Most women I speak to or work with from a leadership development coaching perspective, ask for tips and tricks on how to make better decisions and have fewer regrets as they move through life. The stakes are high – both at work and in our personal lives – and we are all super critical of ourselves all the time. We will look back on some event and then pick apart, piece by piece, everything about it. Often, we will regret the decisions we made and we will fixate on the “could have, would have and should have” arguments and just drive our blood pressure and anxiety levels up because of our tendency to always want to second-guess ourselves.
There are no shortcuts or hard and fast rules when it comes to making good decisions. One universal rule to always be aware of, is the effect that our own emotional investment in the outcome of a decision, has on us. It is a lot easier to make decisions with clarity and certainty when you are not personally and emotionally invested in the outcome of the situation and a key to success here, is truly being self aware and honest about your motives and intentions when the decision you’re called upon to make, is a little more personal in nature.
Over the years, I have developed five top tips that I always share with my clients and encourage them to personalize and apply in their own way. Here’s what I teach about making better decisions:
Know the Parameters
It’s impossible to make good decisions if we don’t have all the facts and information and we don’t know the parameters of a problem. It’s also much harder to judge whether we’re making a good decision, if we don’t really know what ‘good’ is meant to look like under the circumstances.
In order to make better decisions – especially at work – gather as much information as possible and establish who your stakeholders are and what the desired outcomes are. Understand that you’re likely to be criticized and judged no matter what you do, but it is a lot easier to deal with any negative backlash if you are able to show all the factors, stakeholders, relationships and outcomes you took into account, before making a final call.
Time and Information
The less time and information we have at our disposal, the more likely we will make the wrong decision. Don’t be afraid to ask for more time to enable you to obtain all the relevant information from all the different players and don’t be afraid to ask some tough questions of people during the process of gathering more information. Time and information help you to better understand the parameters of what you are dealing with. You can break a problem down into its component parts and you can understand the impact of the problem on various different levels.
When making decisions in your personal life, take the same approach and look at the facts and not the things you want to see. Look at how the person behaves instead of focusing on what they say. Words deceive, but actions never lie. Gather all the facts and information and execute accordingly.
Beware your own Bias
It’s important to keep an open mind and consider various different opinions and possible outcomes. Be aware of your own personal biases and your ego and make sure that your personal beliefs and feelings aren’t getting in the way of finding the best solution, under the circumstances. In order to do this, you will really have to be honest with yourself and be exceptionally self-aware of some of the shadow sides to your personality or some of the people you don’t like. We all get caught up in the past ways of doing things and sometimes cannot see any other way, until someone else points it out for us. That someone may not be your favourite team member or they may be an intern or a graduate. Don’t dismiss an idea simply because of your personal feelings towards the person who came up with it.
Align with Values
Do you know what your personal values and beliefs are? Do you know the company values of your employer or client you are working with? When in doubt about what would be the ‘right’ thing to do under the circumstances, it is often helpful to go back to the basics and look at those values. Make decisions aligned with those core values and act in integrity and alignment with your core values, even if it’s not the easy or popular choice. You have to do what is right and often that is not going to be the most popular decision or the choice that leads to the biggest profits in the short term.
Always do your Best
Don Miguel Ruiz wrote an entire chapter on this concept in my favourite book, The Four Agreements. Our ‘best’ depends on our circumstances, our physical and mental wellbeing and the information we have at the time. If you simply set out to do your best – and you understand that your best will vary if you have the flu or are on a tight deadline and don’t have time and information on your side – you can save yourself from the endless cycle of self-doubt and negative self talk. Simply do your best under the circumstances and rest comfortably knowing that you did the best you could, given the situation and the resources you had at the time.
I cannot promise you that you won’t have any regrets in this life. I can assure you, however, that the old sayings are true. We most definitely do regret more the things we didn’t do than the things we did. And hindsight is always perfect 20:20 vision. If you apply these guidelines in your everyday interactions though, you will definitely see a change within as little as a week. You will gain more confidence and authority and ultimately, you won’t be so hard on yourself for the decisions you have made.