6 Reasons we Struggle to Make Decisions

safety guest speakerI recently watched a project management safety guest speaker, Anthony Lettera give a humorous motivational speech on why we avoid making decisions.

He suggested a good decision making process will reduce "paralysis analysis" which means over- analyzing the options and stalling the decision. A bad decision making process invites regret and other unintended consequences.

He offered us the following stumbling blocks to decision making:

1) we have too many choices. With over 1000 varieties of toothpaste alone, most people are overwhelmed with options and this causes confusion.
2) the apparent choices we have are all bad. No one choice sticks out as the absolute best one, so we muttle around the options.
3) the apparent choices are all good. Sometimes all options seem solid and equally promising, thus we do nothing ( which is still a decision).
4) loss aversion. We fear risking something we have for a chance to gain something we want.
5) fear of being wrong
6) fear of being criticized

By assessing your own decisions where you are stalling progress, assess which stumbling blocks apply. Action is easier when you know what headwinds are holding you back.

At a recent safety conference in New Jersey, I had the pleasure of watching guest speaker Anthony Littera talk about decision making. Littera used a very compelling sports analogy to help the audience catagorize the decisions they make. He suggested some decisions are offensive- for instance, where you are advancing your career or taking risk. Other decisions are defensive- for instance, where you are mitigating risk (like buying insurance). 

In his humorous speech, the safety guest speaker outlined the following 8 steps to make a decision:

1) begin with the end in mind
2) analyze all alternatives and don't get stuck in either /or thinking. Many people mistakenly think they only have 2 choices, do this or don't. In reality, there are usually many different potential scenarios. The best way to discover this is to eliminate the two obvious choices and consider what option is left. 
3) identify and mitigate risks. Every decision ( including doing nothing) involves risk. Be aware of those risks and determine how you will respond should the worst case scenario happen.
4) distance yourself from short term emotion. 
5) Avoid making emotional decisions against your own self interest. Quitting your job in a fit of rage may not be the best decision.
6) have a contingency plan (what is plan B?). Often after a decision is made, something changes and you have to alter your course. Many people only look for reasons why a decision they make is a sound one. Thus, they avoid any disparaging evidence that may indicate things could go amuck. Have a solid plan B before you make up your mind. 
7) make your decision. 
8) evaluate the outcome

The safety guest speaker suggested looking at decisions as a portfolio, not an isolated event. Looking at a decision from a bigger perspective is less daunting, as the risk is mitigated across your portfolio. 


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