Overcoming the 10 biggest mistakes in decision making

The average person is confronted with scores of decisions daily. Whether it's something as simple as deciding between a latte and a café au lait, or as far-reaching as making the decision to fire an under-performing employee, making decisions about our businesses, our families and our lives is not always easy. These 10 tips will help you avoid the most-common decision-making mistakes, and you'll be on your way to making better personal and professional choices:

1. Not taking enough time Sometimes we make decisions in the heat of the moment, under times of stress when the adrenaline is pumping. These are not the best circumstances for making any decision, big or small. You've likely been in situations like that. You're in a meeting and someone calls for help on a project, you raise your hand and you are "It." You said yes again before really thinking it through.

Other times, decisions are made too quickly by imprudent words. Too often, angry or hurtful words are said in haste, without forethought, and relationships are changed forever. By simply taking more time to think about the pros and cons of your decision and weighing out the consequences, you can help stop yourself from making a mistake.

2. Lacking peace Bad decisions are made in stressful, chaotic environments. Good decisions are made in peaceful places where you can take the time, space and solitude to make good choices. Even small, ordinary calls should be made this way. Try taking a few breaths in a quiet place (even if it's only in your head) to evaluate the facts before you decide. When a decision is big, maybe even life changing, get out of Dodge. Find a quiet place for an overnight stay, unaffected by the stress and turmoil. It is there, in a neutral place of peace, a good decision can be made.

3. Wallowing in chaos Another mistake people make is wallowing in the chaos of everyday life. If it's a choice that affects you, it's critical to listen to your own inner voice, which cannot be heard in the chaos. You can call this voice intuition, conscience, a divine spirit, higher consciousness — whatever fits your belief system. That small voice is your built-in guide. It must be listened to and respected. To find that voice, get out of the chaos. Find quiet. Be still and listen. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how wise you are.

4. Not considering priorities Occasionally people make decisions that are not consistent with their priorities. They give lip service to one thing, claiming it is a priority in life, yet make decisions that are in contradiction. However, if you are very clear on your priorities in life, many decisions can make themselves.

5. Not heeding what's best for you Too often we decide things without thought to our needs and wants. The same qualities that call us to be responsible team members are the same qualities that allow us to shortchange ourselves. Think of what is best for you. That may not fall in line with what is best for your friend, your spouse or your boss, but you must listen to what is right for you.

6. Neglecting your values Sometimes we make decisions that are not in alignment with our values. The world would be a better place if we all followed the Rotary's Four-Way Test in our business and professional lives: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned? After considering these elements, then make your choice.

7. Ignoring what's right Too often we make decisions that are not right today, but we think they will be in the long run. Perhaps we twist the numbers just a bit, inflate the resume a little or step on someone on our way up, believing it will be worth it in the long run. That never works, not in the end. It takes a lot of courage to make the deep-down-in-your-gut-you-know-it's-right decision today. Listen to that inner voice and trust that the rest will be taken care of.

8. Avoiding the truth Critical to good decision making is telling the truth. Many times we will say things to please others, or avoid saying something that will hurt. It's important to ensure every word that comes out of your mouth is true, whether the statement is big or small. If the project takes two weeks, don't say one week. If it costs $200, don't say $190. Honesty is indeed the best policy. Will Rogers was right when he said, "Tell the truth. It's a lot easier to remember."

9. Forgetting how to say "No" To make good decisions, there are times we need to just say, "No." This is hard for many of us to do, since we think we need to be all things to all people. The truth is, we don't have to give a reason for why we can't help. All we have to do is say, "I'm sorry I can't; I have another commitment." That commitment can be taking care of ourselves, our families, our priorities. When it's hard, remember that it is only when you step back that others can step forward. Every time you say yes, it deprives another person of an opportunity. When you decline, it gives them a chance to serve, to learn, to grow.

10. Procrastinating Sometimes making a decision is difficult, so we postpone it . . . and postpone it. But not to decide is to decide. No decision is a decision.

Once you've made a decision, own it. Doing so is key to living with it. Avoid using the words "have to." It's said we don't "have to" do anything but die and pay taxes. Instead say, "I choose to." Owning up to your decisions and life choices is empowering.

Remember, where you are today is a result of decisions you made in the past. Where you will be tomorrow is determined by decisions you make today. Take time and wisdom to make them good ones. Avoiding these mistakes and making better decisions every day makes us better people, and as better people we are recognized and offered better opportunities, which in the end brings better rewards.

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