5 steps to making better decisions

I used to hate making decisions, because it would take so long.  I would have to think about it, make pro/con lists, talk to different people.  When I evaluated my best and worst decisions, I started to see a pattern.  Here is what I learned - 

1. Go with your gut

A friend once told me to go with my first reaction - Yes or No.  That sounded very unwise at the time, but over the years, my decisions have proved her right.  I usually know whether or not I should do something.  When I try to talk myself into something else, it doesn't ever turn out well.   

Nassim Taleb in his book Antifragile explains it this way - "More data - such as paying attention to the eye colors of the people around when crossing the street - can make you miss the big truck.  When you cross the street, you remove data, anything but the essential threat.  As Paul Valery once wrote: how many things one should disregard in order to act....

"If you have more than one reason to do something (choose a doctor ... or an employee, marry a person, go on a trip), just don't do it.  It does not mean that one reason is better than two, just that by invoking more than one reason you are trying to convince yourself to do something."

So, if you have a strong gut reaction - STOP here.  

Proceed if confused...

2. Procrastinate  

If I feel really confused about an issue, once again, I shouldn't "push through" by making a pro/con list.  If I wait, the answer will usually come to me like a bolt of lightning while I'm doing something totally random (or sometimes the problem will take care of itself). 

Nassim Taleb says, "Few understand that procrastination is our natural defense, letting things take care of themselves and exercise their antifragility...Humans may have an instinct to procrastinate only when no life is in danger.  I do not procrastinate when I see a lion entering my bedroom or fire in my neighbor's library."

3. Feed your brain

In order for these more "natural" means of decision making to actually lead to a good decision, you have to be feeding your brain with good information.  If you are watching crappy TV, you will start making decisions like The Real Housewives of [pick a city].  Your brain can only work with what you give it.

4. Dabble 

Start doing stuff.  Action will give you more clarity than just sitting around and thinking about it.  Very few decisions are irreversible.  Choose something - anything - and do it.  

5. Run through the fear

This one may not be universal.  I'm not sure how your brain works.  But I have realized that if my only reason for NOT doing something is some kind of "social" fear (fear of failure, fear of looking stupid), I should do it.  Fear jumps up to block me from my most meaningful actions and interactions.