“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”- Stephen Covey
Decision making is rarely a rational exercise. We hardly ever have the complete information available to us. It is usually irrational, with an overlay of rationality to give us inner comfort and at least a sense of order to calm our troubled mind!.
As you accumulate experience over time, you learn to depend less on the objective side of decision-making and more on the intuitive side, until it becomes a habit.
In a difficult decision making environment, it may be hard to discern between emotion and intuition. I believe intuition is drawn from the accumulation of previous similar experiences that enable us to recall lessons or extrapolate results in a way that gives us additional guidance. Whereas, emotional decisions are based on human nature and undisciplined forces, that trigger negative behaviors. With personal experience, the difference between the two will become more clear to you.
Trusting our gut does not come easily since we are often overwhelmed by human nature (for example, fight or flight response) or become frozen by indecision (fear). In addition, we may use confirmation basis to seek out more information to justify the decision, rather than trusting our own experiences and gut.
It is not something that comes to us easily, as we need evidence that our intuition will help us through trial and error, so, with time, we determine after the fact whether or not it worked. We use this feedback to improve our intuition once again.
Don’t be hard on yourself if you have not really developed a high level of intuitive decision making yet. Just be mindful of it over time, develop confidence in your inner strong voice as you trust it to help you make decisions.
How do you go about doing that practically? Do the following:
Start small: Get into the habit of making rapid decisions on small, matter-of-fact items, so you start to build confidence. Don’t overthink any small decision, just respond rapidly, particularly if you have a strong feeling about the decision. This will give you fast feedback and accumulated experience.
Be positive: Fear heightens our insecurities or negativity, forcing us to seek more certainty when it may not exist. Stay positive, and intuition will rise up within you more naturally. To become more courageous, do the thing you fear and the death of fear will be certain (Mark Twain).
Be aware: Be more aware of how you feel, your psychology or mindset, when making important decisions, and then determine how much of the feeling is rooted in fear or courage.
Don’t over analyze: Go with the best information you have in the time available, and then move forward. Over analyzing will drown out you’re your inner voice and sow the seeds of doubt and uncertainty.
If you go with intuition and it doesn’t work out, try to figure out what was it that let you down. Seek to understand and take the time to make improvements. Like any good habit, it takes continuous practice, over a long period of time, to make it stick. Intuition is one of those soft areas that can be critical in decision making, and understanding it can really help make us avoid making material and costly failures, ultimately making us better business leaders.
Eamonn has a B. Eng. (Electrical) from Lakehead University, MBA (Finance) from University of Toronto, and has completed Executive Education at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He lives in Vancouver, Canada. Follow him on twitter @EamonnPercy