A Step-by-Step Guide to Effective Decision-Making in an Opinionated World
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A Step-by-Step Guide to Effective Decision-Making in an Opinionated World

Published 07/30/2021

It seems like everyone has an opinion on everything today. Your buddy read this; your dad saw that; your barber heard something; your cousin's mailman knows a guy who gave him some inside information on whatever. Isn't it remarkable how many experts there are all of a sudden? They are everywhere!

When the time comes for you to decide on a new job, an investment, or healthcare, who do you trust? Before you get in a huff thinking we're about to take a side on any of the above, rest assured that this article is about how to make an effective decision only. We will not try to convince you of anything but will show you how to decide everything. 

The difficulty most people have in decision-making is that they fail to have a process. They let the opinions of others cloud their view. Many times what we believe to be our decision is not ours at all. We listen to the noise instead of following a process. 

To complicate our decision further, we allow opinion, whether our own or other's, to predetermine the result. In other words, we seek to justify the preferred outcome by looking for validation over information. 

The following is a step-by-step guide to effective decision making: 

  1. Define the decision 

Identifying the decision and defining the parameters of the decision is a vital first step. For instance, if you're buying a new car, you shouldn't be considering whether you need or can afford it and which one to get simultaneously. These are separate determinations. Walking onto a sales lot and test driving cars before deciding if you're ready for a new ride is conflating multiple thought processes. Each decision should have an independent method of its own. Undefined decisions lead to emotional verdicts. 

  1. Gather information 

Before you get too far down the road on the information superhighway, consider three things; what knowledge do I need, what's the best source of information, and how do I get it?  

There are two types of information needed in this step. First, consider internal details like your goals, wants, and needs. This thought process is a self-assessment of your ideal result. Secondly, take a look at external information. These would be factual details from outside sources and unbiased opinions of someone with direct knowledge. A neighbor who owns the car you desire is a better resource than a salesman. 

  1. Identify alternatives 

While gathering information, you'll likely come across alternatives. If somehow you don't discover other options in step two, you probably are victim to a predetermined result. You already made up your mind about buying a Porsche Cayenne, and your research was merely to support an emotional decision. 

In this step, finding alternatives is essential to making a practical decision. Try not to eliminate any options using preconceived notions. At this point, every choice should be on the table. 

  1. Analyze the evidence 

Evaluate every option thoroughly and without prejudice. Think about how each alternative ends as defined by step one. Now is the first time you may consider emotions. Will you be happy with your decision, or did something or someone unfairly influence you? That Porsche might be immediately gratifying, but a Chevy Blazer would result in less financial stress.

After analyzing the pros and cons of each option, place them into a prioritized list based on your evaluations.

  1. Make a choice

After weighing the evidence and prioritizing your options, you're ready to make a decision. While the item on top of your list is the most likely choice, certain circumstances may dictate a combination of alternatives. Remember that not all decisions are zero-sum. You may decide to get the Porsche Cayenne, but one that's a few years older to save some money. 

  1. Examine the consequences 

This step is essential before pulling the trigger on any decision. Ask yourself, "What if I'm wrong?" or "What's the worst possible outcome?"

Based on your type of quandary, the consequences may be slight, moderate, or heavy. If you make a bad choice in cars, it's manageable. Deciding to divorce your partner is correctable. Risking your life is neither.

Can you live with being wrong? Could people, including you, get hurt if you make an error in judgment? Of course, most decisions are not life or death, but every decision has consequences. Sometimes the consequence outweighs the options. Scrutinize the downside objectively and choose wisely. 

  1. Take action 

Whether you decide to do or not do something, it's taking action. Even ignoring a problem is action through inaction. 

Here's the thing about step-by-step decision-making; you won't likely regret your decision because you considered it thoroughly. If you weigh every option and evaluate each honestly, you'll make the best decision given the information at the time. 

Not every good decision has a positive result, nor do all poor decisions have adverse outcomes. You could make a great decision on a new car and still get a lemon. When you choose to drive while intoxicated but arrive home safely, it's always an awful decision. Sometimes you get lucky, and other times you may catch a bad break. That's life!

Judge the effectiveness of your decisions by the process and not the results.