A Sound Decision Making Process

Sid

In my last blog, I deliberated on the need for a decision making process. It is immensely valuable. Now that it is out of the way, we focus our energy on crafting a personal decision making process.

Following are some points personal to my process

Decision Journal — No process starts without writing. If you are just thinking and spending time in your head you are just wasting your time. If you think, you will exactly remember facts, assumptions, your context, your mood, feelings in making the decisions you are fooling yourself. Humans are meaning making machines. All of our mind have a deep need to make patters and if we are not writing about our consequential decisions we will later twist it to make ourselves feel good rather than focus on learning.

The main idea of decision making process is to enhance focus on us and variables in our control and not outcomes. Thus writing is where the process starts.

A decision journal is an entry point for me to craft my decision making process. I used it to decide if I need to go for a Gall-bladder surgery or not, I use it to decide if I want to go back to corporate or not. I used it to decide if I want to marry my wife or not! Any significant decision in my life is made only after it has found it’s place in my journal. It took me a lot of discipline and humility to start this habit. I am glad about it. I fumble more than I would like however it is part of the process.

To start with, I do the decision making journaling in two parts

  1. Free flow writing about insights throughout the day. I just jot down what comes to me. Evernote is my best friend for this.
  2. Dedicated Deep work sessions for in-depth reflections
  3. Having a tentative timeline to decide. I am comfortable in pushing decisions as far as possible. I believe in crossing the bridge when I come there. If I am not required to make any decision I don’t make it fearing FOMO or opportunity cost. My guiding value is personal fulfilment. I have limited desire for accolades!
  4. Once the in-depth framework is laid out and time line in mind, I forget about it. This gives space for insights and intuition. This avoids analysis paralysis. I keep going back to add these thoughts in the note. I actively invite criticism and different opinions during this time. Again, a very humbling and difficult process. My wife uses this as an opportunity to shatter my ego!
  5. When the time to decide has come, I again do a Deep Work session without any distraction focusing only on this. I go through everything again. Try and write down with my hand on paper, imagine various scenarios, noticing how am I feeling and how is my body doing and then decide.
  6. If possible rather than making long period commitments. I start with small bite-sized actions and projects. Kind of like MVP. This gives opportunity for real time feedback and exploration.
  7. Letting go and reviewing is important. What was decided is gone now. My reviews are ad-hoc and free flowing as per my moods. I have started to set-up some dedicated time for them. Let’s see how they go.

Once the habit is set in, it is important to contemplate what to reflect upon and write about. Following are some points around that. I don’t go through each point mechanically during each decision. They are just guiding points. I just refer them and them go free-flow on what occurs to me.

  1. Writing down a problem/challenge question. What am I looking at. Then coming up with few more ways of seeing the situation. Asking few more questions. The problem which looked like should I go for Gallbladder surgery? was also about what is my relationship with suffering and pain? (I was taking Ayurvedic medicine for Gall-bladder stones. Ayurveda has no medicine for pain. So when a gallbladder attack came, I had no option to tolerate excruciating pain. A normal pain killer is 100–150 mg. I used to take 600 mg with no benefit! You cant imagine being in this pain. You have to only experience it. This lens of pain and suffering has immensely helped me in my spiritual progress. There are always multiple ways to look!
  2. Write about the context in which you are making the decision
  3. Try and reflecting on it in multiple moods, intentions. Different places and times.(morning, evening etc.)
  4. What you expect to happen, why you expect it to happen and how you feel about taking this option both physically and emotionally!
  5. Clearly identify constraints and options. Actively imagining multiple scenarios. What needs are fulfilled and mourned in each scenario
  6. One important thing for me is to not rush to judgements and decisions. Give space for intuition. Never let urgency fool you. Most decisions unless medical emergency will have few hours if not days. Write. Forget it and go for a walk/meditation and come back to decide!
  7. Reflect on — Is this decision out of long term fulfilment or short term fear or pleasure? Is this done for accolades?
  8. Are you too tied to the outcome? Is it time to hit pause?
  9. What are the beliefs from which you are operating? What are the boundaries of your beliefs? Keep also a keen eye on your narrative. Can you think of multiple narratives?
  10. Notice how did your body do in your bite sized project after decision is made? Real love for work, sincere love is an infinite source of energy it keeps feeding you!
  11. What are the second and third-order consequences. Asking ‘So What’
  12. What is the worst-case scenario and why that’s ok
  13. What does this look like in 5 weeks, 5 months, 5 years?
  14. Who is the best person to make this decision — How will a child, musician and a billionaire think about this?
  15. Involve others to play devil’s advocate

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