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If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much. – Jim Rohn
There is no doubt how easy life will turn out to be if we can make good decisions quickly and easily. I have found that the answer to “How to become decisive” is actually quite simple. If we follow the simple steps mentioned below, in no time we will get comfortable with entire decision making process and begin to make decisions with ease.
My Story – From Indecisive To Decisive
My journey of becoming a decisive person started with a simple concept I read in Stephen Covey’s book ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’. Stephen said that we always have choices. While we might not consider certain choices because of consequences, the choices are always there. We are free to choose whatever we want to as long as we take responsibility for the consequences of that choice.
Most people find this liberating because it shows them how many choices they have. I found my liberation in the fact that if I am all right with the consequence, I can make any choice I like – I can decide what I want for myself without worrying about whether it is right or wrong.
As a kid, this gave me a new kind of freedom.
- Don’t want to finish up homework and keep notebook up-to-date? I can do so as long as I don’t mind losing some marks and get a complain in my school calendar.
- Which book should I pick up to read? I can choose any I want as long as I am ok with it turning out to be bad.
- Which ice-cream to eat? I can choose any flavour as long as I finish it for this time (It’s obvious if it doesn’t turn out good I will not order again).
As I started making more decisions, I noticed that I was getting to know myself better. By experimenting I now know what do I really like and what I don’t. Having a personal choice/preferance definately makes decision making easier. And along with these, my decision making skills too had started to improve. I looked at the long term picture, started considering all possibilities and focussed on making the right decision everytime. As I look back, I realise now that being decisive doesn’t require any kind of science; atleast for beginners.
In Order To Be Decisive, All You Need Is …
A desire to make decisions and a decision to follow on with your desire. If you are not interested to find out how to be decisive, if you are not interested in applying the solutions, it is not going to work. You need to be motivated about becoming decisive. You need to be willing to put in the required effort. Nothing is going to happen on its own.
- Practice Area
Identify areas of your life where you can make beginners decisions – go buy groceries, go to a library, try to pick up a movie to watch … anything where you can exercise your decision making skills and the cost of being wrong might not be too huge.
A clear picture of pros and cons – what will happen if decision is right, what will happen if decision is wrong. If you have an adventurous spirit, you might feel like forgetting about the con part and tell yourself that whatever happens, you are ready for it. But I suggest don’t do so. You might not be able to forget the consequences always. Hence practice analyzing them.
- Follow the Cycle
And now follow the cycle : Practice – Reflect – Learn – Practice
Decision making for starters is really as simple as this. You will observe that as you practice these, you will start gaining confidence in your ability to make decisions. And in no time, you will become decisive about lot of things in life.
Some Tips To Make Decision Making Faster And More Efficient …
- Be Pro-Active
Create opportunities to decide on something and commit. For instance, if you are invited for a party, don’t say you are not sure whether you will come or not. Commit to one thing. Preferably with time. And make sure you stay true to whatever you commit.
- Honour Your Word
Be a person with integrity – it is the essential ingredient in becoming decisive. Do what you said you would, by the time you said you would. Honour each commitment you make. For when you do so, you start trusting yourself. And it’s only when you trust yourself that you will trust your decisions.
- Start Small And Then Build Up
If you try practising your skills at too many places all at once, chances are you will get overwhelmed and drop the idea all together. Start small and then keep building upon it.
- Use Power of Language
Pay attention to what you say. If you find yourself saying something like ‘I guess I will go with this ..’ , catch yourself and say ‘I decide to go with this’.
- Celebrate and Learn
Everytime you make good decisions, pat yourself. And if you make wrong ones, observe and learn from your mistakes. This will be a lifetime process since no one can make right decisions all the time. We learn and grow with every decision.
- Work On Your Timing
Improvise your timing with every decision you make. Try to make right decisions faster than before. The more quickly you decide, the more decisive you will become. Moreover, as your pace to decide increases, you will start feeling comfortable with making decisions. And it will not turn out be a chore.
- Hone Your Instincts
Notice that little voice in your head giving you inputs and providing you with feedback – listen to it. Gut feeling has it’s own logic. And that logic is often right. Go by your instincts and hone them by providing feedback for every decision you make with them. When you have to make real quick decisions, these can save you.
What To Do When Fear Raises It’s Head …
As you begin your journey from being indecisive to decisive, one thing that will constantly obstruct you is fear – Fear of making making mistakes, fear of consequences, fear of letting someone down, fear of losing approval etc And all I can tell you is this –
- Be Courageous
Don’t let your fears overpower you. It is all right to be nervous but don’t let that stop you. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It is the only way to learn. Have faith in your judgement and believe that whatever happens, you will take full responsibility for it. As you get comfortable embracing failures, you will start seeing decision making in a new light.
See yourself as a decisive person who believes in himself/herself. See yourself make the right decisions. The more you believe in yourself, the lesser your fear will become.
- Learn From Failures
No one can be right all the time. Given the way we have to make decisions – with limited time and limited info, sometimes, we are bound to make mistakes. Learn from them. These mistakes are your feedback. As you start seeing mistakes as feedback and not a judgement about you, fears will go down.
- Take Action
If there is one thing which has consistenly worked in driving fear away, it is taking action. Act on your decisions. The more you sit over them, the more fear will paralyze you. As you take action, fear will disappear.
- Start A Diary
Write down your experiences with decision making in a diary. Over a period of time, your positives and negatives will jump out of the page. They will be so obvious, that you will not have to put in any effort in finding them. And once you know where you are going wrong, it’s going to be easy to find a solution and grow. What you will also notice is that the consequences of making a mistake are really not as bad as you thought. Allow your fear of making mistakes and fear of consequences to go down.
The more decisions you make, the more fear you face, the more confident you will become. And as you gain confidence, it is natural for you to branch out and test these skills in other areas of your life – Your life, career, health, relationships etc – the important and long term stuff. For these areas, you might want to learn different ways of making decisions.
Some Popular Decision Making Techniques
- Basic Paper and Pen Technique
Pick up a piece of paper and start writing. Write about your choices, your assumptions, your concerns, your fears, your analysis .. everything. Do not edit or judge anything you write. As you empty your mind on a piece of paper, you will gain clarity. And in this clarity, decision will come to you.
- Grid Analysis
Grid Analysis is a very popular technique used for decision making when you have multiple alternatives and factors to consider. First list all your options and factors. List options as row labels and factors as column headings. Now for every option, give a ‘score’ to the factor from 0(poor) to 3(very good). You now have everything neatly presented in a glance to figure out what to choose.
If you are thinking that this is good but not all factors are equally important, it’s a good thought. To ensure that each factor is considered based on their level of importance, ‘rate’ them in numbers say from 0-10 or any other range you like. Now multiply ‘rate’ with ‘score’.This will give them the correct overall weight in your decision. Finally add up the scores for your options. The option that scores the highest is the best.
Additional tip – you can also consider setting the factors which should be present, which should not be present, mandatory minimum/maximum values etc. Those which do not match up with these are eliminated upfront.
- Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats Approach
Six Thinking Hats will make you look at the alternatives from a 360 degree view. It makes you think about the option with multiple perspectives. Do you always think rationally? You might miss out on the emotional view point. Are you an optimist? You might miss out on the pessimistic view point. Each way of thinking helps you to analyze the problem differently. By putting yourself in place of the optimist, pessimist, rational, emotional, dreamer, salesman, consumer etc, you will be able to think through things from their angle. Each thinking hat is a different style of thinking. You can use them in your meetings or on your own. It’s a great technique to make people see view points other than their own.Following are The Six Thinking Hats:
1. White Hat
Become a data lover, become an analyzer. Look at numbers, see what are they saying. Look at concrete facts and derive judgements out of it. Is there any area you have left untouched? Are there gaps in your knowledge? Try to fill them or take them into account. Discard everything other than logic.
2. Red Hat
Become an emotional person. How would a emotional person respond? How would they react? Forget the reasoning part. Emotions aren’t always logical. Feel, react, respond.
3. Black Hat
Play the devil’s advocate. Look at each option with a critical eye. What are it’s weaknesses? Why will this not work? What’s wrong with it? Sometimes, options drop out because we find some unacceptable negatives. For the rest, we know the weaknesses and we can keep contingency plans ready.
4. Yellow Hat
Think positively. Be an optimist. Look at everything going right. See the benefits, see the value. These work like great reminders and are quite motivational.
5. Green Hat
Get creative. Find new ideas, new possibilities. There is no room for judgement or criticism. This works well when you have to brainstorm some solutions.
6. Blue Hat
You will always have your blue hat on. It decides which other cap you are supposed to put on. Have data in hand? Put on White hat. Facing some problems? Put on Black Hat for contingency plans. Need some motivation? Put on the Yellow Hat. Blue Hat directs your way of thinking.
- Follow Your Heart
Follow Your Heart. It will not misdirect you. Complete your paper-pen approach, grid analysis, six thinking hat approach, any other technique you want to use. Tell yourself what the decision is. And see how you feel about it. If your heart goes down and you feel bad about it – then this is not the right decision for you. Even though logically it might make sense. Even though every reasoning points in that direction, if your heart is not in it, it is not right for you. Ask your heart what does it want. And follow it with faith. Your heart will never let you down.
Books On How To Be Decisive:
Further Reading Elsewhere: