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Successful People Aren’t Luckier Than Everybody Else, They Just Know How to Make Good Decisions

Successful People Aren’t Luckier Than Everybody Else, They Just Know How to Make Good Decisions
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What contributes to the difference between the decisions successful people make and all other decisions made around the world on a hourly, daily and even weekly basis. Why do some people consistently make right decisions over and over with little room for failure?

How do we, become better at making decisions in our own work and personal lives to emulate this level of success?

Successful people always identify the problem first

It starts with identifying the problem in front of you. Do you need the new sports car or do you need a new mode of transportation to get to work? Both are completely different problem sets.

The former has an assumptive solution built into it that you need a new car and that this car MUST be a sports car while the latter asks the question how you can get to and from work – which can include a variety of potential solutions – car, train, bus, bike, walk, skip, etc. With any decision it’s important to first frame the problem within the context of the actual problem itself and not within the frame of the solution we are trying to get to.

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When compared to successful innovators, this thinking enables them to go out of the box in their thinking without feeling pushed into a corner before they have started.

They narrow the focus and limit their options

I want to help kids learn versus I want to help kids learn how to be better programmers are two very different focus sets. Both are aimed at helping kids grow, but the latter statement puts the decision making firmly into the decision makers hands – “this is what I am going to focus on, this is where I will be successful” – whereas the former statement leans toward bringing in external consultation as to what the focus should be and takes the decision making process out of our own hands.

Many people become concerned when they narrow their focus for fear that they are minimizing their chances of success by limiting their options to what they could achieve. When in fact, when we narrow our focus, we are actually increasing our chances of success by ensuring that each available option in the decision is one within our proven niche where we have already been successful.

They look at the long-term play instead of the short-term success

Successful decision makers are always looking at the long-term play. Short-term success is fleeting, here today, gone tomorrow but long-term success is everlasting. When we evaluate our decisions for the long-term we look at criteria that are not available today but might be factors for tomorrow that would change the decision we make.

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Buying the sports car today, during the summer, when the weather is hot outside is a great decision for today and the next few months, but come winter it’s value will sharply decrease as other factors will come into play, relegating it to storage over the winter months when it is probably needed the most.

They digest the useful information and ignore the chatter

We live in an information rich society where we are constantly bombarded with information. Look at how best to build something as simple as a wooden box to store firewood and you’ll find hundreds of pictures, articles and possibly even some blogs that are dedicated to their existence, all espousing their incredible features and one upmanship.

How does one decide in the face of so much information?

Ignore it, put it aside, take what you need and move on. At the end of the day, the decision is yours to make and not the world’s. Successful decisions are based on ignoring the chatter and the backroom banter which are aimed at closing ours minds to the potential successful of new ideas. Many innovations that have come before us are based on people consuming what they needed to know, ignoring the chatter and making successful decisions for the simple reason that they ignored this chatter.

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They separate the good from the bad and needs from wants

We’ve alluded to this already but it is worth mentioning on it’s own to drive the point home. Successful decision makers are able to separate the good from the bad, the right from the wrong and the needs from the wants when evaluating their decisions.

A successful decision maker separates their personal ambitions and desires from the decision and looks at the criteria in front of them that will shape the decision and demonstrate what is needed for it to be successful.

In some cases, this involves a complete separation of the decision maker from the decision for a period of time by taking a break and coming back to it to look at the decision with fresh eyes and a different approach to ensure the decision is not being skewed.

When employed correctly, this removes the potential for rash, impulse decisions that can have potentially negative, long-term effects.

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They reflect and evaluate every decision they made

When was the last time you looked at a decision you made and reflected on it? Really reflected on it, not simply – “I should have done this” – but looked at the process for how you came to the decision, the information you gathered, where your focus was, who you listened to, etc, etc?

Very few of us actually do this to the point of critiquing our approach in how we arrived at our decision and what we should do better next time. Perhaps because we have such a strong emotional tie to the decision or because there is no one else to “blame” but ourselves or perhaps because we are still living the impact of that decision.

Whatever the reason, to make successful decisions on a continual basis requires the awareness and afterthought to evaluate what we did wrong, where we went wrong and what checks and balances we must put in place today to make sure that it does not happen tomorrow. Of all the aforementioned steps, evaluating where our decisions went wrong is the best way to ensuring we are successful in our next ones.

Are you making bad decisions today? Or perhaps ones that you wish could be more successful? If so, start with a sampling of what you did, what would you do differently if you had the chance to do it again – how would you better identify the problem or narrow the focus to ensure you are making the right decision against the problem. Are your decisions focused more on short-term gain fueled by chatter and likes or are you too close to it to make a rational decision?

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Successful people make great decisions because they apply the criteria in front of them differently when identifying a their options which in turn increases the probability of their success. But there is no reason why we cannot apply that same criteria to making our own successful decisions.

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Greg Thomas

Software Architect

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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