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5 Techniques To Make Better Decisions

5 Techniques To Make Better Decisions

How can I make better decisions?

I browsed the web and ended up on Qoura reading the most popular answers. People often suggested, “just do it,” “ignore fear of failure,” and “never turn back.”

I thought it over and really considered it. If I simply ignored the “fear of failure” and just “did it”, would that really be making a decision? Absolutely not!

“Just doing it” results in even more failures and even more regrets. Imagine if general George Patton just ignored his “fear of failure” and recklessly charged straight into enemy lines without a plan! Image if you, or your family and loved ones ignored all risk and “just did it” instead of taking the time to make a well informed decision.

Imagine if we applied those same results for:

– Buying a house

– Quitting your job

– Having kids

– Investing in a new business venture

– Getting Married

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– Having a vasectomy

– Plastic surgery

It probably wouldn’t end up so well!

Instead of flipping a coin, using your magic 8 ball, or “just doing it”, here are 5 techniques to make better decisions.

1. “I cannot decide on what I do not know!”

Hal wanted to quit his job. After his workday was over, he sat down with a pen and paper and came up with a massive list of pros and cons. He wrote out everything he wanted to do and how he was going to make money. He imagined over and over the freedom and excitement that he would gain after leaving. The next day Hal walked into work and quit.

This may sound great to some but, the problem with Hal was that he did not know enough to make a good decision yet! He rushed what he actually had plenty of time to do.

Everything that he imagined and dreamed about was blurry. All the “facts” that Hal used to make his decision were NOT verified facts, but rather bits and pieces that he heard from his friends or picked up on from the far corners of the internet. Hal is extremely jaded.

Hal then replayed the same facts over and over in his head (thinking they were real). No new information was being added to the equation to allow him to make a better decision.

We often jump to conclusions when making difficult decisions that require serious thought and planning. We must first gather more information because:

  1. You do not know what you do not know!
  2. You cannot decide on what you do not know!

If I asked you to solve the following equation A + B + 2Z – 10X = P could you do it?

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Not right away because there are too many unknowns! You could guess or use trial and error but that takes too much time and a great deal of effort in real life. We need to go out and collect more information to make a better decision.

We do not have all the answers

2. “Maybe you can help me?”

The quickest way to gathering more information to make that tough decision is to go out and ask other people. However, there is a trick. Ask the people who have already done it! Stay away from the people that don’t have any experience but seem to know everything.

This year, while I complete graduate school, I wanted to participate in applied clinical research. More specifically, I wanted to design and develop medical devices from a clinical need.

Instead of “just doing it,” I decided to reach out to a respected faculty member to see if it was a good idea. I went to him and poured my heart out. He looked at me like I had 2 heads and shunned me away!

I took the advice to heart and sulked a bit. Instead of just quitting, I decide to gather even more information! But this time, I reached out to other schools including MIT, Stanford, UMN, and Johns Hopkins. The information and feedback I got was amazing.

Why? Because all these schools were actually DOING IT! That had already developed over a hundred medical devices in the same fashion I wanted to do. Not only that, they had specific programs to help people like me who wanted to do that kind of research and design.

On the other hand, my school was not doing it and the professor I reached out to wasn’t either.

-Ask the people who are doing it or have already done it to get more information.

3. Seek the Devil’s Advocate.

As human beings, we are self-confirming. We naturally seek out information that we already agree with and tend to ignore information that we disagree with. Skepticism and denial can be good in some instances, but these characteristics must not be confused with being hard-headed.

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Imagine 2 documents sitting right in front of you, one with information you agree with, and the second with information you disagree with. Whether you are right or wrong, or whether the information is right or wrong, you will pick the document that you agree with first and consider that information more seriously. Obviously, whether you are right or wrong, you will pick the document containing information you agree with first and take that more seriously.

Let’s go back to the “should I quit my job” example. You probably already REALLY want to quit your job and have already made up your mind. Now, instead of making a decision, you are just confirming your existing desire to quit, by collected confirming evidence. This confirmation bias blinds us from the obvious and has lead to some of the worst business decision ever made (for example, Quaker Oats‘ aquisition of Snapple).

To counteract this, reach out and collect information that opposes your existing viewpoints.

Good businesses use this process all the time. When Fortune 500 companies make big time investments (like acquiring another company, investing in new ventures, downsizing, re-sizing, etc.), they hire a completely separate team to investigate the opposing viewpoint, and then seriously consider the opposite.

Remember, “De-Nile isn’t just a river in Egypt.”

4. Beware of the sham options.

Everything seems great in comparison with something crappy.

The other day I was watching HGTV’s Home Hunters Abroad. A couple was shopping for a beautiful island home in Caruso. They required two things: it had to be less than $400,000, and it had to be rent-able.

The couple contacted a real estate, who I now realized was skilled in the art of sales. He lined up 3 beautiful houses. House number 1 cost $399,000 and was perched on top of a hill overlooking a magnificent clear blue bay. The couple fell in love with the view and was seriously considering buying the house until they found out the new construction would get in the way of their ocean view.

After seeing how the couple reacted to the ocean view, the real estate agent quickly changed his sales tactics. He showed them house #2, which had a stunning ocean view and a white sand beach a few steps from their back door.

The only problem was the house was $489,000 – a full $89,000 over budget. The couple was so angry at the real estate agent that they considered replacing him.

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Finally the last on the list, house #3, had no view, was not rent-able and was $10,000 under budget.

Which house did they chose?

The couple went with house #2 that was $89,000 over budget! They made a poor decision and broke the bank because they were not aware of the sales trap the real estate agent set.

House #2 seemed like the best option in that context, compared to the shame option of house #3. In a different context, going an extra $89,000 over budget is a bad idea.

What they should have done was not buy anything and waited until something else showed up. However, when you are in the middle of a difficult decision, sometimes it’s hard to gain that kind of perspective.

5.  Factor in the opportunity cost

How could the previous couple in the home buying example snap out of the mental trap set by the real estate agent?

The couple needed a change in perspective. When dealing with big number numbers like $400,000 and $486,000 the difference might not seem that much, but let’s take another look and consider the opportunity costs.

What is another to $89,000 to you? Well it’s another 2 years of saving every single cent of your paycheck (assuming you make ~$60,000 before taxes). Which means you cannot eat, buy gas, go out, or do anything for 2 entire years. You must save every single penny of your paycheck to afford the difference!

Here are more examples of what they could have bought with the amount the went over budget by:

Conclusion

Next time instead of jumping to conclusions and “just doing it”:

  1. Take some time to gather more information. You don’t know what you don’t know.
  2. Get more information people who have already done it, not the people who are trying to sell it.
  3. Seek the devils advocate and seriously consider what they have to say. You might be just confirming yourself!
  4. Beware of the shame option. All other options seem great in context to a crappy one.
  5. Gain a greater perspective by considering the opportunity costs.

Featured photo credit: thinker / Dan Mckay via flickr.com

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Last Updated on October 28, 2020

The Crucial Letter Your SMART Goal Is Missing

The Crucial Letter Your SMART Goal Is Missing

SMART goals are a simple, logical way to organize your goals as you set them throughout life. Not only does this technique help you identify reachable goals, but it helps break down goals into smaller and more manageable pieces.

However, there is one crucial element (or letter) that is missing from this acronym. This missing letter can potentially make it harder for you to reach your goal – no matter how well you have broken down your goal into different pieces and action steps. However, once you understand this missing piece, you’ll be able to use it to move forward with your goals.

What Are Smart Goals?

If you are not familiar with the SMART goal setting technique and what the acronym means, here is a brief rundown with a simple example:

  • S = Specific — Your goal has to be specific enough (“I want to lose 4 inches off my waist”).
  • M = Measurable — You can measure your waistline every week to keep track of your progress.
  • A = Achievable — Do you think that you can do this? Or are you going too far by getting rid of yet another 4 inches? Or should you expand the goal to 5 inches; is that within reach?
  • R = Realistic — Is your lifestyle stable enough that you can commit to this goal?  Are you mentally prepared to do this? Do you have the resources you need for this goal?
  • T = Time-framed — You could want to achieve this goal within a week or within six months, but it should have a specific time frame.

As you can see, when you break down your goals like this, they become much more manageable and concrete than just saying “I want to to be slimmer.”

All fine and well, except that there is a crucial letter missing in this package – another letter “A.”

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The Missing Letter

The other letter “A” stands for accountability, and this is a great way to make sure that your defined plan is actually executed and is not left just on the talking or planning level. Even if you have crafted a masterful plan by using the SMART goal technique, it becomes useless if you don’t actually execute it. To make sure you start the execution phase, you want to throw some accountability into the mix.

By having some external pressure on your back (in the form of accountability), you are more likely to take action on your goal steps than if you just keep the plan to yourself. Accountability is based on the fact that you want to stand behind your words and save face. When you announce your goal to the world, you realize that the world is now watching you, and you don’t want to let the world down.

Accountability is also about facing the expectations of others. If you announce a goal or a task in public, other people are expecting you will achieve the tasks and goals you have laid out for yourself.

Watch this video and find out how by having dependable accountability, you can reach your goal more efficiently:

Ways to Implement the Letter “A” in Your Goal

There are plenty of ways you can go about creating accountability. Choose which one will work to motivate you the most.

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1. Keep It to Yourself

I was a bit hesitant to include this, since in this scenario you are not telling others about your plans or tasks. However, for some people this might work since your conscience is your accountability partner in this situation. And you don’t want to let your conscience down.

2. Announce It to Other People

Your people could be your colleagues at work, your local golf club buddies, the subscribers and readers of your blog, or your Twitter followers. I would say that accountability is more effective when dealing with “offline people.” Being accountable face-to-face to someone is very effective.

I’m in no way underestimating the power of “online people” either. If you are trying to form solid relationships with others online, you want to keep your word – even if you don’t necessarily meet the people in the same sense as in the offline world.

3. Find an Accountability Partner

A more intimate way of being accountable is to find an accountability partner. This could be a friend or spouse, but it needs to be someone you feel comfortable reporting to. When this route is chosen, you might decide to call your partner on a frequent basis to tell them how well you are progressing on the goal.

4. Get on Stickk.com

If none of the above ways work for you, it’s time to put Stickk into play.

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Stickk.com is a website where you can announce your goal (“Commitment Contract”), and to make you even more committed to reaching that goal, there is money at stake. Money is not mandatory to get set up with Stickk, but knowing that you will lose a certain amount of money if you don’t reach your goal can give you an extra push to get stuff done.

5. Join Mastermind Groups

A mastermind group is a group of like-minded people gathering on a frequent basis (online or offline), trying to push each other closer to their goals. This type of accountability is very common in the business world. When you are in a mastermind group and you have set the objectives you want to achieve by the next meeting, you want to get stuff done and fulfill other’s expectations.

Mastermind groups are a great way to improve your productivity and reach your goals with the help of others.

6. Hire a Coach

If you really want to get personal attention for your goals, then hiring a personal coach may be the best way to stay accountable.

Not only are you accountable to your coach, but you also have to pay for his/her attention. This makes the coach option even more effective. You want to make sure you do everything you can to get the assignments done before the deadline you two have set. So, there is a money factor to keep you accountable as well. Since you want to quickly move forward, this option is a very effective for staying accountable with your SMART goals.

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The Bottom Line

Next time, set your goal using “SMARTA,” instead. Add that letter “A” to the SMART goal setting technique:

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-framed, Accountable.

The accountability factor of reaching your goals may be just the thing you need to make them a reality.

More Tips on SMART Goals

Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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