In part 1 I talked about the most critical piece of information you need to make important life decisions. Today I’d like to take about the smaller decisions of day-to-day life that we don’t necessarily have days or weeks to meditate on. You know, the “Should I” questions with no clear right answer yet not enough time to gather enough information because I’m the spot right now type decisions. I’d say this will help the more indecisive among you because it sets a framework on how to make decisions, that you can apply to pretty much any live situation.
I thought of writing about this while reading Blink from Malcolm Gladwell. This is a book about how our unconscious mind works to help us solve problems. He calls it “The Power of Thinking Without Thinking”.
A lot of stories in there that I found interesting:
- Vic Braden, the legendary tennis coach who could predict double-faults with near perfect accuracy.
- Or John Gottman, the therapist who could watch a 15 minute video-tape of couples talking and predict their likely-hood of divorce with 90% accuracy. (Now runs The Gottman Institute with his wife)
It turns out we all have the ability to pick up on subtle clues that cue us in to the likelihood of certain outcomes. We call it intuition. But what if it was possible to map intuition?
For now it’s clear that at least part of it relies on knowing what to look for.
Tennis and relationships have a least this in common: There’s rules. And when you break them, bad things happen. It’s not crazy to think that knowing “the rules” by heart and training yourself to notice infractions of rule or technique could make you very good at predicting outcomes in those situations. Even if the process was fundamentally unconscious, as it were.
So that’s the first thing you should aim for when making decisions:
A correct assessment of the situation
What’s the most important factor here?
Being able to answer this question allows you to bring your focus down the narrowest it can possibly be. The result being more rapid cognition. You’re trying to decide between a black sweater and a grey sweater. There’s a number of variables: Fit, Color, Comfort, Style…etc
You know you’re only looking for something to wear at home. That’s the key info here. That alone lets you eliminate a number of factors from your analysis:
Fit, Color, Comfort, Style
You try them on, and buy the most comfortable one. Done.
Some information, but not too much information
You ever thought about a project so hard it exhausted you before even starting?
Yeah, well. Trust me, it’s useful to distance yourself from the idea that more information is better. Studies have debunked that idea long ago and… we didn’t really need studies to figure that out.
They call it analysis paralysis. Taking in so much information that you.. essentially.. choke on it. You read an article, watch a video, watch another video, read another article.. Each one of these pieces echoes the last but you don’t seem to be getting any more confident about the decision at hand. If anything you’re even more confused than when you started. You’re overthinking it, and now you need a break.
Ever “slept” on a decision just to reach your… original.. conclusion? Yeah. More time doesn’t always lead to better decisions either. Sometimes you’re as ready as you’ll ever be, which leads us to the last idea:
This idea (that you don’t necessarily NEED the whole story to make a GOOD decision) encouraged me to be more proactive, and progress more quickly towards my goals. To take the first step, even though it seemed I couldn’t see the whole staircase yet. The whole “end game”/”master plan”/”final boss fight”… yet.
Sometimes, for certain projects, and especially when people are looking to YOU for guidance, that’s what it takes. It takes putting your fear aside (unlike everybody else who’s just freaking out) and choosing to figure it out as you go.
It’s ballsy, but that’s exactly why certain types of people make better leaders.
Uncertainty is always a factor in life, and if you’re going to do anything worth writing songs about, then you’re going to have to get tough around the belly.
If not for you, then for other people.
And if you do have time, then by all means take your time, obviously. This is a frame you may apply to situations that need to be addressed in the moment. LIVE decisions.
And when it comes to live decisions, yes, sometimes, the uncertainty will NOT go away. 🙂
You just have to decide if it’s manageable or not.