A perfectly good decision that seems like the most rational choice at the moment can turn out to be a disaster later. We are not intentionally fooling or trying to make the wrong decision. Most of the time we jump to a conclusion and stick to it because we lack the framework to make better decisions. We fail to realize that making good decisions simply means eliminating bad choices and that requires asking good questions.
Consistently making high-quality decisions isn’t something reserved for the geniuses who are born with the art of decision-making. It is a skill that can be learned. Learning to ask the right questions will deeply enhance the success of all your future decision-making, preventing you from making choices that you will regret.
1. Am I stating the problem correctly?
How you formulate the problem statement and what you want to achieve from the decision can make all the difference. State the problem by assuming a definite solution, starting with assumptions, or remembering the bigger problem by trying to fix the symptoms will always lead to the wrong decision. Identify if your question is biased towards a specific solution or begins with certain assumptions. Make sure you’re solving the right problem.
2. Is this decision reversible or irreversible?
We make thousands of decisions a day and not every decision requires equal attention. While low-consequence aversive decisions can be made realistically quick, it is high-consequence irreversible decisions that must be made with extra care.
As Jeff Bezos explained in his 2015 Annual Shareholder Letter, “Some decisions are consequential and irreversible or almost irreversible – one-way doors – and these decisions have to be made systematically, carefully, gradually, with great deliberation and consultation.” Should. They’re changeable, reversible—they’re two-way doors. If you’ve made a sub-optimal decision of Type 2, you don’t have to live with the consequences for so long. You can open the door again and go back. can.”
Separate from irreversible decisions to determine the process, time, energy, and strategy you need to apply to make the decision.
3. How important is this decision to me and why?
Knowing why the decision matters to you or how a wrong decision might affect you can be a powerful motivator to re-examine your process. This can make you look beyond the obvious and easy options to other options that may seem daunting at first but are more promising and better suited to your problem. Identify your stake in the decision and ask yourself why you really care about the right decision. Separate your identity from your thoughts and really focus on making the right decisions. Because what matters in the end is making the right decision and not yours being right.
“Stay committed to your decisions, but be flexible in your approach.” — Tony Robbins
4. What price am I willing to pay for the delay in this decision?
Delaying decision-making is one of the most common tricks to avoid facing our real fears. Fear is a very real feeling and if left unattended it can wreak havoc in our lives. Fear can make us imagine worst possible scenarios that are highly improbable and use them as an excuse for inaction.
Getting stuck with analysis-paralysis to avoid making decisions for fear of seeing as much information or making the wrong decisions can prevent you from grabbing the right opportunities at the right time. The cost of indecision often exceeds the cost of making the wrong decision.
Get rid of unwanted fears that may be holding you back by defining them. Delaying a decision can cost comparisons at worst. Then, set yourself a reasonable date to make the decision and actually work backwards to get it done on time.
5. What are the different options?
With confirmation bias at play, we interpret and selectively collect data to fit our beliefs while rejecting other plausible alternatives. Asking this question sets the expectation that there is more than one possible solution. This will open you up to the idea of exploring alternative interpretations.
Annie Duke, a former professional poker player and author of Thinking in Bets, writes in her book, “What makes a decision great is not that it has a good outcome. A great decision is the result of a good process, and That process must involve attempting to accurately represent our own state of knowledge. That state of knowledge, in turn, I am not sure is some variation.”
Instead of trying to make a decision where you are 100% sure, embrace uncertainty. Evaluate different options based on the likelihood that a specific outcome will occur. Incorporate the opinions of others. Your experience and the knowledge of those around you will determine the accuracy of your assessment.
6. What will this decision look like in the future?
Most of the time we only think one step ahead and make a decision without evaluating the potential impact of our decision in the future. We try to optimize for a small profit in the present while ignoring the potential pitfalls of this decision in the future.
By understanding the consequences of your decision, you can free yourself from choices you’ll regret later. By incorporating your future into your decision-making process and envisioning how the decision will play out, you can avoid avoidance.
Once you incorporate these questions into your decision-making process, you will see a tremendous improvement in the quality of your decisions. While mastering them and building on them will require practice, noticing the subtle changes in your thought process that invoke these questions will help you make even better decisions.