- Decisions spring from a desire to achieve a hitherto unattained goal
- Values, Priorities, Beliefs and Habits.
- Habits are what make or break our freedom of action
Gopal C. Dorai, Ph.D., is an Economist and Statistician.
Gopal C. Dorai, Ph.D., specialization is in the areas of
Labor Migration and
Dorai is an expert on current economic / financial issues facing business and civic organizations.
Professor of Economics (Emeritus), Dr. Dorai has authored articles and monographs on various topics in economics and finance.
Professor Dorai provides programs on topics of general economic interest to the layman and specialist.
A decision usually involves making a choice to do or not to do something. The purpose of a decision is to take some action to achieve a well-defined goal.
This means that one has to know exactly what one wants to achieve.
A precise, well-defined and (preferably) measurable goal helps to choose what course of action befits a particular decision.
Decisions spring from a desire to achieve a hitherto unattained goal such as: pursuing a new career, buying or selling assets, entering into a new contractual obligation, getting married or divorced, running for political office, visiting a foreign country, or asking a friend for a favor.
All such decisions are based on a four-pronged tool-kit: our Values, Priorities, Beliefs and Habits.
Many strongly held “values” underlie our basic approach to making any choice in life.
Values are derived from what one holds as dear and important guiding principles for the conduct of life.
They define our entire purpose in life—principles which we are unwilling to compromise.
For example, vegetarians usually will not eat meat products, no matter how hungry they feel.
One who adheres to the truth will not compromise even when not doing so can benefit them financially or otherwise.
Cheating or lying for the sake of obtaining favorable treatment from others will be anathema to some people.
The desire for fame or fortune cannot induce such folks to give up on their deeply held value system.
Priorities help us to choose among competing goals in life, all of which seem very compelling or desirable.
Most of us want good health, wealth, peace of mind, a fulfilling professional career, a happy family life, nice homes, good vacations, and a care-free retirement.
These are all, no doubt, very desirable things in life—but often we are forced to pick and choose among them because we cannot have them all simultaneously.
Which of these do we really consider most important?
Often, we will be called upon to choose one of them over another, or some of them will have to be given up at different stages in life. Such difficult choices define who we are and what we are willing to give up, to achieve those with the highest priority.
Similarly, our Beliefs can help or hurt (hinder) what we want to accomplish. Our cherished beliefs—religious, ethical, moral, political, economic and social—circumscribe what we may be willing to do or accept, to get what we want.
For example, people who believe in one superstition or another (regardless of their logic or validity or rationality) will be unable to do certain things. Even though a decision may require us to take a certain action, we are unable or unwilling to do this because of our rightly or wrongly held beliefs.
Often, we become willing prisoners of these beliefs and sadly, most of us are unable to recognize or admit to ourselves how such strongly held beliefs limit our freedom of action. In any case, unless we are willing to examine our belief system, we are limited by their strong hold (influence) on our psyche.
Habits are the result of many diverse factors—genes, environmental influences, our upbringing, many real or imaginary psychological hang-ups—acquired and learnt through repeated exercises over many years.
Everything we do in life, including making decisions and executing them, are profoundly influenced by our habits. Unless we recognize their importance and consciously try to change them (which is very difficult to do), we operate under the influence of habits which may help or hinder the decision making process.
Our habits are ingrained in our behavior and attitudes. Therefore, they form the cornerstone of our actions.
Our desire to pursue a new goal, or get rid of an unwanted or undesirable relationship, involves many choices.
Each choice or alternative course of action has several costs and benefits associated with it.
Our goal is to assess the entire gamut of their relative costs and benefits as best as we can.
What are the various alternative courses of action available to achieve our goal?
Where do we find information about them?
How can we assess their usefulness?
Which of these will best suit our chosen Values, Priorities, Beliefs and Habits?
Which action will minimize the costs and maximize the benefits?
Searching for the relevant information and assessing its usefulness is the first step in this process.
This is the crux of all decision making exercises.
Having then chosen a certain course of action, we should find a suitable strategy to execute it. Depending on the problem, the decision maker may personally execute the chosen act, or delegate it to someone else.
Discipline, determination, vigor, patience and perseverance are needed to accomplish the task at hand. This requires constant monitoring, and occasionally revising the chosen strategy.
The resources needed to do so may involve time, money, effort and other ingredients—depending on the task. These must be marshaled, and put into place. Some amount of reviewing, and revision may be called for, as circumstances warrant.
If all this is done according to plan, one can wait for the expected results to emerge. If unexpected events or circumstances disrupt our actions, the decision can be delayed or aborted, if this is at all possible.
A good decision is one which the decision maker can be proud of, regardless of whether the results were favorable or not, successful or otherwise.
As long as we have done our homework sincerely, and put forth the necessary effort, the decision is a good one.
Just because the results of the decision are unsatisfactory, or less than what was expected, does not make the decision a bad one.
Similarly, sheer luck or unexpected favorable outcomes do not turn a poor decision into an exemplary one (post hoc)!
Decisions should not be judged by their results alone, but by the effort, clarity and sound analysis with which they were undertaken.
When good decisions do not bear the expected results, we should learn from our mistakes. Some decisions are bound to fail, regardless of how much effort was put into them.
This is an opportunity to learn.
Previous mistakes help us to avoid them in the future. This is a continuous learning experience.
No one can always make the right decision, every time.
(1) We require a clear idea of what we want to accomplish;
(2) A sincere willingness to search for alternative courses of action;
(3) Evaluation of their relative costs and benefits;
(4) Choosing a particular course of action consistent with our Values, Priorities, Beliefs and Habits;
(5) Executing the chosen action with a viable strategy;
(6) Reviewing, monitoring and pursuing the decision with determination and patience;
(7) Waiting for the expected results;
(8) Enjoying or suffering the consequences of the decision and learning from our (good or bad) experiences.
Only time can disclose whether the decision was right or wrong.
The decision maker can never be sure whether the chosen action will deliver the expected results.
A past decision should not be judged solely by the results achieved.
At times, a good, well-thought out and well-executed decision may fail to deliver the expected (good) harvest, while an ill-considered choice may prove to be surprisingly beneficial.
Often, nature or circumstances beyond one’s control intervenes between execution and fruition.
Decision making is a life-long process, and continues from birth or death. It is a learning experience, full of opportunities for trial and error.
Our decisions can make or break our lives.
One must be willing to accept responsibility for the consequences of our decisions, whether or not the results are good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant.
Even the most well-thought-out actions may sometimes turn out to be duds.
Taking ultimate responsibility for one’s decisions, especially when they have unfavorable results, is the hallmark of a good leader.
Making mistakes and learning from them, is the essence of an educated decision maker.
Life is a one-way-street; we cannot turn the clock back; similarly, blaming someone else for our poor judgment is counter-productive and a waste of time.
Good decisions can be torpedoed by poor execution; therefore, to be effective, we must follow up our choices with perseverance and determination.
Decisions cannot be judged by results alone; but by the clarity of purpose and sound judgment underlying the choices we make in life.
Some decisions have the power to make or break our life—therefore, we must use the utmost care in the choices we make.
Fortunate indeed are those who cultivate: foresight, insight and acquire the requisite knowledge to make wise decisions.
Reminder: Nothing in life is as important as our decisions in determining our Quality of Life.