Decision Making: How to Get Results Without ‘Resulting’ - Hope 103.2

Decision Making: How to Get Results Without ‘Resulting’

When we strengthen our decision making, we are better able to objectively accept our decisions, even if the result is not what we hoped for.

By City Bible ForumFriday 5 May 2023LifeReading Time: 6 minutes

In my work as a project manager, I am often tasked with making decisions with limited information and plenty of uncertainty.

Like a detective investigating a crime, I walk into meetings hoping to interview all the witnesses, gather the evidence and come to a conclusion.

On a good day, I’ll send out meeting minutes which contain a summary of the key points.

For most of us however, day-to-day life doesn’t usually follow the plot line of a whodunnit.

The crime isn’t always solved, the loose ends remain loose.

Despite our best efforts, we inevitably have to make difficult decisions on the spot, with little information.

I was in the middle of making one of these decisions when I came across Annie Duke’s How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices.

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Given Annie’s background as a working mum and a professional poker player, I was immediately curious.

Are you ‘resulting’?

Imagine I was online looking for a new job.

Suppose I took the first job offered to me, and it turned out well.

I loved the team, the role suited my skills and after six months I was very happy.

Would that mean taking the job was a brilliant decision?

What if that same job was terrible, the team was toxic and my boss a micromanager.

Would that mean taking the job was a terrible decision?

“Resulting” is where we evaluate the quality of our decisions based on the outcome.

In other words: If we got the result we wanted, we assume it must be because we did something right.

If we didn’t get the result we wanted, we assume it must be because we did something wrong.

In my hypothetical example, I took the first job that was offered to me. But the result doesn’t tell us much about the quality of my actual decision-making process.

So, what was the best decision you made in the last month?

Chances are you thought of something that had a positive outcome.

What was your worst decision? Perhaps you thought about something that didn’t go so well.

In either case, you probably didn’t give much consideration to the quality of your decision-making process.

Duke says: “Often, we judge the quality of our decisions based on the outcomes they produce.”

“However, this can be misleading because sometimes even good decisions can lead to bad outcomes due to factors beyond our control.”

Or more simply: Decision + Circumstances beyond our control = Outcomes

When we judge a decision based on the outcome, are we detectives that skip the investigating process all together and jump straight to a verdict?

How can we better assess whether our choices were good?

What can we do to get better at making decisions?

Duke suggests we focus on the quality of the decision-making process itself by considering factors such as the information available to us at the time of decision, the potential outcomes (including ones that didn’t happen), and the trade-offs involved.

When I paused to consider how I tend to make decisions, I realised my decisions were about the time/accuracy trade-off.

Increasing accuracy costs time, saving time costs accuracy.

In order to determine how fast I could make a decision, I needed to work out the penalty for not getting the decision exactly right.

That’s when I realised there are really two types of decisions. Let me explain.

Analysis paralysis – sound familiar?

I don’t spend much time deciding what to wear or picking off the restaurant menu anymore.

When it comes to repeating decisions, or decisions which are low impact, the time/accuracy trade-off is obvious.

I can afford to be not very accurate because it is unlikely to affect my happiness in a week or a year.

The funny thing is, according to Duke, the average person spends 250-275 hours a year deciding what to eat, watch and wear.

But what about life’s big questions?

When does accuracy matter?

I think accuracy matters when the decision is going to affect my happiness in a year (like where I choose to work), in 20 years (like who I choose to marry) or into eternity (yes, I believe there are decisions I make that will impact me into eternity).

These are the decisions that matter, because they will have a lasting impact on our lives.

The circumstances beyond our control

Remember that hypothetical job situation earlier?

I confess, that was actually me.

I was looking for a job and took the first job I was offered.

It was the outcome I wanted, but I’m also aware there were plenty of factors outside of my control which led to it.

For example: I get along well with my new manager and team members who started after me.

Even though the outcome was positive, there were elements of my decision making that could have been improved.

Why should I bother if the outcome was positive?

Because there is an opportunity to learn and strengthen my decision-making muscle for the next time a tricky decision comes along.

Instead of congratulating myself on a positive result this time, my decision could have been improved by considering whether there was information I could gather thatwould change my decision.

I could also map out a list of possible outcomes which could eventuate or apply the time/accuracy trade-off.

You see, when we strengthen our decision-making muscles, we are better able to objectively accept our decisions, even if the result is not what we hoped for.

By focusing more on the process, and less on the result, we can improve the quality of our future high-impact decisions.

Eternal ‘Resulting’

I mentioned earlier one super high impact decision – which has to do with eternity.

As a follower of Jesus, I believe the decision one makes about him impacts our lives now and into eternity.

When it comes to eternity, I am trusting in a promise.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he [God] who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

I’m trusting that God will keep his promise – that those who have a relationship with Jesus now will transcend death and enjoy that relationship even more in a future world of perfect joy, harmony and peace.

That God will keep his promise is not without evidence.

Jesus is a real figure in human history.

There is good evidence that he lived, died and was resurrected (raised to life, never to die again) 2000 years ago.

I trust the promise of what God will do for me in the future based on what God did in raising Jesus in the past.

From God’s side, his promises are 100 per cent certain.

But from my side, I don’t need 100 per cent certainty.

I need just enough belief or trust in Jesus to want him in my life, shaping and informing every decision I make.

I can safely say that trusting Jesus with “my” eternity has been the best decision I have ever made.

Even though there are no less circumstances beyond my control, my hope is secure.

My life is full of purpose, meaning and peace.

Even when results don’t go my way, I can hold onto God’s promise because I know he won’t let me down.

It’s as though I am playing poker knowing the odds are in my favour.

So where have we landed with all of this?

How to get results – without resulting.

Thinking more about the quality of our decision-making process: the information available, potential outcomes and possible trade-offs.

In particular, thinking about the time/accuracy trade-off and when accuracy really matters.

I’ll certainly keep this in mind when I’m looking for my next job.

I may end up taking the first job offered to me, who knows.

But if I do, it won’t be without first giving consideration to the quality of my decision-making process.

Reflection questions

  • What’s the best decision you made during the last month – and the worst?
  • Does the concept of “resulting” resonate with you?
  • What are low, middle, high and super high impact decisions for you?
  • How could you give more consideration to the quality of your decision-making process?
  • What role are your values playing in your decisions?

Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.

About the author: YiQin Houston is a member of Reframe, a safe community for women to share perspectives, re-think positions and change practices, in order to grow in work and life.

Feature image: Photo by Letizia Bordoni on Unsplash