I read a lot about decision-making and I strongly believe it’s worth making the effort to improve this ability. However, this doesn’t mean that making excellent decisions will solve the issues we come across in our lives.
Decisions are not solutions.
A wise, well-timed decision can solve a problem but not every problem can be resolved through decision-making.
Here’s how I see these two ideas working together:
Decisions are steps to solving a problem.
You can use your choices to track your progress, understand what triggers you, and cultivate objectivity.
“Understand that most problems are a good sign. Problems indicate that progress is being made, wheels are turning, you are moving toward your goals. Beware when you have no problems. Then you’ve really got a problem. Problems are like landmarks of progress.” Scott Alexander (1976 – ), British Millionaire and Socialite
When you make decisions, you naturally focus on breaking down your problem into elements you can better understand.
Asking better questions to make wise choices also helps you uncover potential solutions to your problem. This is how you gain clarity about when and how to act.
“If you do not ask the right questions, you do not get the right answers. A question asked in the right way often points to its own answer. Asking questions is the A-B-C of diagnosis. Only the inquiring mind solves problems.” Edward Hodnett (1871 – 1962), British Poet
Decisions help you get better at analyzing your problems.
Use decision trees to understand your problem’s context and implications. This model is incredibly useful, especially for complex projects.
“The possible solutions to a given problem emerge as the leaves of a tree, each node representing a point of deliberation and decision.” Niklaus Wirth (1934 – ), Programming language designer
Decisions push you to act with intent so you don’t tip-toe around difficult problems.
Stop avoiding problems and start fixing them. Indecision and inaction will not magically solve anything (although sometimes it helps to pause and reflect a bit).
“Solve it. Solve it quickly, solve it right or wrong. If you solve it wrong, it will come back and slap you in the face, and then you can solve it right. Lying dead in the water and doing nothing is a comfortable alternative because it is without risk, but it is an absolutely fatal way to manage a business.” Thomas J. Watson (1874 – 1956), Industrialist, Former President of IBM
Staged, deliberate decisions build confidence and save you time and unnecessary stress spent on going around problems.
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” Amelia Earhart (1897 – missing 1937), American Aviation Pioneer and Author
Decisions help you cultivate foresight.
The more self-aware you become and the better you understand human psychology and your environment, the stronger you get at anticipating and preventing crises.
“The biggest problem in the world could have been solved when it was small.” Witter Bynner (1881 – 1968), American Poet and Author
What I find rewarding about these ideas is that they’ve helped me amplify my mental capacity, improve my relationships, and create opportunities to talk to wonderful people I look up to.
To sum up, building awareness around how you make decisions helps you:
- break down complex issues into more manageable elements
- get better at analyzing problems and challenges
- uncover potential solutions by looking at the issue from different angles
- gain clarity about when and how to act
- take action and stop tip-toeing around unavoidable choices
- build confidence around your abilities and thinking
P.S. This was originally sent on March 16th, 2019 (with minor updates added to reflect my current habits).
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