Jeff Davidson's book, Simpler Living, was Amazon Kindle #1 in its category, first quarter, 2012. Jeff is featured in the NY Times, Forbes, Chicago Tribune, Businessweek, Fortune, Organized Executive, and Success.

An Open Mind Leads to Better Decisions

I know people who will take courses on topics completely out of their field, who try new dishes at restaurants, and who strive to keep themselves open to new ideas. The odd and wonderful thing is you can do all kinds of new and different activities in your personal life that will serve to stimulate your creativity at work, break free of attachment, and overcome the inertia of immobility when you want to get things done.

Here are a few ideas:

At work:
  • Take a planned 15 minute break twice daily
  • Eat away from your desk
  • Brainstorm with people not in your department
  • Furnish your workspace with plants, pictures, or art that inspires you
  • Learn some aspect of the organization that is completely foreign to you
Away from work:
  • Change your magazine subscriptions
  • Read a literary novel or epic
  • Dress differently for different occasions
  • Relax on your porch
  • Install a hammock in your backyard
In general, to develop your awareness:
  • Take an impromptu weekend trip to someplace you haven’t visited
  • Enroll in a course
  • Join a book discussion group
  • Volunteer at a charity
  • Take up a new sport

Better Thinking, Better Decisions

The ultimate pay-off these types of activities generate is the ability to have a free and open mind, to make decisions on reasonably accurate observations, as well as drawing upon one’s collective experience.

In a Fast Company article “Decisions, Decisions,” Anna Muoio, says “Strip down to essentials, business is about one thing: making decisions. We’re always deciding something, from the small and daily such as which emails to answer, what meetings to have, to the macro and strategic such as what product to launch and when…”

One Decision Leads to Another

Rebecca Merrill, in her book Living in Yes, regards effective decision-making as the quintessential skill in life and in one’s career. Merrill says that we make decisions all the time, and “we never get to stop doing it.” It’s vital, she says, to understand that “every new decision leads to more decisions. It’s just a question of how well or how poorly they set you up.”

In this day and age, it’s increasingly difficult to make effective decisions because of the surplus of information that is available. In many respects, it works against our ability to choose and creates an intelligence deficit. We must choose. Merrill says, “With every decision you’ll experience some loss, even, and especially, if you choose to do nothing.” Rebecca Merrill states that although we spend a small percentage of our lives actually making decisions, they determine the course of our careers and the rest of our lives.

Since the quality of your life is directly related to the quality of your decisions, it’s well worth your while to learn how to make good ones. Merrill says “you can only make a decision you are capable of making when the decision is called for.” The paradox of it all is that there are no “right” or perfect decisions. Said another way, “All decisions are a function of who you are at the time you make them.” The more clear your thinking process, the greater the quality of your decisions.

Thinking is a Process That You Do All the Time!

In his book, Thinking for a Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Work, John Maxwell points out that since our decisions are largely based on the way we think, it’s crucial to understand the nuances of the thinking process itself.

Maxwell cautions that the biggest challenges that most people face, for example, when it comes to making effective personal decisions are their feelings. “They want to change, but they don’t know how to get past their emotions,” he says. Maxwell offers a syllogism that helps people to readily understand that they are in control:

Major Premise: I can control my thoughts.
Minor Premise: My feelings come from my thoughts.
Conclusion: I can control my feelings by controlling my thoughts.

Maxwell proclaims that if you’re willing to “change your thinking, you can change your feelings. If you can change your feelings, you can change your actions.” The action that you take based on good thinking can change your career and your life.

The Analytical, Intellectual Approach

Using one’s intellect for intelligent analysis certainly has its benefits when it comes to decision making. The scientific method first propounded, introduced, in 1592 by Francis Bacon, an English philosopher, was improved upon a generation later by Rene Descartes, a French philosopher and mathematician, who provides the most fundamental approach to analytical thinking.

Recalling your seventh grade science class, the scientific method consists of six steps including observation, asking questions, formulating a hypothesis, experimentation, gathering and recording data and results, and forming a conclusion.

Shackled by the Paralysis of Analysis

Analytic and scientific approaches to decision making certainly are worth knowing and using in many instances. Many people overly rely on such analysis which takes the form of seeking reams of data before making a decision. In an overly informed society, regardless of whether you’re making a purchase, hiring someone, or opening a drive-thru restaurant – you’ll find enough information to persuade you to go both left and right. You’ll find so much information that a clear-cut decision is nearly impossible.

A study was completed on the use of information in making decisions. Two groups of individuals had to make purchase decisions. One group was given data, analysis, and articles — everything they thought they needed. The other group made the decision based on instinct. After a few weeks, the two groups were able to see the results: the group that felt better about its decision had chosen on instinct. More data does not necessarily produce the best answer.

If you are forty years old, forty years of data is brought to bear when you make a decision. Instinct, then, is not based on a moment’s whim – it’s everything you’ve ever learned during your existence. Each of us has the ability to make intuitive choices, but for many, the word intuition or instinct is taboo. Yet the top CEOs of large companies often make decisions based on what feels right.

Find Your Own Path

When we’re consumed by too many details — too much information — it makes sense to switch mental gears and employ all of our faculties, especially the power of intuition.

Time and time again, astounding achievements have been realized by people who were able to look beyond what was known or accepted as true, use their intuitive faculties as well as current observations to arrive at current decisions.

Possessing intellect is certainly significant, but so is possessing instinct, intuition, and gut feelings. In fact, recent discoveries have demonstrated that there’s far more to instinct, intuition and gut feelings than you might imagine.

Robert Cooper, Ph.D. observes that “gut instincts are real and warrant listening to.” For most things that you want to get done, even highly involved projects, you already have a strong idea as to how to best proceed. Often, you don’t follow your own inner wisdom. You let yourself be pressured by external sources that, in retrospect, offer little contribution.

Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®," is a preeminent time management authority, has written 65 mainstream books, and is an electrifying professional speaker, making 886 presentations to clients such as Lockheed Martin, Eckerd, Kaiser Permanente, IBM, American Express, Lufthansa, Swissotel, Re/Max, USAA, Worthington Steel, and the World Bank. Jeff is Executive Director of the Breathing Space Institute and the author of books such as:
  • Simpler Living (Skyhorse Publishing)
  • Dial It Down--Live it Up (Sourcebooks)
  • The 60 Second Innovator (Adams Media)
  • Breathing Space (CreateSpace)
  • Accomplishing Your Goals (Smart Guide Publications)
Jeff is the premier thought leader on work-life balance issues and has been widely quoted in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, USA Today, Businessweek, Forbes, and Fortune. Cited by Sharing Ideas Magazine as a "Consummate Speaker," Jeff believes that career professionals today in all industries have a responsibility to achieve their own sense of work-life balance, and he supports that quest through his website

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