Seven Steps to Better Decisions

Seven Steps to Better Decisions

By: Neal Goyal

The foundation of good decision-making is the acceptance of two core principles.  The first, is that we have the power to decide what we do and what we say.  The second is that we are morally responsible for the consequences of those choices.  By virtue of my past poor choices and bad decisions, both core principles were violated in every way.  While I grew up with the principles of honesty, humility, and hard work, and sound decision-making, the choices I made as a young entrepreneur took things in a completely different direction. In fact, it was the second principle that took the largest toll.  Despite being in a capacity to make things right when I could have, I failed to acknowledge that I was morally responsible for the consequences of my actions. I simplified the potential consequences, and even ignored them with the clouded belief I could make things rectify the situation all on my own.  But by virtue of maintaining this foggy view, I failed to take responsibility for what the real consequences could be.

Neal Goyal Decisions

Since arriving at camp a few years ago, I have learned so much and studied in every way possible how to make better choices and decisions.  With all that I have learned, I seek to educate and bring perspectives using my past poor choices as an illustrative guide.  While here, I also mentor and coach other peers on making positive life choices and good decisions.  I have taken all that I have learned, and see to make a positive impact on those around me. As an individual who is working each day towards earning back a second chance, I employ a six step process that guides my decision making. While I have written before on reestablishing trust and building character, I would like to share how I employ seven steps in helping me map out every decision I make.

1.  Think Ahead
Thinking ahead involves stopping the momentum of events long enough that it will permit you to analyze the situation.  More simply, stop and think.  This can be a difficult thing to do when life feels like it is moving a mile a minute.  When I was running my firm, I felt like I had the weight of the world on me with all that I wanted to accomplish.  And I made decisions instinctively and with speed.  However, when things started to go wrong, and there came a point where I need to disclose those problems, I did not stop and think of what could happen by not disclosing.  I failed to stop and think, thereby preventing me from establishing a real plan of how to get things back on track.

2.  Establish Clear Goals
Creating a roadmap of goals is key to planning for success.  This means setting long term and short term goals, and identifying milestones we need to attain in order to reach those goals.  Prioritizing those goals is equally important because it will help us understand which goals are more important than others.  In other words, which goals will satisfy my needs versus which goals will satisfy my wants?  When I was a budding trader, I had clear goals for what I wanted to achieve.  I had developed my investment strategy, which I believed to be solid.  And it really was.  But when I began investing on behalf of others, I failed to identify realistic short term goals.  It was as if I wanted to be an overnight success.  My goal-mapping was way off base. So when I realized that none of my goals were coming to fruition, I took those failure to heart and let them affect the way I viewed myself, thereby altering my decision making.

3.  Identify the Facts
Making intelligent choices comes from knowing all the facts.  There are many factors that go into identifying the facts.  For instance, how reliable is the source of the information?  Is their a valid basis that supports those facts? Are these facts based on assumptions?  What are the different perspectives surrounding certain facts?  All of these questions are key in aggregating the information we need to make a good decision.  When I made decisions in my firm each day, I often made choices spontaneously.  In fact, being in the stock market, this often worked to my advantages as traders were rewarded for speed and quick intuition.  However, when it came to the hard operational issues I needed to addresses, I made decisions based on assumptions, not facts.  I believe by reporting a lost to my investors, they would think I am failure, and would not give me a chance to prove myself.  I believed it would be the end of my firm.  All of these notions were based on assumptions that were likely not true.  As a result, the choices I made were based on partial facts, making sound decision making nearly impossible.

4.  Develop Options
After the facts have been assembled, it is important to understand all of the options that exist.  This means exploring all possibilities and understanding what paths you can take. When I made unethical choices early on, I evolved into a single-tracked mind.  I developed a tunnel vision of the problem I was trying to rectify, but did so without evaluating all the options.  One of the real options was to seek help, and come clean with the misreporting I had done. But because I blinded myself to that option, I never made the choice to act accordingly.

5.  Consider the Consequences
When making a decision, we must consider all the consequences of such a decision.  This include identifying the stakeholders and how the decision is likely to affect other people.  This was the single largest misstep during the tenure of my firm.  I believed in my heart that I would be able to fix the growing hole in my firm with time.  I had every desire to do so.  But by virtue of being dishonest with my choices and concealing my growing problem, I completely neglected the consequences of what could happen. Whether it was the harm to investors, jeopardizing my family, or tarnishing the values I grew up with, I did not stop and think of what those true consequences could be.

6.  Choose
It’s time to make the decision.  You have planned ahead, taken in all the facts, established goals, and understand the consequence of the various choices. More importantly, you have considered whether this decision coincides with your character and morals.  Once you choose, have faith that you made the right choice.  I was generally an efficient decision maker.  But that did not mean I was GOOD at decision making.  Many times, I skipped some of the steps I noted above when making a decision.  But if these steps are followed, more often than not we will make the right choice.

7.  Evaluate the Decision
Once you make your decision, the process is not over.  Because as things play out, there could be adjustments we need to make for situations we may not have foreseen.  Or, despite having all the facts, and following the steps in making a decision, we learn that our choice was still the wrong choice.  During this step, we monitor our decision and make changes if need be.  When I made the decision to misrepresent the figures I reported to investors, I not only skipped most of these steps, but even when I saw the problem becoming worse, I did not stop to reevaluate. I actually kept making more bad decisions with the belief things would play out as they should.  Had I stopped to evaluate my initial decision early on, like I had the opportunity to do so on many occasions, I would have been able to mitigate the catastrophe, and get everything back on track. Since I have been in, I have had the opportunity to reflect how my decision making was flawed in every way.  I was stubborn, proud, and too hungry for success.  I allowed my decisions to be made with few facts, lots of assumptions, and did not stop to think of what the consequences could be.  But I have learned so much from these experiences, and apply these skills with the peers I mentor each day.  It gives me tremendous fulfillment that I can not only help myself become a better decision maker, but I can help others do the same.

As I look to the future, I am humbled by all that I do not know.  I take every opportunity to learn more and better myself.  My past poor decisions are not just a thing of the past.  In fact, those past poor choices are at the forefront of my thought process each and every day.  Every step I take is guided by identifying what the consequences of my future actions could be.  Yes, it slows me down.  But it also allows me to have a much more well-rounded approach when making decisions.  Now more than ever, I have confidence in my own decision making.  As I plan to be back home again someday, I look forward to teaching these same skills to my children.

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