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Posted by on Dec 26, 2013 in Blog, Life |

Don’t Overemphasize the Moment of Choice

Don’t Overemphasize the Moment of Choice

I recently read an article on the Harvard Business Review website entitled “Stop Worrying About Making the Right Decision”.  Of course, the well-crafted title caught my attention.  Because of my work with leaders, I’m particularly interested in how we make decisions and what can be done to make better decisions.  The article described a mindset in decision making that places the highest emphasis on making the one ‘right’ decision out of fear of the risk of being ‘wrong’.  An inevitable outcome of this mindset is that we overemphasize the moment of choice and lose sight of everything that follows.  However, it’s what happens beyond the decision that ultimately determines whether it was ‘right.’

During my 10 years in youth ministry, I saw this mindset frequently in teens as they anguished over decisions.  While sincerely wrestling with attempts to discern “God’s will” in making a particular choice, they would often overlook their own responsibility in carrying a decision through (not to mention God’s ability to work in and through all things).  Even though none of them articulated it quite this way, their angst was built upon a fear that every decision represented a crossroads in life at which there was only one ‘right’ path.  To make an error at that crossroads would set in motion a series of undesirable consequences that was unstoppable and, perhaps, unredeemable.


The Consequences of the Wrong Focus

While I don’t see this level of angst in adult decision making, I do often witness an overemphasis on the moment of decision, which has its own consequences.  The article points out at least three:

  1. Our focus on making the “right” decision often leads to paralysis
  2. It minimizes the effort that will inevitably be required to make any option succeed
  3. Ultimately it diminishes our sense of agency and ownership

In contrast, the author references the research of Stanford professor Baba Shiv, an expert in the neuroscience of decision-making.  Professor Shiv’s research brings forth two key findings regarding decisions:

  • Successful decisions are those in which the decision-maker remains committed to their choice.
  • Emotions play a critical role in determining a successful outcome to a trade-off decision.

How Do You Make Decisions?

One of my goals for 2014 is to do some reading and research regarding decision making.  I’ll post some questions and learnings along the way.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on making decisions.  Are you prone to focusing more on the making the right decision or making the decisions you make ‘right’?  Do you have a specific process for making critical decisions?  How do you discern when to abandon a decision and when to see it through?

Share your thoughts.

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