Many years ago I was coaching a client of mine, during one of our sessions he asked me: You know Jorge, I need to get better at making decisions. How can I make better ones? His thinking was a good start, but a better point of departure is to consider and start at the opposite: why are you making bad ones?
We make decisions on a day to day basis, some bigger than others. Some decisions are harder to make than others, others we do them without putting much thought into it (check out my post on why some decisions are hard to make). With so much practice under our collective belts, you would think we’re all great at making perfectly rational decisions; but we’re not.
So, what drives us to make bad decisions? There are 3 factors that drive us to make bad decisions:
Yes, you knew it was coming. The number one driver of bad decisions, and which we all fall prey to, are our emotions. Our emotions influence our decisions, and anyone who thinks they’re completely free from emotional bias is fooling themselves.
For a handful of years I spent a lot of time thinking about emotions while I was running my affective computing startup Netek. I saw how people reacted to external stimuli, both from facial microexpressions and EEG, and how their emotions influenced what they perceived and ultimately decided.
All of us who worked at Netek became more aware of our own emotions; it was something we actively talked about. With that said, you need to be aware of how your emotions influence your decisions to make better decisions. Put simply, take a step back and check yourself before making any big decisions.
Assumptions are the mother of all fuck ups. Why? The problem with assumptions is our brain makes assumptions based on prior experiences and judgment, which creates a bias when deciding. You have to understand, and be aware, that our brain is not our friend. It’s hardwired to conserve precious resources, so we tend to go with the flow and what we think and believe we know.
So before making any decisions, take the time to question your assumptions and reality test them.
Stubbornness is the ugly side of perseverance. Yet, persistence is required to achieve anything. As with anything worth doing, nothing ever goes according to plan. And stubbornnes can sometimes be confused with persistence; but they often live together.
The problem with stubbornness is impedes you from taking a step back and considering other perspectives and options, which is necessary for figuring out a path forward; persistence is what keeps you motivated to keep going and figuring it out.
They right approach is to be stubborn on goals but flexible on how you achieve them.
The WRAP Process for Making Better Decisions
Now you know why we all make bad decisions. But knowing why isn’t enough, we have actively combat what drives us to make bad decisions. To make better decisions, you have to avoid the above drivers. How? I useful framework for making better decisions is the WRAP process explained by Chip and Dan Heath in their book Decisive:
- Widen your options;
- Reality test your assumptions;
- Attain distance before deciding;
- Prepare to be wrong.
Here it is explained below…
Bottom line: Emotions, assumptions and stubbornness drives us to make bad decisions. No one is immune to making bad decisions; we all make them. Now you know why, but knowing why isn’t enough. You have to actively combat your biases.