We make decisions all the time. From the moment the alarm goes off (Shall I get up or hit the snooze button?) to the time we go to bed, we are constantly making decisions. Many are “ritualistic” – those decisions we make on autopilot. They are engrained into our schedule, whether they are good for us or not (brushing teeth when you wake up and go to bed – that would be a good ritual – and having six martinis every night might not be in your best interest!).
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the big, ginormous decisions that have a huge impact. They don’t happen as often and require a substantial amount of time and/or resources, so we tend to take them a bit more seriously. We are more thoughtful and discerning between the possible outcomes. For example, Joe and I are looking at downsizing our Arizona home, so the amount of time and energy we have devoted to discussing this decision is FAR more than opting to brush my teeth this morning!
But what about that middle ground? Not everyday decisions, but not ginormous either. Should we attend this function this afternoon? Should we work on this project now? It is this zone that I find the most troubling. People tend to make decisions in this zone rather cavalierly – and without considering all the options. For example, when you go to a function or work on a project, you are not able to use that time to do something else. Is that the best use of your time?
Drs. Richard Paul and Linda Elder call this phenomenon “thinking too narrowly” and contend that it is “difficult to correct, as no one believes he is thinking too narrowly (when he is).”
Ah, how ironic! Could we have such high opinions of ourselves and our ability to make good decisions, that we don’t even realize that we are thinking narrowly? And here’s another twist: “The more narrow the thinker, the more confident the thinker that he is broad-minded.”
Oh my. It seems like a self-perpetuating loop. Paul & Elder go on to say,
A good rule of thumb is that if you can think of only one or two options when making a decision, you are probably thinking too narrowly.
So what’s a confident, narrow thinker to do?
When facing a decision, take a moment….to think. What’s the decision in front of me? Is this my ONLY choice? It might be the most obvious, preferable, easiest, but it certainly is NOT the only choice. What other choices do you have? There is always another option.
I love to use the “10X Rule” where I HAVE to come up with ten alternatives. And if I can’t come up with at least ten, then I ask my friends and family to help!
It may be that your first impression is the best decision at the time, but how do you know that to be true? When you take a moment to think about how you go about making decisions, the more thoughtful your decisions will become.
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KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF, CSP is a high stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator. She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 20 years. She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.
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