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In This Edition:
1. Decide and Decide Again
2. The Scientific Method
3. The Paralysis of Analysis
4. Follow that Notion
Decide and Decide Again
Wow, half of 2011 gone, never to return! May we all make the fundamental decision to use our time more judiciously!
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.” She states that although we spend a small percentage of our lives actually making decisions, those decisions 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.
The Scientific Method
Using one’s intellect for intelligent analysis has its benefits when it comes to decision making. The scientific method; first propounded in 1592 by English philosopher Francis Bacon was improved upon a generation later by Rene Descartes. A French philosopher and mathematician, Descartes 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.
Step 1: Observation — Observation involves the use of your five senses. As you observe, you begin to formulate certain questions.
Step 2: Ask Questions — Ask questions concerning how and why certain things occur. Keep a record of your questions and take notes as you seek to answer them. Eventually, state the specific problem that you want to solve and conduct research to learn what the experts have to say about it.
Step 3: Form a Hypothesis — Make an educated guess about the answers to your questions. One option is to keep a journal of your thoughts.
Step 4: Experiment — Visualize experiments that could be used to test your hypothesis. After careful thought, design and perform experiments that will best serve to test this hypothesis. Repeat each test several times.
Step 5: Gather and Record Results/Data — As you gather your data, make precise measurements. Record them carefully and accurately so that you can analyze them later and draw appropriate conclusions. This step requires unbiased observation.
Step 6: Conclusion — Use your data to support, disprove, or leave inconclusive the original hypothesis. Report any complications that arose or possible improvements to be made in your experimental procedure. Make your findings available to others. Disproving your hypothesis is not a failure!
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 C.E.O.s of large companies often make decisions based on what feels right.
Follow that Notion
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 of 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.
Evidence is pouring in that it’s okay to rely on your instincts more often! If you’re figuring out how to accomplish something, it’s often okay to simply start and let your intuition guide you. All the cellular intelligence throughout your body goes into a decision based on instinct or intuition. Your decision isn’t whimsical, random, or foolish. Decisions based on instinct and intuition rapidly and automatically encompass all of your life experiences and acquired knowledge.
* Every new decision leads to more decisions. The actions that you take based on good thinking can change your career and your life.
* When you win the battle for your mind, you can win at nearly everything.
* On the path to having more breathing space, it’s okay to rely more on your instincts!