If there was a superpower that could be life-changing, most people would think the power of invisibility, flight, or eternal good hair days. True, it would be reality-shattering to wake up everyday with perfectly groomed locks, but there’s something else people often overlook:
The power to make good decisions.
In this day and age, where we live like sea creatures in ocean’s of information, choice is everywhere. Sometimes it feels we’re one (or a few) poor decisions away from accomplishing our career goals or finding the right partner.
In Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice, he writes how being a smart decision maker can make the biggest change in our life.
After millions of years of survival based on simple distinctions, it may simply be that we are biologically unprepared for the number of choices we face in the modern world.
“Unlike other negative emotions—anger, sadness, disappointment, even grief—what is so difficult about regret is the feeling that the regrettable state of affairs could have been avoided and that it could have been avoided by you, if only you had chosen differently.”
Thinking on choice and regret applies to everyone at every stage in their professional and personal trajectory. Our world of automatic payment, food delivery, and potential date for Friday night means more possibility—but excessive choice increases our chances for potential suffering as well. When we have more choices, we hypothetically think of the trade-offs we’re leaving behind. When we make a decision, we are leaving lots of things on the table, more so than any other time in human history.
This begs the question for business owners, executives, and managers alike:
How can I increase the possibility of making wise decisions when there are more decisions to be made and less time to make them?
It starts with your mind.
Schwartz recommends these 5 steps to optimize your decision making—and leaves you feeling more satisfied about your decisions.
1. Make decisions irreversible
Forget about trying to keep your options open. It’s psychologically draining and in general, useless in accomplishing your goals. Eliminate options. Make the most irreversible decision. A study published in the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science showcased research that showed people tended to be divvied into two groups when making a decision: maximizing decision makers and satisfying decision makers. Maximizers conduct extensive research for the best solution; Satisfiers research for the best solution, but don’t do it exhaustively. The happier of the two groups, the satisfiers, disproportionally chose irreversible decision making.
2. Be a Satisfier
It may be tempting to conduct a draining search for the best candidates for the new hiring season. You simply want the best person who will do the best work. What’s wrong with that? It takes significant emotional and psychological resources to make decisions á la maximizing. There’s simply no time for that. You’ve got people to manage, parents to call, dry cleaning to pick up…in short, you’ve got to keep your sanity. Maximizers tend to continue wondering, slaving over whether they made a good decision or not. Satisfiers lay out the talent needs and requirements and hire the most suited candidate, then drops it.
3. When you can, defer to the expert
Reserve your cognitive resources for things you know about and care deeply about (like composing music or raising your children). There will come time when you are in a situation that you are completely unsure about; find the experts and defer to their expertise. In Straight Choices: The Psychology of Decision Making, the authors-researchers point out that experts are “less susceptible to biases than non-experts”. Schwartz highlights a study that showed 65 percent of people would choose their own cancer treatment, if they ever had cancer. For the people who actually had cancer, 88 percent of them preferred to defer cancer treatment choosing to their doctors.
4. Set aside time for gratitude
When deciding, gently remind yourself that you’re able to make this decision, that you have the opportunity to receive, make, or change something in life. If you want to be a manager that tends to do more satisfying decisions making, appreciate the team you do have. Pay attention to all the project details that are going right. Managers that say “thank you” to team members who work for them tend make these employees feel more motivated. Research conducted at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania found that when university fund raisers were given a pep talk by the director—who highlighted the specific needs being met with the raised money—fund raisers doubled the amount of phone calls made, increasing the amount of donations. Gratitude goes a long way.
5. Forget the Jones’
Stop comparing yourself, your life, and your choices with anyone else. Social comparison is the robber of joy. If you do, your choices may be influenced by others’ needs and abilities. If you can’t afford a Lexus, then it makes little rational sense to keep up with your manager friends who can. Good decisions means making choices that are suited for your life and goals.
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