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Be A Better Decision Maker

Here are some simple free tips and tools to make you a better decision maker. Making decisions is part of life. Whether you are a college student, a stay-at-home mom, an employee, employer, or the leader of an entire nation your work, health, relationship or marriage, family and finances all require lots of major, and minor, decisions. Major decisions involve things that are likely to significantly change your life. Or the lives of others. Minor decisions (what to eat for dinner, what movie to see, etc) are relatively unimportant and are generally not likely to significantly affect your life. Major decisions require clear thinking, gathering and evaluating information, some good guesswork about an unknown outcome, and a decisive response. Decisions are usually best made with your brain not your emotions (unless it's an emotional response that's called for).

Here are some tips and tools that can make your decision making process easier and more effective ...

Ultimately, there are only 3 choices when facing a situation requiring a decision:

  • Yes
  • No
  • No decision/Default

Let's take them in reverse order. When faced with a decision the first thing to ask yourself is, does this actually require a decision? More often than not, I find it's not me who needs to make a decision - it's the other party who wants me to make a decision! Also ask yourself, do I need to make a decision NOW? And then ask yourself what will happen if I don't make a decision? (no decision/default) More often than not, nothing terrible happens if I don't decide now (or at all). Or at least I make myself generally prepared to suffer whatever the consequences may be (usually minor. In the No decision/Default choice your response can be any one of the following

  • "I have no decision for you at this time"
  • "I'm not going to do anything at this time"
  • "I am not going to make a decision"
  • "I'm not making a decision about it now - go ahead without me"

I have learned, through both professional and personal experience, that the No decision/Default is often the best (and with a little practice the easiest) decision. It lets a lot of garbage go by. That does not mean do nothing - it simply means you are not ready, or willing, to decide. That frees you up, gives you more time and allows you to spend more time on the things you ARE truly interested in, things you would rather be involved with, things you are passionate about. With the No decision/Default you can let more "stuff" go by.

After evaluating the FACTS (not the emotions) if you find you can't use the No decision/Default choice but don't wish to do whatever is being offered then say so. Just say No! "No" has power. It doesn't mean you are being negative or mean or that someone will not like you if you say No (maybe they will and maybe you shouldn't care so much). No simply means no. It means that you are choosing not to be involved in something. For whatever good reasons you have. Maybe you just don't feel like it, maybe you're not in the mood. If you are willing to suffer the consequences and the fallout, just say no.

The third choice is Yes. Yes is a very positive and powerful response. Everybody loves to hear Yes! Yes is a powerful tool because it usually makes someone else happy. Of course, saying yes can also make YOU happy. It can also be a curse. Children will take advantage of you if you always say yes. So will adults. Understand the power and consequences of Yes.

Now that you understand the 3 choices in decision making you might wish to also utilize a simple but effective decision making tool called Plus/Minus. When faced with a major decision take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the center. On the left hand side at the top write "Plus". On the right hand side at the top write "Minus". Under the "Plus" side write down all the realistic good things that could happen. Then, under the "Minus" side write down all the realistic not-so-good things that could happen. Now go back to the "Plus" side and assign each entry a plus number from 0 to +5 (+5 being the best). Then, go to the "Minus" side and assign each entry a minus number from 0 to -5 (-5 being the worst). Then, add up all the plus numbers in the plus entries column and write the total (+ ___ ) at the bottom of that column. Then add up all the minus numbers in the minus column (you get a minus number total). Now, add the total plus number and the total minus number together. If your grand total is a plus number (the higher the better) that means it may be a good thing to decide to do. If, on the other hand, your grand total is a negative number (the higher the negative the worse the situation) it means you really don't want to have to do whatever the situation calls for unless you are willing to sacrifice or are forced to proceed with it. If the grand total is close to zero (neither very plus nor very minus) it's a wash, a tie, preferable a no-decision (if you can get away without making one).

The above information hopefully will make you a better decision maker. Whatever decisions you do make in life, make them as best as you can and, afterwards, harbor no regets! Know that you made the best decisions you could make ... with the information and intuition you had at the time.


Andrew Lawrence spent many years as a professional decision maker. He was a money market trader for a major Wall St firm and has managed trading portfolios of nearly half-a-billion dollars. He now lives in Los Angeles and is the creator of an online program that helps people in over 45 countries clarify their decision making and their life, at http://lifepurpose.0catch.com