How do we make decisions? What is involved in making a good decision?
We make decisions constantly, and over time, our lives are built on them. Am I going to get up and jog, or hit the snooze button? What am I going to wear? Should I take the bus or drive?
In our western culture of plenty, with so many available options, simple decisions quickly become complicated. Just consider the office coffee order: Long black, short black, flat white, cappuccino, latte? Full cream, skim, soy? Sugar? Decaf? And those syrupy flavourings?! Let’s not even go there.
All decisions have consequences. “What’s for lunch?” is a simple enough question but if the answer, too often, is “hot chips and a cream bun”, the cumulative impact is life changing (or life shortening).
It seems counter intuitive, but not making a decision is a decision in itself…
Then there are decisions that aren’t straight forward, because the alternatives all have merit. “We’re growing out of our home, do we move or renovate? If we move, we can get a bigger house but it will be further away. If we renovate, it will be a year of chaos and grief, negotiating with architects, council, builders, etc. It would be simpler to move, right? But then the new house might need renovating anyway…”
With our brains constantly taxed by the decision-making process, it is easy to become fatigued or overwhelmed. It’s also possible to be so distracted by the huge number of minor decisions that our attention is diverted from what’s really important.
We’ve all heard the hackneyed mantra that businesses fail because too much time is spent ‘in’ and not ‘on’ the business. In other words, we’re so busy attending to the daily decisions needed to effectively meet the needs of our customers (patients), staff and stock, that we don’t spend enough time on the decisions that shape the over-riding vision of our business.
Often we’re scared of making a decision because we don’t want to be wrong. It seems counter intuitive, but not making a decision is a decision in itself. For example, what if you’re invited to become a partner in a practice? You think about the pros and cons, you keep weighing up the options, you can’t decide, your decision-making process grinds to a halt and your frustrated ‘would-be’ business partner moves on. Now, the decision has been made for you.
There are many resources available on the decision-making process. Decision making, we’re told, involves identifying the problem, gathering the necessary data and identifying the alternatives. So often, however, the key is deciding our fundamental goals and values.In the examples above, if I’ve already decided that your goal is to partner in your own practice, you’re more inclined to act (with due diligence) when the opportunity arises. If you’ve already decided a short commute is crucial to your work-life balance, the decision to renovate is easier.
It is from these bedrock decisions that all others flow. Once decided, we have a measuring stick for all other decisions. You’ll still have to decide what to wear today, and to order the salad for lunch, but the big stuff? That’s sorted.