How To Be An Expert At Decision Making (And How To Kill Stress Before It Starts)
Research estimates that your average adult makes about 35,000 decisions every day. (source).
Yep. You read that right.
If you're anything like me, you don't even like to think about numbers that high. Yet research shows that not only are we making upwards of 35k decisions every day, but our decision making processes actually get worse as we continue to make decisions throughout the day. (source).
Contrary to popular opinion, good lives are not just dropped into the laps of some people and unjustly robbed from others. Good lives are, in general, created from a series of good decisions in the past and the present.
As my grandfather always told me: for 90% of our lives, we are just as happy as we choose to make ourselves.
Good decisions make for good lives.
So to improve our lives, we must begin to improve our decisions.
Here are some traits of incredible decision makers.
Nonnegotiable, Unalterable Terms Of Service
Compromise is important in all things.
Relationships, business, even where we want to go out to eat can all be subject to someone else saying that they would prefer something else.
And when it comes to the relatively unimportant things in life, compromise is, well, pretty unimportant. No one is going to turn into a serial killer because they wanted to eat Mexican instead of Italian.
In other areas of life, compromise should be considered unacceptable. These areas vary from person to person and I give a few examples of my nonnegotiables below, but there are a few characteristics that your nonnegotiable, unalterable terms of service should have:
1) It should be something that is important to you
2) It should be something that you believe in even when faced with opposition
3) It should be unique to you, not a copy of anyone else (you're unique - that's a good thing)
4) It should be something that you believe will have a positive impact on both you and the world
5) It should be long term
Nonnegotiable, unalterable terms of service are the things in your life that you absolutely cannot bend on. These conditions are symbols of what you believe to be a good, successful, and happy life.
A few of mine are based off of the book Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
When it comes to decision making, nonnegotiable, unalterable terms of service are the basis of your ability to decide. You can only have a good view of what you will compromise on if you know what you won't compromise on.
I find it best to write my nonnegotiable terms down and keep them close; when problems arise, these serve as a constant remember of what I stand for and what I am willing to do.
These need to be the foundations of what you believe. Some other examples may look like the following:
I will do what is right for my kids, even when they disagree.
I will always use reason when evaluating problems.
I will keep my word no matter what.
Remember to make these unique to you and feel free to change them. Changing the values in your life is not a bad thing; it is a sign that you are growing and maturing into someone who can be all that they need to be in life.
When faced with easy or tough decisions, be prepared to use your nonnegotiables to start the decision making process. By eliminating the impossibles, you only leave the genuine problems to be dealt with.
The Surprising Way In Which Video Games Can Help Put Out House Fires
In my younger days of playing video games, my friends and I always had an order of succession to killing the bad guys: take out the healer first, then the highest damage dealers, then the enemies with the lowest health.
We always started with the healers because we didn't want to seriously injure a couple of baddies just to have them restored back to full health or worse, resurrected completely.
We always went to the highest damage dealers after the healers because these are the guys who really posed a problem to the team. As any good World of Warcraft player can attest, one or two shots from the high damage dealers and you're the one needing a revive.
Finally, we went for the lowest health enemies. This usually meant avoiding enemies commonly known as "tanks" that had high health, dealt low damage, and were largely just meant to distract the players from other enemies.
Believe it or not, my friends and I use this exact method when dealing with our problems in real life today because not all problems in life are created equal.
And usually, we never just have one problem at a time. It seems like when life gives out problems, it gives them out in a way where we have more than a few to spare.
Here is an ideal order of succession for problem solving in the real world:
First, deal with the root of your problems. There's no sense in only handling the symptoms of a greater dilemma.
Second, handle the most crucial and important problem at hand. Any problems that are going to overwhelm you or become more difficult over time need to be handled quickly.
Third, once you have dealt with the root of the problems and the worst problems, begin eliminating the most simple problems to get rid of. I have a rule that if nothing crucial is going on and I have a problem that can be handled within 10 minutes, it needs to be dealt with immediately.
In situations where you are experiencing multiple issues at once (roots, big problems, and lots of small pesky ones), the most effective method is to begin a situation analyses.
Analyzing the situation in depth will help you to avoid short term solutions that do not help much in the long run. You will be able to more accurately identify which problems need to be dealt with and which can be ignored.
Situational analyses have a few steps:
1) Decide whether or not a decision needs to be made at all. Is a decision now more helpful than a decision later? What are the consequences of not deciding? What is the best and worst case scenario?
2) If a decision must be made immediately, determine the greatest possible threat. What is the root of the problems you're experiencing? If no common root exists, ask what problems are causing the most damage.
3) If you have eliminated the roots of many of your problems (or your problems don't have common roots) and you have eliminated the most threatening of the issues, ask yourself what can be taken care of quickly, preferably in under 10 minutes. Do those tasks next.
4) Think ahead. If two problems can be eliminated with one solution, begin working on that solution. Think about how your solutions now can eliminate future issues.
5) If action needs to be taken immediately, take action immediately. Do something to handle problems that need to be handled right now. Your hasty actions may not be the perfect solution, but doing nothing is definitely the wrong solution.
The Ethicist's Guide To Playing Unfairly
Cheating is largely seen to be an unfair behavior and one that will get you kicked out of just about any game that you're playing, yet it is a behavior that humans undertake quite frequently.
When we cheat, it is because we view cheating as having a bigger reward than it has a risk. In research by Dan Ariely, Dan shows that people will gladly and visibly cheat when the opportunity exposes itself up to the point that it harms their character or standing with others. (source).
We cheat because we view cheating as having a bigger reward than it does a risk, but this does not mean that all things that have more reward than risk are cheating.
In fact, the things in life with great reward but low risk are the things that we must exploit to become incredibly successful. Let's use reading as an example.
When you read a book, (or listen to an audiobook) you are exposing yourself to the entire accumulated knowledge of the author on a subject. This can be 30, 40, 50 years of information, study, and wisdom.
Often under $15, usually under $10.
Are you willing to pay $15 to have the complete life experiences of someone else on a subject?
Incredible decision makers seem to have one habit in common.
They are obsessed with disproportionate risk/reward spreads.
In the king's English, that means these achievers strive to have an excessive amount of reward for a small amount of risk. Incredible decision makers want to gain a lot and only lose a little.
Approaching life in ways here we can find limited downside and infinite upside makes for an incredible investment of time, energy, or money.
But with every decision, you must calculate the risk and reward. How much must be at risk for the reward that is presented?
Berating someone cruelly after they make a mistake probably feels pretty good in the short term, but in the long term, this can turn even a gentle soul into your enemy for life.
Complimenting, on the other hand, has very low risk but a fairly high reward: you may gain a long term friend who can help you out of disaster.
Risk and reward must be evaluated in every scenario. Judge what is at stake, what is to gain, and exploit the best opportunities. It's not cheating; you are ethically pursuing the best, most lucrative, most enjoyable opportunities.
You're basically an ethicist already.
Lay Down The Hammer (Violently)
When you are in the throes of decision making, with information swirling around you, time slowly sinking away, and the consequences becoming worse every moment, sometimes decisions must be made swiftly and with force.
When forceful decisions must be made, make them rapidly and with no remorse. When it is time to act, put the hammer down.
In Robert Greene's book The 48 Laws of Power, law number 15 "Crush Your Enemies Completely" exemplifies this.
Now we're definitely not going to tell you to crush your enemies completely on a website called Elite Happiness (lol) but the principle applies in many areas.
When you have to act, act overwhelmingly and leave nothing to chance.
Car coming at you head on?
A chance to fix a broken relationship?
An incredible investment opportunity?
A business that you know you could succeed at?
An opportunity to follow your passion with 100% effort?
When the time comes to act, act with overwhelming force.
While telling you to "act with overwhelming force" can be easy on my part, it is difficult to nail down an exact application to such a broad suggestion.
Since I think I'm not the best person to tell you how to most efficiently act with overwhelming force, here is some advice from a Navy SEAL, one of the best decision makers on the planet:
You're A Wizard, Harry
Great decision makers are some of the most low-stress people on the planet.
To explain why, I must first explain where stress comes from.
Stress is a result of the inability to cause a situation to become like you want it to become.
Whether this stems from unchanging factors (like not having more than 24 hours in the day) or from factors you can influence (how much time you spend watching Netflix instead of doing important things), stress almost always comes from situations not being as we like them to be.
Which leads to this nugget...
The best decision makers are low stress.
Because they influence the situations around them.
If a situation can't be changed, they don't worry about it.
If a situation can be changed, they change it.
Because great decision makers have nonnegotiables, have analyzed the situation, have measured risk and reward, and have acted to influence the situation to their liking, their stress levels are lower because their influence on life is higher.
Have you ever looked at something such as a dream home, a high paying salary, or your dream life, and felt like that object was so far away from you that you'd basically need magic to get it?
Good decisions, compounded over time, have such a powerful effect on your life that they are basically magic. By starting right now, today (no matter how old you are, no decision will be as important to your life as the next one you make), you have the power to positively (or negatively) impact the rest of your life.
Want to lower your stress? Begin impacting the world around you. Stop passivity, start acting, and eliminate your stress because you are a force to be reckoned with.
Want to kill stress before it starts?
Stop sticking to the sidelines. Make an executive decision.
It may be wrong. It may be silly.
But if you make enough wrong choices, eventually you'll begin to figure out what decisions are the right choices.
Then make those.
You'll change your life, become who you want to be, and lower your stress all in one.
It's the perfect solution.
Thanks for reading!
My challenge to you is to go out there and make some decisions today.
Tell us in the comments below: what's the best decision you ever made?
Mine was when I started this website and got to provide some value to your life.
Stay awesome. Have a great day.
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