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From Overthinking to Clarity: 3 Techniques to Help You Master The Art of Decision Making

Making decisions is an integral part of our daily lives, impacting both personal and professional spheres.

This blog captures some key elements discussed in a recent workshop, offering practical advice to enhance your decision-making skills.

In my twenty years in the police service, I was making decisions all day, every day. I learned to think, assess and respond quickly, and yet I also learned when I needed to take my time to assess and reflect before making a decision.

As a parent, I have had to make decisions that have impacted the future of myself and my son and as he has got older helped guide and support him to make his own decisions and learn the art of decision-making.

There is an art to decision-making. We can use strategies and frameworks to help us reflect and review, which can often help us structure the decision. Some decisions will be more logical, others more emotional and having different tools in the toolkit to help us make decisions can be incredibly helpful.

In addition to our strategies for making decisions, we also need to be aware of our mindset which will influence how we make those decisions, and have the confidence to make that final decision and take the necessary action to put the decision into action.

two silhouetted feet standing behind 3 white arrows on a blue background
Where Will Your Decisions Take You?

Techniques for Effective Decision-Making

During the workshop, several techniques were highlighted to help individuals make more informed and balanced decisions. These included:

The Values Triangle Technique:

Use a triangle to display your top 3 core values. Where does your decision sit within the triangle? Does it equally align with all your core values? Which value is out of alignment? What adjustments can you make to change or adapt to help it align?

When you assess how your decisions align with your core beliefs, you are confirming that the choice is consistent with the fundamental values and standards that are important to you. This method entails a more profound examination of the alternatives rather than a strictly rational analysis.

  • Ideal for making quicker decisions by focusing on aligning choices with core values.

  • Helps in reducing emotional bias and preventing overthinking.

The Roundabout Technique:

Draw a roundabout on a sheet of paper, or a flip chart or whiteboard if doing this with others.

On the roundabout draw several exits to represent each option available to you. Use each exit to map out what would happen if that option was decided.

Consider what other options this may lead to. Where would this option take you in terms of outcome? If completing this technique with others ensure that you capture the observations from everyone in the group. It also allows both the logical options to be explored as well as the benefits, risks, concerns, and opportunities to be captured.

  • Encourages visualisation to map out different options and potential outcomes.

  • Useful for individuals who rely on visual aids to process information.

Second-Order Thinking:

When you use second-order thinking, you are considering the consequences of the initial decision. One useful method is to always ask yourself, "What will happen as a result of this?" Then, make sure to record both the positive and negative potential outcomes.

Most people consider the immediate outcome when making a decision. Second-order thinking pushes past this into 'what happens next' and considers what that then may lead to. It is equally balanced in that it considers both the positive and negative potential outcomes and can help the decision-maker to consider what may or may not happen further down the line.

It is recommended to ask these questions in order to predict 2 or 3 possible outcomes resulting from the decision. If you like visual tools, combining this approach with the 'Roundabout Technique' enables you to use each exit to map out primary, secondary, and tertiary considerations.

  • Involves considering the long-term consequences of a decision beyond the immediate effects.

  • Encourages looking at both positive and negative outcomes over time.

The Importance of Visual Techniques

Visualisation techniques, play a crucial role in decision-making. They allow individuals to see the broader picture and assess different routes and their implications.

Taking a moment to imagine your desired goals and envisioning the future results you aim for can assist you in making a decision. By defining what you desire, and how you want it to appear, feel, and be, before evaluating your choices, you establish a clear vision of the desired decision outcome.

By writing things down and mapping them visually, complex decisions become more manageable and easier to explain to others.

Balancing Personal and Professional Decisions

Whether you are making decisions in your personal or professional life, the decision-making process can often be similar. While decisions in our personal lives are often emotionally driven, it is crucial to bring our entire selves into our professional lives as well. Therefore, it is important to ensure that while the outcome may need to align with business requirements, we should also align our values and principles in the approach we take to achieve that outcome.

Different techniques can be applied to various aspects of life.

Person standing at a junction with a blue arrow pointingleft and a red arrow pointing right with a hill in front and a red flag on top

The Evolution of Decision-Making Perspectives

In the workshop, we discussed how historical perspectives on decision-making often viewed choices as permanent and unchangeable. However, contemporary society offers more flexibility:

When we reflect on how decisions have been made in the past we notice that decisions were often seen as lifelong commitments, such as careers or marriage.

I know that when I was leaving education the general rule of thumb was that you chose your career and that is what you did until you reached retirement age. It was the same with marriage. There was a sense of judgment around changing jobs, or divorce. Success was measured by the longevity of your career, relationship and owning a home.

Times have changed. Society has changed, and what people perceive as successful is changing. Decisions are now viewed as more flexible and revisable.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of fulfilment and purpose, leading many to reconsider and change their life choices.

When we consider the current challenges we face, job insecurity, high levels of redundancy, and cost of living crisis this impacts the ability for people to even achieve what we previously measured as successful, and so that is changing behaviour and therefore the way we make decisions.

Practical Tips for Implementing Decision-Making Strategies

  • Avoid framing decisions as “right” or “wrong.” Instead, focus on making the “best” decision based on current knowledge.

  • Recognise that decisions can be changed as new information becomes available.

  • Use visualisation and clear communication to explain decisions to others, making the process more transparent and understandable.

Making Decisions with Confidence

By applying these techniques, you can make more informed, flexible, and confident decisions in both your personal and professional life.

Remember, the best decision is one made with the information available at the time, and it’s okay to adjust your choices as you learn and grow.

Embrace these strategies, practice them regularly, and watch your decision-making skills flourish.


For more on this topic, check out our free monthly workshops HERE 

You can also get your FREE Download 'How to Live a Life That Aligns With What is Important to You' HERE

If you would like to talk through how Coaching can help you with the tools, mindset and confidence to achieve success, then you can book a free consultation call here.  

Stay connected for more blogs and free resources to help you with the tools and confidence to reach your full potential.


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