Every day, we are faced with life situations that we must confront. They require us to make certain choices, and those choices aren’t always easy. But because all decisions are the foundation for creating a life we love—or hate—it makes sense to try to make good ones.
Unfortunately, the strategies for making good decisions aren’t something we’re born with—but the process can be learned and improved over time with practice.
But what does it really mean to decide? Consider its Latin etymology: decider meaning “to decide, determine,” literally “to cut off.” So, to decide can be best understood as the process of “cutting off” any other possibility. That’s why the idea of wavering after you’ve made a decision doesn’t make much sense.
If you’ve found yourself wavering a lot lately and want to become better at decision-making, follow these key steps:
1. Clarify your purpose and identify your desired outcomes.
Clarifying the purpose behind your decision is the first step in the right direction. Knowing your why energizes your thinking and encourages you to take purposeful action that leads to results. It also helps you combat procrastination and confront distractions when they arise.
But just knowing your purpose isn’t enough. You must also identify the precise outcomes (the what) you desire to achieve. What’s the difference? Think of it like this: The purpose behind deciding to lose weight might be improved health and increased self-esteem. The precise outcomes you desire to achieve could be losing 50 pounds and lowering your cholesterol levels by 20 points. The point of this step is to become laser focused and fuel your motivation to stay the course of the decision.
2. Create a solid strategy armed with tactics.
Now that you’re all pumped up, what will you do next? There’s no use in clarifying your purpose and identifying your outcomes if you are not prepared to make advanced movement toward your goal. You need the elements of both strategy and tactics to execute the next phase of your decision.
To create a strategy, you’ll need to revisit the outcomes you identified in step one. Each outcome will require a strategy, which is best understood as the “big picture approach” you’ll need to follow in order achieve an outcome. For example, a strategy for losing 50 pounds could be incorporating exercise into your daily routine.
But to get at the heart of execution, you’ll also need some tactics. Tactics are the specific actions that you will need to execute to successfully carry out the strategy. Here, tactics could include attending a Zumba class on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, lifting weights at 6 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and running 2 miles with your best friend in the neighborhood park on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
3. Take immediate action.
Finally, no plan of action will work unless you do something immediately. Success requires that you get the ball rolling. It sends a signal to the brain that you are serious and forces you to shift from “mind mode” to full-blown decision mode. It’s far too easy to procrastinate, even when you draw out an intricate plan. Instead of deferring action and talking a good mental game, plan to set yourself up for success by stepping boldly into the arena.
How do you take immediate action after you’ve done all of the above? Take one strong step that will help you execute the first tactic. In this case, it could mean buying new exercise clothes, setting your alarm for Monday’s weight lifting session or scheduling the weekend running schedule with your best friend. Whatever you select, just make sure it strongly aligns with overall strategy and helps to escalate one of your core tactics.
Are you ready to make a real decision? If so, use these steps to help you achieve the outcomes you seek and create new momentum in your life personally and professionally. You’ll be glad you did!
Photo by @andrewkuttler via Twenty20
A leading authority on leadership development and organizational performance management, Karima Mariama-Arthur brings more than 25 years of comprehensive, blue chip experience in law, business and academia to every client engagement. A shrewd advisor to distinguished organizations from DC to Dubai, her expert insights help clients to successfully navigate today's ever-changing and competitive global business environment. Karima is the author of the internationally acclaimed and 2019 NAACP Image Award nominated leadership guidebook, Poised For Excellence: Fundamental Principles of Effective Leadership in the Boardroom and Beyond (Palgrave Macmillan), which launched at the United States Military Academy at West Point. As an extension of her work, she speaks regularly both nationally and internationally in her areas of expertise and serves in an advisory capacity on select corporate boards.