We are faced with dozens of decisions to make a day, some are small such was what to eat for breakfast, others can be life changing, should I take this job or not? In the book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work authors Chip and Dean Heath analyze our decision making process and have boiled down our normal decision making process into 4 steps:

  1. You encounter a choice. But narrow framing makes you miss options.
  2. You analyze your options. But the confirmation bias leads you to gather self-serving information.
  3. You make a choice. But short-term emotion will often tempt you to make the wrong one.
  4. Then you live with it. But you’ll often be overconfident about how the future will unfold

The Heath brothers write that the challenges we face in making decisions are

  • Forcing decisions when not needed
  • Confirmation bias, seeking information that supports our original views
  • Letting emotions or the lack there of get in the way of making decisions
  • Overconfidence in our ability to make decisions, limiting the need for alternative decisions

In order to overcome these challenges, the authors used the acronym WRAP, a 4-step process to making better decisions.

  1. Widen your options – Avoid a narrow frame by using the Vanishing Options Test. What would you do if your current options vanished? “When people imagine that they cannot have an option, they are forced to move their mental spotlight elsewhere – really move it – often for the first time in a long while.”  More options can potentially lead to better decisions, don’t lock yourself just into “do it or don’t do it” decision. Find somebody who has already solved your problem.
  2. Reality test your assumptions – Ask yourself “What would have to be true for this option to be the right answer?” This helps reset the context of the conversation in cases of different sides talking past each other. Consider the opposite so you don’t just believe in your confirmation bias. Try to disprove your assumptions instead of just trying to prove them.
  3. Attain distance before deciding – Short-term emotions can blind you into making bad decision. Separate yourself from your emotions. Before making a decision, ask yourself “What would I tell my best friend to do in this situation?”
  4. Prepare to be wrong – Develop a trip-wire, a set criteria that will force you to come back and re-evaluate the decision you made.  This will help limit your exposure to the decision in case you are wrong. Continually re-evaluate the criteria for your decision making process to be proactive instead of reactive.

The authors in Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work discuss more powerful techniques to help you make better decisions. Others that can help are

  • Prevention vs promotion focus – Understand wanting to minimize losses (prevention) and maximizing gains (promotion) and it how it affects your decision making process.
  • Zoom out/zoom in – See the decision from a big picture, general trends, and the base rate. Then zoom in to see the details more close-up and see what you can do to be better than the general trends and base rate. See what the effects are.
  • Ooching – Ooch forward by performing small experiments to test your hypothesis
  • Pre-mortems – Imagine you made the decision already, try to find out what would have gone wrong, and figure out the reasons it would have failed. Try to analyze reasons before on why the decision would have failed rather than after.
  • 10/10/10 perspective – Think of your decision and how it would affect you on three different time frames
    • How will you feel 10 minutes from now?
    • How will you feel 10 months from now?
    • How will you feel 10 years from now?

This helps you put distance between your decisions and helps you level the emotional playing field.

With so many decisions to make, it is important to make the right ones. In Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work Chip and Dan Heath through intensive research, help you find a way to make better choices, in Life and Work!