How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work

Brothers Dan and Chip Heath (Made to Stick, Switch) have a new book out: Decisive – How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work.

In Decisive, the Heaths introduce a four-step process designed to counteract the array of biases and irrationality that disrupt our decisions.

Here are some of my notes from the lecture Dan Heath gave on his recent book tour stop in Houston.

  • What we don’t need when making decisions is more complexity
  • What we do need is a process for decision making.
  • The four villains of decision making are:
    •  Narrow-framing
    • Confirmation Bias
    • Short-term Emotion
    • Over Confidence
  • To combat narrow-framing widen your options (don’t look at decisions from a binary vantage point)
    • Don’t make “whether or not” decisions
    • If there’s only one option we’ll rationalize away all the flaws
    • When there are 2 viable options we’re more likely to examine from a neutral point-of-view
  • Instead of confirming your bias… reality test your options
    • We often seek reassurance, not the truth
    • Ask yourself, “What is the biggest obstacle to success?”
    • Test options; don’t guess. The answers are in the world, not in our heads.
  • Instead of trusting your gut, which is typically short-term and emotional get some distance from your decision
    • Turn up the long-term volume; turn down the short term
    • Look at your life from a mountain top
      • What would you do?
      • Your short-term emotions (anxiety, etc.) often distorts your decision-making
    • Ask yourself, “What would you tell your best friend to do?”
  • Don’t be overconfident about how the future will work out; prepare to be wrong
    • You need trip wires (something to make you come back and revisit the decision) to remind you have a choice in your actions (don’t live life on auto-pilot)
    • Bolder decisions very well might be the best ones

In summary, you should find comfort knowing you have more options, you’ve tested those options, you’ve gotten some distance from the decision and you’ve set-up some trip wires in order to periodically revisit the decision you made.

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