How to Consistently Make Good Decisions

Posted by Todd Smith

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In Our Lives Are Mirror Images of the Little Decisions We Make, I talked about the hundreds of little choices we make each day that play a crucial role in every part of our lives. These choices were defined as “either/or” choices, such as Do I get up and exercise as I had planned, or do I sleep in and skip exercising? Today, you’ll discover a fast and easy way to consistently make great decisions. It’s as simple as answering two questions:

  • What are the facts?
  • What are my options?

The Two-Step Formula

Let me tell you a story about how I used this formula to solve a series of problems.  It was late one night as I was returning from a presentation in Miami.  Preoccupied with the events of the day, I failed to check my gas gauge.

As I was traveling the 75-mile stretch of Alligator Alley that crosses the Everglades, my car choked and died.  This is not a good place to be stranded, especially late at night.  There is only one exit and this road has the reputation of being a dangerous stretch because of thugs hanging out just waiting for a traveler like me.

What should I do?  As I always do when faced with such a decision, I asked myself two questions!

Question #1:

What are the facts?

I ran out of gas and the closest exit was at least 15 miles away.

Question #2:

What are my options?

This question is the key to making great decisions and the most important takeaway from today’s lesson. After gathering the available facts, you ask yourself, “What are my options?” Here is the key to this step: you must be creative and consider every possibility before making your decision.

Back to Alligator Alley… these were my options:

  • Since I am a member of AAA, I could call them.
  • Since I am a member of my car company’s roadside service program, I could call them.
  • I could hitchhike to the closest exit.
  • I could walk to the closest emergency call box on the side of the road and phone for help.
  • I could call the Florida highway patrol and seek their help.
  • I could call the Florida Road Rangers, who offer roadside assistance to distressed motorists.

In this situation, I didn’t want to take any chances or count too heavily on one option, so I immediately called AAA, my car company’s roadside program, the Florida highway patrol, and the Florida Road Rangers, and I called for help from the emergency roadside phone. I did everything except hitchhike because of the risks involved. One might think that I overdid it by selecting almost all of my options. But pursuing multiple options can be an important part of your decision-making process. It certainly was on Alligator Alley.

One hour passed.  Although the Florida highway patrol said they were sending an officer, they never showed up.  AAA told me repeatedly that help was on the way, but none showed up. My car company’s roadside service truck never showed up, and no one answered the phone from the emergency roadside phone.

Finally, a Florida Road Rangers’ truck showed up. Great news, right?  No, because as he got out of the truck he locked the door with his keys, phone, and radio in the truck. Although the gas cans were easily accessible in the back of the truck, he refused to give me gas because he feared I would leave him alone alongside the road by himself.

Understanding the new facts of the situation, I now had another decision to make, so I asked, “What are my options?”

  • I could sit back and wait for one of the people I previously called to show up.
  • I could call everyone again and speak to his or her superiors.
  • I could go back to the emergency box and continue to try to reach someone.
  • I could persuade the Florida Road Ranger to break a window in his truck.

The first three options again brought no results. Another hour passed. My only option left was to try to convince the truck driver to break his window.  After offering him $100, he accepted my payment and broke his window.

In making the first decision, if I had stopped with the most obvious options, I would never have thought about calling the Florida Road Rangers, and after two hours no one would have shown up.  When making the second decision, if I had not considered all my options, I would never have thought about offering him $100 to break his window.

Make Great Decisions Every Time

After using this simple two-question decision-making process for more than 10 years, it is now part of my DNA. Every time I have a decision to make, I immediately ask myself two questions:  1) What are the facts? 2) What are my options?  Of the thousands of decisions I have made using this formula, I have found the right decision is almost always obvious.

When you are next faced with making a decision, ask yourself “What are the facts?” and “What are my options?” Then analyze your results. As you begin using this basic formula, you will seldom make a bad decision. If you do, it will generally be a result of you not taking the time to consider all your options.

Tomorrow, we will take this subject to the next level as I share with you how to go about making critical decisions.

If you analyze the facts, consider your options, and be creative in your thought process, you will consistently make GREAT decisions.

About the Author:

Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 43 years and founder of Little Things Matter. This blog contains over 200 of his timeless life lessons.

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