By taking the right approach to the decision-making process, you can reach your goals and make the right choices in life.
So often in life, your dreams and your reality don’t match up. Isn’t that frustrating (not to mention draining)? Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some way to make them meet so that you actually manage to get where you meant to go? We often get stuck in a decision-making process and make the wrong choices in life as a result.
Well, there is good news and there is bad news. First the bad news. Life is a series of disappointed goals. Anybody who tells you differently is probably trying to sell you something. This is mainly down to the differences between how our brain works and how the world works.
As for the good news, that doesn’t mean all your goals have to be frustrated. By taking the right approach to the decision-making process, you can reach some of your goals and get close to a lot of others.
Today, we’re going to look at a 6-stepped decision-making process.
Step one of the decision-making process: Understand the planning fallacy
Ask somebody who works in construction this question, ‘How many projects do you finish early and how many do you finish late?’ If they’re honest, they’ll admit that more projects get done late than get finished early. Mainly, this is down to what is known as the planning fallacy.
It works a little bit like this. When you’re making a plan, there are two kinds of obstacles. The ones you know about and the ones you don’t. You can plan for the ones you know about (we’ll have to wait for the lumber), but by their very nature, you can’t plan for the ones you don’t (they’ll be cut to the wrong size).
It’s the second kind of problem – the unknown problems – which cause us to struggle to deliver on time as a builder and to meet your goals as a person.
“But can’t it go the same way in the other direction?” I hear you ask. Can’t there be unknown good luck as well? Yes, there can and sometimes you get lucky. And that’s great! But don’t expect the two to balance out. After all, there are many ways that things can go wrong than that they can go right. For example, there are a million ways to cut that wood to the wrong specifications while there is only one way to cut it to the right ones.
As a result, things are far more likely to go wrong. And the first step to reaching your goals is accepting that. Always plan in extra time and space for those unknown hiccups on your path.
Step two of the decision-making process: Start at the end
Do you know the saying, “If one does not know the port one is sailing to, there is no favorable wind”? Well, now you do. And for decision making, it’s a vital one to understand. If you don’t know where you’d like to go, then you can’t take advantage of the opportunities that you’ll see on your way.
For that reason, you have to start by writing down your goals. That, however, is not enough. You’ll also want to make sure that you understand the path that can take you there. After all, a goal without a way to get there is just a pipe dream.
So, after you’ve written out your goal, write out what you’ll need to get there. If you want to build that house, then the end goal is ‘a built house’. Some of the sub-goals will be ‘a foundation’, ‘a frame’ and ‘get the building materials’.
Do note that you’ll want to be fluid in your goals. When one of those unknown problems slaps you about the head, you might want to adjust your goals or at least their timeline.
Step three of the decision-making process: Measurement is key
If you don’t set measurable goals, then you can’t possibly measure if you’ve reached them. So, don’t say ‘I want to be rich’ as that is too vague of a concept and makes it far too easy to move the goalposts. Instead, set a goal you can measure. Like, ‘I want to be a millionaire’.
The measurability shouldn’t just be for these ultimate goals but also for these sub-goals you’ve set for yourself. Also, give them a reasonable time frame. With those two numbers, you’ll be able to decide if a goal has been reached in the time frame that you’ve set. And that will translate to actually getting there.
Step four of the decision-making process: Measure success realistically
A lot of people have this idea that even though today they might struggle to work more than an hour on a passion project tomorrow, or next week, or next month will be different. Then they’ll be able to work uninterrupted for 10 hours per day.
The problem with that mindset? People don’t change overnight. And so, chances are far more likely that you’ll have just as much trouble working on that project tomorrow as you did today. And when you don’t live up to your way-too-high expectations you’ll end up frustrated and disappointed.
Better to take what you can manage today and set some reasonable goals based on that. So, let’s say that you struggle to work more than an hour a day on your project. Then for next week, try to set yourself the goal of working on it for an hour and a half. That’s achievable. Even better, when you achieve it you can take courage from it and push yourself even further afterward (say, two hours).
Step five of the decision-making process: Keep at it
And then it’s a matter of moving forward. The truth is that real goals are rarely achieved in a flash of exuberant enthusiasm but through long-term commitment and work. That story was captured so well by Aesop all those centuries ago in his story of the tortoise and the hare.
The best way to keep at it is to keep your head down and stop looking at how far you still have to go. Instead, you should focus on getting the enjoyment you can from what you’re doing right there.
For example, I write every day. If I would spend every day thinking only about how one day I might be famous, it would be very hard to keep motivated. That doesn’t make every word worth writing – especially as a lot of it won’t directly contribute to making me famous.
Instead, I focus on doing that day’s work as well as I possibly can and work to get my enjoyment from that. If that doesn’t work, then I focus on reaching the word limit or the short-term goal I’ve set myself for that day and keep at it.
Step six of the decision-making process: Don’t be too hard on yourself
As I explained in step one, not everything is going to go as planned. Don’t be too hard on yourself when it doesn’t. With that, I don’t mean give yourself a carte blanche to not do anything. Instead, what I mean is that you should strive to succeed, but when you don’t draw the lessons from it and move on.
Self-hatred doesn’t push you to succeed. Instead, it all it does it make you dwell longer on your failures. That’s not the way to achieve your goals. Mistakes are a part of success. As long as you can make sure that you don’t make the same mistake again and again, you’re doing well.
Remember that going forward. And remember that as long as you push onwards and continue to book successes, the individual bumps on the road are just that. Bumps. Don’t let them distract you.
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