of abilities and approaches include:

  • They are detail oriented
  • They use observation, facts and data ad nauseum
  • It is time consuming because they look at every possible alternative
  • They have a high tolerance for ambiguity due to the wide-ranging options that they evaluate
  • They are adaptable
  • They tend to want to control every aspect of the process.

So, a person with this style of decision making would tend to be someone who might be very risk-averse and find settling on one option difficult.

Behavioural – this style relies more on looking at the personal traits of the actual decision maker. How do they react, how do they try to resolve issues, what are their perspectives, they make sure that everyone works well together and they try to avoid conflict.

  • They are persuasive
  • They like working in groups
  • They try to reconcile difference between participants
  • They try to negotiate a solution that is acceptable for everyone.

So, a person with this style of decision making would tend to be conciliatory, who is not prepared to risk the ire of the factions within the group. They come to a consensus, which could well mean that no one is happy with the total outcome, only bits of it.

Now. If you were making a personal decision as opposed to a business decision then the models and styles would be different.

Personal Decision Making Styles

From my perspective, when making a personal decision, as I mentioned above, I feel that you firstly need to go back to the outline of the decision making process and work out what you might do from there.

The literature defines these styles as either:

  • Rational or logical
  • Intuitive or
  • Predisposed

Rational or logical style

This approach utilises a step-by-step approach. They focus on facts and reasoning. They tend to rely on different model and tools viz, if I am in this situation then I would use this model or tool. These tools take away any guess-work when they are weighing up the alternatives. Whichever fits the model at the time in that situation.

Intuitive

This person would tend to be more creative, more right-brained. They tend to ignore statistics and logical analysis. They make gut decisions. They rely on their feelings. They tend not to use formal analysis or conscious reasoning. They tend to recognise cues and call up solutions from past experiences. They tend to make decision quickly.

Predisposed

This kind of goes against the whole process of the decision making process as we know it. Using this style, a person decides on a solution and then gathers data to support that decision. They do not search out all possible alternatives as there is only one solution. Because they are predisposed, they tend to only identify and evaluate alternatives that fall within their perimeter of acceptability. When they find a suitable solution, they stop looking at any other options. They tend to accept the first workable solution. This style can tend to overlook a whole host of critical data that may influence the decision, drastically.

Remember, all good decision makers utilise these types of steps:

  1. They evaluate the circumstances, weigh up the alternatives – the pros and cons
  2. They use critical thinking to reach an objective conclusion
  3. They can eliminate the stress factors so that they are calm when making a decision under pressure, and
  4. They opt for a logical approach to decision making: they adopt a “problem-solving” attitude.

In summary, when trying to work out your style, you have to look at the context first: business v personal. There are many quizzes you can take to do this online. See: https://www.kent.edu/career/discover-your-decision-making-style

8. Decision making models, tools and techniques – what is available for better decision making

Once again, we are faced with whether or not the decisions are for business or in personal situations. If they are for business, I will outline briefly some of the models, tools and techniques so you are aware of them.

** However, I have outlined an easier approach below, to make better decisions for personal situations, using common sense techniques, after that.

modelling decision making – wellness that works

**Skip to that section below for personal use decision making tools and techniques.

Business Models

a. The Vroom-Yetton- Jago Decision Model

This model is about the quality and long-term impact of decisions. It relies on three factors: the quality of the decision; you need to consider the commitment of the team or the buy-in, and the time constraints – how much time do you devote to these processes.

b. The OODA Loop

This model takes into account that decision making never finishes and is on-going. There are four stages: observe; orient; decide and act.

c. The Recognition-Primed Decision Model

This evolved because the decision making process in business needs rapid action. There are three stages: you need to experience the situation and take it in; then analyse it; then implement the decision. It’s about listening to those who might be impacted and adjusting accordingly.

d. Paired Comparison Analysis

This is about trying out all of the options and choosing one by pairing and comparing one against each option. Whichever is left over is the best option.

e. The Ladder of Influence

This is about setting aside personal feelings and emotions to come up with what is best for the organisation. There are seven steps here: describe what is the reality, the facts; what is the selected reality; what is the interpreted reality; what are any underlying assumptions; what conclusions have been drawn; what are the underlying beliefs uncovered, and what actions need to be taken.

To me this is the most useful business approach that can be adapted for personal decision making. It is about bringing to light the hidden factors which influence our decisions, mostly of which we are unaware.

Here are a few more different models for business decision making scenarios.

Marginal Analysis

This is a cost/benefit analysis approach. This takes out the guesswork and it weighs whether an activity or input is providing maximum return on investment.

To use this effectively you change one variable at a time to determine what the increase in total benefit might be.

SWOT Analysis

This method or model is used when making significant changes in business or in life, in general.

S – strengths – what do you do better than others

W – weaknesses – where can you improve

O – opportunities – how can you leverage your strengths to create new opportunities

T – threats – determine what challenges are standing in your way.

You can add to the effectiveness of this approach by getting input from others.

Decision Matrix

It’s like a pros and cons list, but you attach a level of importance to each fact.

List your decision alternatives. Have a list of relevant factors. Assign a consistent scale of value. Weight that value. Multiply the original rating by the weight ranking. This leads to decision options with the highest percentage.

At each stage of this model you are evaluating the options using these criteria: capabilities, reputation, reliability and price.

Pareto Analysis

This is the 80/20 rule. 20% of the factors contribute to 80% of your growth/results. You have to have a clear understanding of what comprises the 20% so that you can make small adjustments to get even greater impact. You can then prioritise what decisions have the highest influence.

**Techniques for Better Personal Decision Making

These techniques are a mixture of common sense and learned techniques from the self-improvement literature.

  1. Use both sides of your brain. This is about combining the techniques of logic and emotion to come up with a more balanced approach to making better decisions.
  2. Visualise the end result of what you want to achieve – this is a goals-setting technique. To make it even more effective you need to add feelings to the end result. See yourself there and feel how you would be feeling having achieved that success.
  3. Every little thing has impact. Each decision contains power within it and will affect many people around you as well as yourself. So, it is about being responsible and diligent and thoughtful at the same time.
  4. Use your intuition – go with the gut. The solar plexus area contains the elements of how we see and feel about ourselves in the world and about how we feel others see us. It also contains those magical moments when we have insight, out of the blue. Try not to override those flashes of insight and go with them. What we tend to do when this happens is that we try to evaluate those flashes with logic. Mostly, logic will win out and you will miss out on the opportunity to go with the flow.
  5. Asking other people what they would do or what they think you should do its fraught with danger. Too many cooks. Too many opinions. Just as an aside. I used to ask my best friend what he would do when I had a difficult decision to make. In 99% of cases I always went the opposite way of what he advised. So, I reasoned, that using him as a sounding board gave me an easy solution.
  6. Decisions need to be aligned with your core values. If they are not you will not be able to stick to them and you will find you are in constant conflict with your inner self. You will find yourself feeling guilt a lot of the times and then go into self-punishment. This is not a good plan.

In the end, if you want to apply a more scientific approach to decision better making you might choose to use one or more of the business models above.

In any case, when you come down to the final choice of how to make better decisions, you will find that you will be using some or all of the personal use decision making techniques listed above.

9. Help me make a decision easier especially in tough times?

In any scenario when trying to make a decision easier, especially in tough times, you have to keep going back to the framework and follow the steps of the decision making process.

more effective decision making – wellness that works

The University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth outlines seven basic steps for more effective/better or easier decision making. And these steps are:

  1. Identify the decision to be made
  2. Gather relevant information
  3. Identify alternatives
  4. Weigh the evidence
  5. Choose among these alternatives
  6. Take action and
  7. Review the decision and its’ consequences.

So, this outline then gives a basic truth-test approach to being able to make better and easier decisions, especially in tough times.

The other perspective might be to go back and reaffirm your particular decision making style, then adopt a particular model, and then you will have a more scientific approach to coming up with the right decision, in these tough times.

Having reviewed the literature on this topic I have come across the following points, which appear to cover all aspects of being able to make better decisions, being able to make decision making easier, and to be able to make effective decision in tough times.

There could be more items to include on the list, however, I believe these items listed below will give you an idea of what some people go through in order to come up with the best solution to decision making problems.

List of potential factors to consider for more effective and better and easier decision making

  • Use a model
  • Use common sense
  • Define the decision clearly
  • Calm down
  • Fall back on your values and your personal life vision
  • Ask “what if” questions in order to outline alternatives and consequences
  • Map out the steps you need to take to arrive at the decision and then to follow through to the end result and the consequences
  • Focus on one decision at a time
  • Set aside time to process all of this
  • Brainstorm ideas and alternatives
  • Think through the alternatives
  • Ask a friend or trusted advisor
  • Listen to your gut when conflict arises between the logical and the intuitive
  • Be aware of what you want/desire, not what someone else might think is more appropriate
  • Create a deadline to avoid procrastination
  • Take yourself out of the equation – be objective
  • Limit the factors you use when making a decision
  • Quantify your decision and the elements within each option – putting a weighting, a cost or a price on things, can quickly give you what you need to discard more easily
  • Narrow those options down
  • Focus on the long- term effects of decisions
  • Evaluate the pros and cons
  • Talk it through with someone because hearing it out loud might change your perspective
  • Work out if it is a big or small decision – can it be reversed?
  • If it is a small decision perhaps “near enough is good enough” for the interim

Making a decision in tough times could mean that stress factors are affecting your judgment, you need to make a decision quickly, or the decision you need to make, is a life or death decision, or that which will affect a large number of people adversely.

If you stick to the framework, and utilise a combination of a model and your style, plus some common sense, you should be able to come to a sensible option, after you have examined all of the answers to the “what if” question, and have applied a cost/benefit analysis to these options.

However, in the end, most human, personal choice decisions, are based on emotion over logic. The answer to this question: “In the end, why did you choose that option over the other?” And. For most people, the answer would be: “because I felt ….” So, keep that in mind.

There are many more questions that people ask around the topic of decision making, whether in tough times or not, however, the process will always be the same: follow the framework, use a decision making model, apply your style, then use a combination of logic and emotion.

10. How decision making relates to problem solving?

Problem solving is a process of identifying the elements affecting the issue/s, then figuring out why the issue is a problem, or what has gone wrong or what isn’t working now, then determining a course of action to fix those things. So, generally we are looking at solving one specific issue at a time.

Whereas in decision making you are looking at a number of alternatives each time. You are gathering information and weighing things up, however, decision making can fit into the problem solving steps when, or if, you are determining what specific action to take, as there may be several options.

The steps involved in effective problem solving include:

  • Identifying the problem/issue
  • Defining the goals – what you want to solve or achieve
  • You can brainstorm for ideas
  • You then assess the alternatives
  • Then you choose a solution
  • Then you activate that chosen solution
  • And then you evaluate and continue to weigh things up to make sure that that particular solution will be long term

the steps in decision making – wellness that works

The steps in the decision making process include:

  • Identifying the decision having realised that one needed to be made
  • Gather the relevant information
  • Highlight the alternatives
  • Weigh up the evidence for an against each decision
  • Choose amongst alternative options
  • Then take action
  • Then review your decision and its consequences

Where these two processes overlap is in the step above where it says: choose a solution. This is where you would inveigle the decision making process.

So, if you find that you need to upskill with your decision making techniques, hopefully the above information has given you some guidance.

Where to next?

Decision making can be hard. Or. It can be made easier when you adopt tools, techniques and processes that you might not previously have thought of.

Whatever your method, when it comes down to it, when making decision in business, you will tend to use more accepted models.

Whereas when making personal decision you most probably will use a more pros and cons approach. And. You might find that you rely more on your gut feeling in the end.

Whatever happens, just know that there are more scientific ways to do these things that will take out the guess-work and give you a more objective approach.

What will you do?

Please let me know and leave a comment below if you have found a technique that you found more helpful than another.

Blessings.

Wellness That Works

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