Better Decision Making  What Is A DecisionBetter Decision Making What Is A Decision

Part 1 of a series: It's been said, ?A decision is something that happens when the answer doesn't present itself?.

This series of articles answers the question of ?What is a decision?? and goes further to describe the attributes of a GOOD decision. A dictionary defines a decision as the act of reaching a conclusion or making up one's mind: determining with finality a course of action. Truth is we make decisions all day long and may not realize it. It's raining outside, so I decide to take an umbrella. My car is low on gas, so I decide to visit a gas station. In these cases, very simple, the answer presented itself. Not taking an indicated action, one taken hundreds of time in the past with expected outcomes, would result in something ?bad? happening. We chose based on this history and experience and really, had no decision to make [one that made sense at least!].

Another simple example: My car is low on gas and I have several errands to run. At some point I must refuel to complete my journey. The decision then; where do I refuel? Perhaps I do it first but the closest gas station is a mile in the wrong direction. Perhaps I do it second, but the closest gas station then is the most expensive and the attendants are not too friendly. Perhaps I do it at another point in the journey. I have a decision to make. This is an easy decision we've all made. We create some scenarios in our mind, we briefly consider each one, and then we pick and execute. Many times we do this even subconsciously and without a second thought.

Even in this simple example we followed a very basic process for framing the decision or choice, and determining options. In addition, we created some criteria upon which we would base our decision. The choice we needed to make: when to get gas. The options: at one of several points in the journey. The criteria to evaluate the options: distance, efficiency of the travel, cost, and friendliness of the staff. All this detail from a simple ?When should I get gas? example. Good thing we do most of this in our heads!

So then, what is a decision? First, a decision is the recognition that we have to make a choice. At this point, the ANSWER has NOT presented itself! There are however some options, we must take action and only one option is possible (i.e. why would I choose to refuel at two gas stations?). Second, the choice I make whichever it might be must satisfy and meet certain needs I have, which we'll call criteria. Some options may not meet the criteria. Several options may meet the criteria but have pros and cons associated with them. This suggests a Better decision can be made. And last, a good decision considers what might happen if something goes wrong. Going wrong could be an execution detail, a wrong assumption on my part, or changing circumstances. At the end however, I've considered all of these things and made the Best well-rounded choice: one that meets all my criteria the best.

The simple examples here illustrate there are key components to decisions we need to make. These components can be applied to many decisions in our lives from the very basic like which vacuum cleaner to buy, up to which car to buy or college to attend. Using these steps insures we've considered the necessary factors and will then make the best decisions. In our next article, we'll consider what makes a decision a ?good? decision.

by Stephen Straining
References and Bibliography

Stephen Straining operates the site The tools found on the site are dedicated to helping families make better decision to save time, resources and money. Better decisions make for happier families and lives!

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