How to Make Great Decisions
Everyone has made bad decisions: choosing friends who stab you in the back, saying the wrong thing to your spouse, spending your money unwisely. Yet to succeed and have self-confidence, you must make decisions. When you are afraid of decisions, you build up stress, create confusion and make people wait. When you put off making decisions, you miss important opportunities.
The worst way to make decisions is to take a vote. Asking for people’s opinions is like saying, "I don’t have any self-confidence. Please tell me what to decide."
The first thing you need to decide is that you can make good decisions. And how do you make good decisions?
"Given information and the purpose, anybody can make a decision." — L. Ron Hubbard
Decision making is like playing cards. If you know the cards each player is holding, you make great decisions and win all the money. To make good decisions, you simply need enough information.
15 Questions to Answer Before Deciding
You can make all of your own decisions on your own. From starting a business to changing careers, buying a house to choosing a vacation. Any decision is easy to make.
First, list all of your options.
For example, Steve is trying to decide about buying a new car. His choice is not "to buy or not to buy." In this case, he actually has three choices: 1) buy the $60,000 new BMW, 2) buy the $30,000 used Acura, 3) fix up and keep the old Toyota.
As another example, Bob asks Dorothy to marry him. Dorothy looks it over and decides she has four choices: 1) Marry Bob immediately, 2) Marry Bob after a long engagement, 3) Don’t marry Bob, but keep dating him, 4) Don’t marry Bob and stop dating him.
Once you have listed out your options, find the answers to these 15 questions for each of your options. You will know some of these answers and can find out the others. Somewhere along the line, your best correct decision will be obvious.
- What is the goal or purpose of each option?
Steve writes, "1) The purpose of the BMW is to ride in style and luxury while impressing the heck out of my friends. 2) The purpose of the Acura is to have comfortable transportation without big loan payments. 3) The purpose of Toyota is have good reliable transportation at a small cost."
Dorothy examines the purpose of each of her options. She writes, "1) The purpose of marrying Bob immediately is to move on with our lives together. 2) The purpose of a long engagement is to leave plenty of room for me to change my mind. 3) The purpose of not marrying, but continuing to date Bob is to learn more about him without a commitment. 4) The purpose of not seeing Bob any longer is to look for someone else. Well, I can eliminate this last option as I’m sick of looking and really do love Bob."
- How do the purposes of each option align with your goals?
Steve writes, "My goal is to drive something comfortable I can be proud of, but not consume all of my extra money. The Acura fits that goal best."
Dorothy writes, "I have the goal to get married, so the first two options line up with that goal."
- What are the statistics for each choice? Each of your options has statistics.
Steve can learn maintenance costs, resale value costs, miles per gallon and so on.
Dorothy can check out Bob’s statistics in life. How well does he keep his word? How much money does he make? What happened with his past relationships?
When hiring an employee, his or her statistics in life and at the last job are important.
When deciding on a job, a career, a relationship, a new business or anything, you can find the track records.
- Finances? Two vital questions: What will each option cost? How much money will each return? The cost is not a barrier if the predicted return is greater than the cost.
- Sequences? Most people forget to look at the exact steps involved with each solution. For example, you are notified by mail, "Congratulations! You have won either a deluxe AM/FM radio, $500 cash, a 60" TV or a cruise to Alaska!" You decide to go claim your prize. You never read the fine print or ask what steps are involved. After a four-hour Mexico condo timeshare sales pitch, you get a coupon for a cheap radio.
"If I decide to buy the BMW, what happens next?" You might realize you need to wait two months before delivery. You also realize you need to get insurance, pay registration fees, sell your Toyota and so on.
When interviewing job applicants, ask "If I asked you to start on Monday, what would you do?" Some applicants say, "Well, I might not have a car. . ." or "My bird has been sick . . ." A smart job applicant says, "I’ll show up five minutes early!"
- Is this choice legal and ethical? Is it fair to everyone involved? Will you be proud of your choice in the future? Would you have any problem telling a judge or TV reporter about your choice?
- What is the probability of success? For example, how many BMW or Acura buyers are happy enough to buy a similar car? How long will the Toyota last?
Estimate the odds of success for each choice if you have no concrete data.
Dorothy estimates the odds of a successful marriage to Bob are higher with her second option, if she has a long engagement, than the other two remaining options.
- Do I have the resources? Resources include people, space, skill, knowledge, money and time. Do you have the necessary means for each choice?
- What are the end results? If everything went smoothly, how would each choice turn out? What would the results be? How would it change things in a year or two?
- What do others want me to do and why? As your choice probably affects other people, you want to know what choice they want you to make. More importantly, why they want you to make it.
Make a list of everyone who is affected and what you believe they want.
You are not asking them to help with your decision, you are merely gathering information.
- What are the potential gains and benefits? List each of these categories for each choice.
- What are the potential losses and liabilities? Worst-case scenarios and risks. For each risk, look at how you can protect yourself or your group.
For example, David is considering a major expansion of his hair brush company. He looks at the risks and realizes he could end with too many hair brushes in storage. To protect his group, he realizes he needs to expand his marketing and sales before increasing his manufacturing to ensure he won’t have a storage problem.
Dorothy evaluates the risks of a marriage and realizes a long engagement has a much lower risk of divorce than a fast marriage.
- What are all the barriers and difficulties for each choice? What gets in the road of each choice. Lack of money? No one else wants it? Not enough time? Fear?
David sees months of hard work to cause the expansion.
Steve sees no difficulties in buying the BMW or Acura, but lists several problems with repairing his old Toyota.
Dorothy realizes Bob might not like the third option of just dating, but would support a long or short engagement.
- What would be easy and effortless about each choice? Some choices involve no barriers at all.
- What do I really want? What am I willing to do? What interests me? Which choice turns me on and makes me happiest? Why do I feel like doing it?
This last question is the deal breaker. Interest and enthusiasm are vital to a decision ending up being the right decision.
An okay decision with lots of interest and enthusiasm is more successful than a brilliant decision with no interest or enthusiasm.
You never regret a correct decision. It stands the test of time. A series of correct decisions will build your certainty and confidence. And once those around you learn you are usually right, they follow your lead without hesitation.
Copyright © 2003 TipsForSuccess.org. All rights reserved. Grateful acknowledgment is made to L. Ron Hubbard Library for permission to reproduce selections from the copyrighted works of L. Ron Hubbard. Programmed in the United States.