Cause and Success: How to Make Decisions (Easier)

Heather Furby

August 23, 2017

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Welcome back to the “Cause And Success Series” for women in the technology industry and beyond. I write for the WITI Strategist because every day I see many cause and effects in business. I want the number one effect to be your success. When it comes to causing your success, there is only ONE cause. That's you. Throughout this series, we'll look at combining mindset, skill set, and strategies that you can adapt for your success.

Last month we looked at the two simple, but not always easy, things you need to master the special needs of today's business leaders. You can read the full process in this article but for review:

You need to know your starting point.

You need to know where you are going.

These items can seem ridiculously simple which is why most of us leave it out. If you did the writing, you might have found it can be tricky to be brutally honest with yourself about your starting point and your real vision.

Your brain, your consciousness, is tricky and quick and will develop a new set of problems to avoid solving the one in front of you. It's like that friend or colleague who needs to be right all the time and will change her argument or viewpoint if it suits her goal of being right.

Your subconscious is a superpower. Its job is to keep you safe. Think of your subconscious as the overprotective parent who is always telling you that you may fall or get hurt and get dirty.

We'll explain more of the subconscious in upcoming articles and Q&A sessions. For now, if you had trouble writing your true vision or feel there is another level of inventory, you may want to consider finding a skilled executive coach, mentor, or friend who can ask questions to help you be even more honest.

Your starting point inventory and your vision are important because they allow you to create an accurate roadmap for success. If you don't have a vision, you won't know where you're going. If you don't have an accurate starting point of your skills and gaps, you'll create strategies that are either too difficult or too simplistic for your needs.

Once you have your inventory and your vision, you will find it easier to make decisions.

A Real-Life Situation

The process for decision-making is simple and straightforward but can seem esoteric without a real-life story. Before I explain the questions, here is an example from a recent client.

Sharma saw a new job open up in product management. She's worked most of her career in marketing but has always wanted to be more hands-on with her technical skills. When she first presented her problem, it sounded overwhelming.

"I'm sure I'm qualified, but I'm not sure. It pays more, but the product managers tend to work long hours. I was passed up for a promotion here so there is not much more I can do in this job . . . but what if my boss finds out and is mad at me and I don't get the other job? Is the pay worth sacrificing work-life balance? My partner says I should go for it, but I feel paralyzed in the decision. Should I wait for a better marketing job? But am I missing an opportunity? I probably need to go back for a management certificate."
Sound familiar? Yeah, at least parts of it probably do. Sharma has gotten herself into an emotional decision-making loop and could not think of what to do next.

Here is the first thing to know—you cannot think your way out of an emotional situation. The very thought process you apply is the same thought process that created the emotional situation. You need a process that keeps the emotions at a minimum. There are times and places for emotional decision-making, but we usually apply it at the wrong time, so the emotions control us rather than guide us. You want to pour your emotions into your vision, not into the critical decisions along the way.

Making Decisions (Easier)

Your vision determines every decision you make.

Yet, as we see with Sharma in the example, when making big life decisions, like changing jobs or careers, focusing on promotion, taking time off, or navigating difficult situations, it's easy to get confused. I want to break down the decision-making process into four simple questions that help to take out the emotional roller coaster.

The Four Decision-Making Questions

Is this something I want to be? To do? To have?

Is being, doing, or having this going to take me closer to my goal?

How will I need to adapt and grow to be, do, or have this?

What is possible if I become, do, or have this?

1. Is this (the thing the decision will bring) something I want to be/do/have?

To answer honestly, you must have your vision in front of you. If you have a vision you love, this is an easy question. If the answer is "No" or "I'm not sure," great, you've made your decision. Do not continue on the path! Be careful because you may immediately start doubting your vision and think "I should want this" or "Maybe my vision is off, this seems like it should be a great opportunity." Reread your vision. If it feels aligned, then walk away from the decision-making process.

If your answer is "Yes," move onto question two.

With Sharma, once she had written her vision, she knew she wanted to make more money for the next few years in something more technical, so the answer to the question is "Yes, this is something I want to be/do/have."

2. Is being, doing, or having this going to take me closer to my goal?

Again, a simple question to answer if you have your vision and know your goal.

If your answer is "No," then GREAT, you've made your decision and move on. Don't second-guess yourself or your vision. For Sharma, one of her goals was to be challenged to learn more in her work. A move to a new division would help accomplish that, so her answer was "Yes, this is taking me closer to my goal."

3. How will I need to adapt and grow to be, do, or have this?

This inventory comes into play. You need to look at what skills you need to learn to make this a reality.

Remember that overprotective parent voice we called the subconscious? It will tell you that you can't change, adapt, or grow because it's too risky, and you or others will get hurt. You will eventually learn not to give this voice much credit, but in the beginning, it's good to look at your inventory, and then list the skills you need to learn. Once you have your list, have a trusted coach, mentor, or colleague read it. Usually, there are many skills we can cross off because we already have them, or they are not needed for you to make your decision, but it's sometimes difficult to see this for yourself.

After Sharma made her list, she discovered she did not need to go back to school for another certificate, or take courses. She would learn all she needed to know on the job. What she needed was the confidence to apply!

4. What is possible if I become, do, or have this?
This question is my favorite to answer. All too often we focus on what is not possible. In my years of work with individuals with disabilities, the prevailing question is "How do we fix this person?" or "How do their limitations affect their life?"

Once we change the question to "What is possible?" we can see there are few limits and those we see are usually based on trying to rework our vision to fit what we think others expect from us.

Sharma looked at what was possible in product management: new challenges, more pay, a new division, so more opportunity for advancement, and a new set of colleagues. She applied and unfortunately did not get this job but a month later was offered a similar position, and she jumped at the chance. It turns out the hours are not that long, and she looked back and wondered how she got so emotional over a simple job offer.

This process can be applied to all situations—should I stay in my relationship? Should I quit my job? Should I put more pressure on a colleague to get his work to me on time?

The emotional roller coaster begins when we doubt our vision and skill level. Your vision will change over time; it's part of being human. Trust what you came up with, and then be relentless, and make all of your decisions with your vision in mind, and ask:

Is this something I want to be? To do? To have?

Is being, doing, or having this going to take me closer to my goal?

How will I need to adapt and grow to be, do, or have this?

What is possible if I become, do, or have this?

Next month, we'll add a new layer to your leadership with learning the short process of how to ask for what you want. It will help find new levels of success in your job as well as your relationships!

Heather Furby, creator of Cause And Success, is a business strategist and innovator in leadership development. She is director of a business leadership summer camp where adults explore and discover new levels of leadership without risking reputation, business progress, or hurting trusted teams. Results of working with Heather are accelerated profits, increased team productivity, faster decision making, and solid communication skills, but more importantly, you have fun on the journey.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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