Decision Making

Submitted by admin on Tue, 08/16/2016 - 12:32

Ever since I’ve studied decision making, I’m often surprised at the woolly way that people think.

Essentially the key part of written is section 2 here – however, sometimes it would be useful to bear the other sections in mind too, and they are too useful to leave out.

  1. Brainstorming - Generating Options
    I have always remembered this quote (from Kay Tift)

    If you have no options you are dead
    If you have one option you are in a rut
    If you have two options you are in a dilemma
    If you have three options, you are beginning to have a choice
    Therefore generate 10 options, and choose the best elements from them

    The options you generate may be ridiculous, but the most ridiculous ones may have elements that are really interesting and attractive. Try and find a way to include all of the most interesting and valuable parts of all the options into one draft decision, which we will test in the next section
  2. Decision Making Process
    The main method I want to pass on here originates from Karl Popper (he called it the hypothetico-deductive method)
    It follows the following procedure:
    1. What do you want to decide ?
    2. What will be the consequences of that, that is ALL the consequences, both good and bad ?
    3. Modify the decision you want in the light of the consequences
    4. Repeat the procedure until your decision is “well-formed” (and then make the decision)

      If a decision is not clear and well-formed, you won’t get what you want. If you choose a decision where you can foresee negative consequences, then you may get the negative consequences as well as the positive ones – you need to accept this.
      There are many other systems of decision making – NLP provides one, which fully evaluates the risks involved (every decision means a change, every change involves risk – you need to either accept or manage this). It also asks questions such as WHEN do you want this to happen, and how much do you want it
      e.g. You may want more holidays, but you need to be clear exactly what you want, or you may get the permanent holiday of unemployment. Then, do you want 6 weeks holiday, or one week ? How much can you afford ? Do you want sun, nature, culture, adventure ? Do you want them NOW or a better holiday in 6 months ? – the more you get clear about exactly what your parameters are, then it becomes easier to make the decision and get exactly what you want.
  3. Speed, and manner of decision making

    I used to work for a firm of industrial auctioneers – at an auction you have to make an instant decision if you are going to bid again or not, and you need to be very clear just how much you want the thing you are bidding for.
    However, life is mostly not like that – you can take as long as you want to ponder exactly what holidays you want, what are your main options of where to go,  and it might not affect anyone else except you.
    But, sometimes you might need to decide more quickly, and at other times you may need to include others in the process, such as going on holiday with others, or getting time off from work.
    You may need to factor all this in and negotiate with others - but only AFTER you have made your own decision about what you want – don't start by fitting in with everyone else !
  4. Implementation, and Journals

    Some decisions are simple – if you wanted a holiday, then it is clear when you have got the result you wanted– you have physically been somewhere else doing something that you wanted to do.

    Other decisions are more difficult to evaluate – for example, if you decide you want more peace in your life, then how will you know for sure when you have got that (by the way, that is a perfectly valid thing to make a decision about). It may be more difficult to get a clear result, but there are techniques to help with this, such as keeping a journal.
    1. Start a journal, perhaps especially about the area that interest you. Let's take peace as an example where it may take months or even years to get fully established in the new state that you want.
    2. Note down any positive experiences what you wanted – moments of peace, places where you felt more peaceful, music or anything else that was helpful
    3. Likewise note down anything that wasn’t helpful – situations and patterns that took you away from the feeling of peace – could you avoid these situations ? or do you need to make further decisions (as above) to change these situations ?
    4. As you discover more elements and factors in the peaceful/non -peaceful situations, you will develop more ability to create what you want, to tend the “seedling” of peace – but be careful with it, and easy on yourself in the process.

      You will probably know that you have succeeded  with this decision when you don’t even think about peace for a few weeks – something else has become more important


  1. I hope you will practice these techniques with simple things that are non-controversial in your life. However, it may be that major areas need to be dealt with first – the sign of this is that they interfere with your decision making process - an inner voice insists on saying BUT, what about X.
    If this happens, you may have to deal with X first (or in addition)
  2. It’s good to write out your decision in full and sign it – it is an agreement you are making with yourself
  3. If you are a lawyer, you might like to add lots of formal terms and conditions to your decision, but most people should aim for 100 words – more than that might be too complicated –try to keep the decision as simple as you can !