Have you ever been presented with a choice that required a big decision? A decision that would change a lot of things in your life and that you might not be able to easily come back from? Maybe you have made a big decision based on what you thought you really, really wanted, only to find that it wasn’t how you imagined it would be?
The ability to make good decisions is important and it’s a very important life skill to teach our children. While we can learn something from each decision that we make, the reality is that some decisions can have us taking very long and arduous routes to reach our life goals.
While there are five basics to good decision-making, there is another aspect that is rarely considered, but which is the foundation of every good decision.
The Five Basics of Good Decision Making
- Clearly recognise what it is you are trying to achieve with your decision.
- Does your decision align with your long-term goals and life plan?
- Have your gathered and considered all the information relevant to your decision that you can?
- Have you considered the possible consequences of the decision?
- Seek advice from people whose input you trust and re-evaluate your decision accordingly before proceeding.
The Foundation of all Good Decision Making
The real foundation of all good decision making is understanding how a decision will affect our needs. Understanding this earlier in my life would have saved me from taking a number of difficult and unnecessary paths.
If you have been reading this blog regularly, or you are familiar with Choice Theory, you will know that we all have five basic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, fun and freedom. There is a Needs Profile you can download and use in the sidebar to deepen your understanding of your own specific needs.
The success of our life is determined by how well we meet our needs. By evaluating a decision against our Needs Profile we can predict how the change in circumstances, brought about by a significant decision, will affect our needs.
We might make a choice that meets one or two needs, but threatens others. Let’s look at this in practice.
We are offered the job of our dreams with a lot of money, but it involves moving interstate away from all our friends and family. While our need for power (success and acknowledgement), and survival would be met by the new job, our need for love and belonging could be threatened. If love and belonging is a strong need for us we could have difficulty adapting.
If we have a good understanding of our needs, we would evaluate our decision to see if the job and the money would be worth distancing ourself from friends and family. If we decided that it would be worth it we would be able to plan the move with friends visiting regularly, budgeting for trips home, frequent video calls and investing a significant time making new friends in our new home. Without a good understanding of our needs we might wonder why we aren’t happy with our choice, possibly finding all sorts of reasons why it isn’t working, pack up and go home. Or we might struggle on and begin depressing and anxiousing.
According to Dr William Glasser, the creator of Choice Theory, our needs are constant throughout our life. We can see this in even very young children. A child with a high need for freedom will not want to be swaddled, will tend to break rules, will probably want to wear few clothes. A child with high love and belonging will seek out lots of friendships and a child with a high need for survival will be cautious.
Buckets Full of Needs
Although our needs stay fairly constant throughout our life it does not always seem that way and this is where we can get tripped up in decision making. Our needs are like buckets. We can have a big bucket need for Love and Belonging for example, but as long as our needs are being met and our bucket is full we may not realise how important it is for us.
We might make a choice that meets one need but threatens another because that need has always been met and we didn’t realise how important it was to us. Similarly if a needs bucket is very empty it may seem more important to us than it usually would be.
Unpacking that Dream
Last week we looked at that One Elusive Thing. How can you be sure that a decision to follow a dream, or your One Elusive Thing, is actually going to make you happy?
Firstly it’s important to look at the pictures and perceptions you have in your mind about that dream. Are they realistic? Are you looking at your dream holistically or just one aspect of it?
Many people dream of writing a book. They see themselves being creative, and having a successful book which can mean, fame, being seen as an expert, money and an appealing lifestyle.
What they don’t look at are the less appealing realities of writing a book: –
Hundreds of hours of unpaid, solitary work before anything can happen
Many hours editing
Inevitable rejection or direction by editors
The necessity to actively market your work as well as create it
The necessity to follow-up your work and give your audience what they want
The volumes of sales needed to make reasonable money
All these realities are going to affect a number of their needs; for example if they have high power needs they would probably find the rejection and direction by editors difficult.
The reason why people continue to procrastinate over something like this is because the process may not even be meeting their needs, never mind the end result. Or the process, i.e. the actual writing, is meeting a need but is also threatening needs at the same time. This is especially true of most creative endeavours where people can plague themselves with thoughts of not being good enough, which is a big threat to their power needs.
Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate
Bringing out that big decision, dream, or that One Elusive Thing into the clear light of day, evaluating it realistically, and against your needs analysis, can save years of messing about and not getting where you want to go. I know because this was me. I was reminded of it by a friend who was procrastinating over finishing a novel, and was exactly where I had been ten years ago. As you can see, I’m still writing, just in a different way that better meets my needs.
This life is a very precious thing and everyone has challenges along the way, but by fully understanding our needs we are much less likely to make it more difficult than it needs to be.
Thanks for reading and as always I encourage you to comment below. It’s great for a number of my needs 🙂