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Robert Frost, the American Poet wrote,

“Two
roads diverged in a yellow wood,

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And
sorry I could not travel both…”

We, as human beings are left with the
predicament of choices and having to choose from them at every point in our
lives. Now, choices can prove to be extremely dodgy and abstruse. The journey
of life is replete with “diverging roads” and taking a decision or making an
informed choice become crucial to our onward journey. It could be about anything
from trivial everyday circumstances to significant life-changing decisions. Despite
the ubiquitousness of such situations most people are unaware of the fact that Decision
Making is a skill that can be developed and improved through Life Skill Education.
Comprehensive knowledge of the nuances of decision making enables one to make
proper, competitive and cogent decisions which will improve the quality of
life. It is paramount that the decisions we make bring positive changes to our
lives, for which, we should invest time and effort to cultivate and enhance our
decision making skills

 

Based on their consequences, complexity
and uncertainty, decisions can be divided into four. Decisions which can be
made by employing a charted routine and procedures are called Mechanistic
Decisions. They do not necessitate any serious contemplation or analysis from
the part of the decision maker. In most of such cases, the choices available
are limited and the consequences can most often be predetermined. The familiarity
of the situation and the limited number of decision variables associated with
it allows the decision making process to be quick, for exactly the same reason the
results of such decisions are comparatively more efficient. For example, a
housewife preparing tea is engaged in the process of Mechanistic Decision
making when she sets the stove to a particular flame or adds a particular
quantity of milk and water. On the contrary, when there is a complex situation
involving a large number of decision variables with a different and
unpredictable outcome associated with each choice, Mechanistic Decision making
fails. The best course of action when faced with such a situation is to analyze
the given problem piecemeal, weigh each given option against the individual and
personal circumstances juxtaposed against the preferred result and choose the
best alternative. In addition, an integration of different minor decisions
could also give a desirable outcome. Such decisions are called Analytical
Decisions. For example, complex problems related to the manufacturing sectors, questions
involving the organisational structure of big companies etc. rely on this
method. Due to the complexity of the problem and the large number of decision
variables involved, this kind of decision making requires great care, caution
and critical thinking.

           

Most instances of decision making
involve a number of options to choose from. But in certain circumstances the
number of options available will be limited and the outcomes of each of them are
unknown and unpredictable. Inspite of the uncertainty of outcomes, you have to
make a decision. Such decisions are called Judgmental Decisions. In order to
get the desired result and minimize damages to the decision maker, good
judgement is imperative to this process. The best example of Judgemental
Decisions is investing money in share markets which can be described as
mercurial at best. But in the case of Adaptive Decisions, the decision maker
has to adapt to the changing situations and choose the best from the decision variables
albeit unknown and unpredictable consequences. Usually the large number of
available options in such situations can leave the person in disarray. Creative
and constructive advice from people with extensive knowledge in the respective
field when considered in conjunction with personal preferences will help make a
level-headed choice. For example, a person confronted with a choice between
research and a job, research maybe his cup of tea but circumstances may compel
him to take up a job in the immediate future, he is thus obliged to adapt to
the situation.

          

Depending on the whether you can
rollback a decision or not, they maybe Reversible or Irreversible. The decisions
which cannot be changed in a lifetime are called Irreversible Decisions and
those which can be changed are Reversible Decisions. Major life changing
decisions belong to the former and minor insignificant decisions belong to the
latter category. For example, you have decided to buy some oranges but when you
approach the vendor you find that the oranges are not good enough, here you have
the choice of reversing or changing your decision. When it comes to choosing a
career, the decisions taken at most times are irreversible, the results of
which the decision maker will have to live with throughout his lifetime. On a
different note, decisions can at times be Experimental. Relying more on
emotions and desires rather than rational, logical judgement such decisions are
mostly made by individuals with a penchant for risk-taking. This is especially
true of adolescents who resort to smoking or doing drugs just to satisfy their
curiosity or by succumbing to peer pressure.

 

Sometimes you are forced to take chances
while making decisions. Though there is no certainty about the effectiveness of
a particular decision you may be left with no choice than to take a chance and anticipate
a positive outcome. Such decisions are called Trial and Error Decisions. A
child learning to cycle for the first time is working on a trial and error
decision. Here the decision maker is willing to accept the repercussions of his
decision. Great caution needs to be exercised while making certain decisions;
such decisions are called Cautious Decisions. Though this type of decision may
appear innocuous at first, it may create problems later in time. For example,
borrowing money from others or availing bank loans may sound good and appear harmless
but may prove to be potentially harmful in the future. The borrower could be
left at his wit’s end repaying the loans and may meet with a vexatious end. Conditional
Decisions are another category of decisions. They are decisions made subject to
certain conditions. Such decisions normally involve the scope to cancel or
rescind the decision if it proves to be futile or the results are undesired.
For example, you buy a shirt for your friend on the condition that you are able
to return it if it is not of the right size.

 

Some circumstances demand human
manoeuvring with the result of Quick Decisions or Delayed Decisions. Both
are effective in specific situations especially with regard to the preferred
consequences. Decisions
made after a deliberate delay for a short while are called Delayed Decisions. Delaying
decisions can aid you to successfully overcome deplorable cravings and bad
tendencies. Decisions on marriage proposals are often delayed to avoid careless
and hasty mistakes. Thus, delaying decisions buys you time to save yourself
from incurring heavy losses or getting entangled in jeopardizing situations. Quick
decisions on the other hand are most often taken in the nick of time due to the
pressure of a situation. Latest hiring processes in the corporate sector often
employ behavioural interview questions which demand a quick response or
decision from the candidate; it is often used to gauge a candidate’s critical
thinking ability.

 

Decisions taken in the field of business
are often called Managerial Decisions; they can be extended to three
situations. According to P.F.Drucker, “whatever a manager does, he does through
making decisions.”  When the decision
maker is conscious of the outcome of each possible alternative, it is a decision
made under Certainty. Here there is no chance of risk, everything happens in
line with the expectations of the decision maker. In management and related
fields, Decision Making under Risk is a routine.  Here the decision maker is aware of the
decision variables and is willing to accept the consequences of his
decisions.  Next is Decision Making under
Uncertainty, this is out of question, the most difficult one. Here an uncertain
decision brings forth potential outcomes and the relative probability of each
outcome is unknown. Business firms often employ the technique of Group
Discussions when it comes to making decisions especially in matters related to
firms, companies, organisations and institutions. According to E. Frank Harrison,
group decisions are most often superior to individual decisions. There is a
greater cumulative knowledge working on a problem in group decisions and hence
the problem is approached and tackled in a broader perspective. However there
are certain demerits too. Groups often work more slowly than individuals and
needs considerable compromises from individual members. It might also happen
that the process of decision making gets sabotaged or dominated by a single
individual or a lobby and the group may fail to deliver a quality solution
within the stipulated time period.

       

The process of decision making can be
hard at times. Usually people rely on their intuitions to make decisions. Some make
decisions with the help of astrologers and there are some who seek the help of friends
and relatives. Nevertheless making decisions by resorting to critical analysis
and rational thinking will transform our lives and ensure success. Effective
decision making involves the following steps. First and foremost is identifying
the purpose of your decision. You can picture the problem in your mind and
introspect whether there is a need for making a decision to solve the problem.
Once the problem is understood in detail, the next step is gathering
information regarding the available choices or decision variables or alternatives.
The next step involves judging the alternatives in terms of values and
responsibilities. At this stage the opinions of knowledgable and experienced
persons can be sought after. Brainstorming follows this. The best way to go
about brainstorming is to let loose your imagination; practicality, common
sense and any kind of judgement or analysis should be sidelined. In this
process a number of random ideas are generated and it is best that they be
written down on a sheet of paper. The process is spontaneous and your focus
should be on the quantity and not the quality of ideas. Now each choice is
evaluated in terms of its consequences. The options can be weighed in detail, considering
its pros and cons. It would be convenient to list out the merits and demerits
separately on a sheet of paper. Finally comes the most critical part of the
whole process, namely determining the best alternative with an effective course
of action to obtain the most desirable outcome. The next and essential step is
implementing the decision. Evaluation of the implemented decision can be a very
constructive exercise which will help us improve our decision making skill.

 

There are certain hindrances to the
decision making process. Lack of requisite knowledge about the problem and ambiguities
regarding the purpose of the decision can impede decision making. The
complexity of the problem also affects the decision making process. This is the
same in case of problems with high risk consequences. Arriving at an effective
and viable decision is almost impossible if the consequences pose high risks. Lack
of sufficient choices is the next obstacle. As decision making is all about
making informed choices, dearth of choice will adversely affect the effectiveness
of decisions. Another aspect is Interpersonal relations, this can be productive
as well as counter productive. While making decisions excessive sway of
emotions including attachment, apathy or antipathy towards the problem and the people
involved may act as set backs to making rational and productive decisions. It is
ill-advised to make decisions with a turbulent and chaotic mind. Human fixation
on material wealth can often make them impatient and oblivious about the many
choices in terms of their risks and benefits. This can also prove to be a
hindrance to effective decision making. The quick decisions made in such situations
can often turn out to be harmful. Another problem is comparing a present
problem and decision to a previous one. We should accept and acknowledge the
fact that each decision is unique just like the problem and hence a decision
which is effective and viable for one problem need not result in a desirable
outcome when applied to another. However, this should not prevent us from
evaluating the decisions we have made and drawing constructive lessons to be
kept in mind to be employed in future decision making processes. Facts related
to the problem also play a major role in decision making. Ignoring or
overlooking facts may put us in a quagmire. Next barrier to decision making is
fear of failure. Doubt and fear about the viability of decisions is a serious encumbrance
to decision making. The frequent mood swings also affect decision making
skills. There is a tendency to confuse symptoms and causes of problems. In such
cases decision making is either difficult or the decisions made will be
improper and not effective. Decisions taken without thought can result in
unending woes and makes life catastrophic. The tendency to overlook unsolvable
problems will also make life a failure.

 

The following strategies are found
beneficial for improving decision making skills. Acquisition of knowledge about
the related area will be of immense help to improve decision making skills. If
you possess adequate knowledge about a problem, you are less likely to make
mistakes and hence any possibility of regret can be ruled out. Clarity and   understanding about the problem and purpose
of decision brings more insight. Indifference to past mistakes is essential for
an objective approach to decision making. While failures can be used for
learning lessons from the past, we must maintain a sound mind for making wise
and cogent decisions.

 

Decisions are not something we can run
away from, we are faced with them at every point in our lives and taking a
decision is critical and crucial for us to move forward and fulfil our
dreams.  It can be definitively said that
decision making is a skill which we all can acquire through practice and
effort. Understanding the different kinds of decisions and analysing the
situations we are faced with can help us in the decision making process. It is
a skill that is very much dependent on one’s critical thinking and analysing
capacities, hence it is crucial that we engage them meaningfully and
consequentially to serve our ends by making positive decisions.

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