It is not something that anyone is (ever) sat down and taught. Either in the classroom, at home, or at work… never. Yet it underpins the quality of everything that any of us have (or wish we had).
No matter how much one cares for someone, or how much money one has, this cannot be packaged up in box with a bow and handed to someone.
While it is critically important to have, it can’t be purchased anywhere.
But absolutely anyone can acquire it.
Unfortunately, only a very small portion of humans have a healthy dose of it.
And it feels like (every single day) we wish more people in the highest of places had more of it.
I am referring to one of the most important skills that anyone can possess.
The skill of decision making.
The ability to make very good decisions is an acquired skill.
An individual’s decision-making skill is *not* determined by university degrees or job titles. It’s not!
Sitting at the very top of the list of characteristics for good decision-making is the ability to a crystal clear focus on the primary objective (the ‘why?’) for making the decision at hand much more so than the ‘what’.
Process plus action
High quality decision making requires an ability to follow a ‘structured’ thought path, prior to deriving at a specific course of action.
And then executing the decision.
Because a lack of action equates to lost experiences, a lack of knowledge, very little progress, mediocrity and disappointment.
Yuk! Who wants that?
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The recipe for success
The ingredients for making good decisions include:
- high quality information (evidence, as opposed to opinions),
- removal of all biases,
- personal exposure to a diversity of significant experiences,
- a refusal to stereotype,
- avoidance of Group-Think (or herd mentality), and
- a clear focus on the key factors (presuming one knows what those factors are, but that’s a different story).
Experiences, including ‘failures’
The more real-life experiences an individual has had improves their decision-making skills. Hence my earlier comment about ‘taking action’.
Some people find it very difficult to make decisions and take action due their obsession with so-called failure.
Having a strong aversion to risk is not uncommon. It is a learned behaviour which can be overcome if the personal ‘will’ within is strong enough.
Often, the aversion is directly related to a lack of confidence, something which can significantly improve from obtained high quality knowledge and some simple yet affective strategies from a genuine expert.
In many worst-case scenarios, it is still better to ‘fail forward’ than to sit idle (where you’ll learn stuff all).
Those who allow themselves / choose to remain anchored to the sidelines are just limiting their own potential (and often holding back others in the process).
When combined with a sufficient critical mass of evidence from other credible sources, an individual’s ability to draw on past experiences can improve future decisions.
Those with the very best decision-making skills in a chosen field have previously made multiple poor decisions.
The most successful people in each area of specialisation have the most scar tissue. Over time, these people have potential to become the very best advisors.
Making a conscious effort to reflect upon past decisions is ‘education’ in its most concentrated form.
Reflection helps one to evaluate which factors within a decision are likely to be more / less influential on future outputs.
Reflection helps to sharpen one’s focus. It is something that I actively practice on a regular basis.
Adversity is a great gift
Personal exposure to multiple moments of adversity does wonders for improving decision making skills.
Among other things, adversity is a natural ‘teacher’ of the power of human response.
Enduring moments of adversity provides greater depth of experiences, it helps to separate ‘perceived risk’ from ‘real risk’, and it reminds us what is possible (the ‘down times’ and the frequent strong response that humans are renowned for).
And it builds resilience.
The decision to be brave, courageous, to support others.
Those actions come from skills that were acquired from past experiences.
It builds resilience.
It gives one the strength to provide the ultimate form of leadership – to demonstrate that something is safe through having the strength to go first, to create the path.
Pressure makes diamonds
The combination of general skill in a chosen field and having acquired the confidence to make good decisions significantly enhances one’s ability to perform in high pressure situations.
The unprecedented situation of COVID and the countless decisions which needed to be made in all walks of life is a great example.
History shows that many lost clarity, or they got confused.
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Some panicked, overreacted or completely lost the border.
A small few drew on their tried-and-tested decision-making skills.
Rather than getting distracted by daily updates on the number of people who tested positive, or lockdowns, or the general commentary, they retained confidence in the path that they follow for making a good decision.
Elite athletes often use the phrase ‘pressure is a privilege’.
It requires skill to accept the gravity of a situation as a positive, not a negative.
Acknowledging that the chance to participate in something that doesn’t happen too frequently is a wonderful opportunity.
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It puts everything that one thinks they know to an even bigger test and enhances one’s skills.
Accepting the so-called ‘pressure’, learning from adversity, and confronting challenges head-on are all very important parts of developing elite decision-making skills and becoming successful.
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