Make Decisions As If You Are On the Iron Throne
Perched high atop King's Landing, Daenerys Targaryen had a decision to make. Would she accept the surrender of the Lannister forces or would she direct Drogon to impose his fiery will upon the opposing forces, destroy the city, and kill thousands of civilians and allies? Well, if you watched the last episode of Game of Thrones, "The Bells," you know what "sweet" Dany decided. Now, as we approach the series finale, we wonder what impact her decision will have on herself, Jon Snow, those loyal to him, and the men and woman who witnessed her merciless decent and murderous rampage.
Every day we all face moments when we must make a decision and choose our path. According to science.unctv.org, It's estimated that the average adult makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day. That is a lot of decision making! Of course, each decision carries inevitable consequences with it that are both good and bad.
From the moment we wake up we are faced with choices like, "what should I wear," "what should I eat for breakfast," "what should I tell my boss about me being late," "should I start my own business," and so on and on. When we are in the moment, like Daenerys was, we may choose the wrong path and must live with the consequences of our actions. Since we can't avoid decisions, is there a way to limit bad choices?
While there is scientific evidence suggesting that the smallest part of our brain is integral in the decision-making process–and we all seem to repeat some mistakes, it is possible to train ourselves to become better decision makers. Just like physical exercise, the more we train our decision making muscles, the better, stronger, and more flexible they will become.
Here are four tips to help you reduce making bad decisions, like wiping out most of King's Landing, slaughtering women and children, and making mortal enemies with those who once loved you. Well, maybe your bad decisions aren't usually that drastic, but you get the point.
1. Keep Your Emotions in Check.
I know, easier said than done. Just because it is not easy doesn't mean that you should let your emotions lead you into making bad decisions. When I was young, I had a teacher who told us that when we get upset with our classmates that we should count to ten or say a quick prayer (I went to Catholic school), before we say something out of anger that we will regret. Sounds corny, but as an adult, I realize the wisdom in her words.
Making decisions based solely upon our emotional state at the time is a surefire way of making regrettable decisions. For example, don't we all know someone who "fell in love at first sight" and decided on a whim, to get married? They were all caught up in the moment and decided, "hell yeah, its a good idea to get married at the Elvis Wedding Chapel." Excluding the one-in-a-million scenario, how many Vegas golden nights (and I'm not talking about the NHL franchise), actually pan out in the long run?
What about the person who has a bad day at work? Perhaps the boss is like Bill Lumbergh and moves their desk to the basement, takes their Swingline stapler and is "gonna need you to come in on Saturday." This person has had enough, but should they act on impulse and tell "Bill" to "take this job and shove it?" What if they have no savings, no backup plan, and a family to support? I think that most of you will agree that this person has to suck it up and start planning to make a change.
We all experience some level of emotional response to certain stimuli. The difference between good decision makers and poor ones is that they can suppress their emotions long enough for their rational thoughts to take over. When you feel your blood boil, or you think about all the terrible things that Cersei did to your family, STOP, do something to interrupt your emotional response (i.e., count, pray, pace, clap, breathe, etc. ) and wait for your rational thought to return. Then, with your emotions in check, decide your next move.
2. Do Your Homework.
Before you decide on a whim to quit your job and start a business, or make any other rash decision, do your homework. Can you afford it? What is your business model? Who are your target clients? Before you make a significant decision, make sure that you understand your situation and spend some time doing some research and planning. It is not a good idea to jump off the edge just because you can. You need to make sure that you have spent enough time looking at the risks and benefits and formulating a plan. To coin a phrase from Ben Franklin, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."
3. "To Thine Own Self, Be True."
You are the person making the decision. Whether you are deciding what to name your new baby or whether to partner with a China-based supplier, only you know you. Making decisions based on what other people want for you is never the right course. Even loved ones who have your "best interests at heart," can't make decisions for you.
For example, I was out to dinner with my wife and kids and overheard a young couple on what sounded like a second or third date. The guy asked the girl what she was going to order for dinner. She responded, "I really can't decide; you chose for me."
Being married for 20 years, I knew that this poor guy was doomed. So, he ordered her the same dinner that he chose for himself. She smiled politely and a short while later, dinner was served. As she looked at her steak she saw a wagon-load of mushrooms and a healthy serving of couscous. As her date chowed down, she tried to remove the mushrooms and avoid the couscous. "What's wrong," he asked. "Oh, I just hate mushrooms, the flavor they leave, and couscous." She would have been happier if she ordered for herself (her date would have as well). The point is that you know you better than anyone else. Be you, do you, and make decisions that are in line with who you are.
4. Study Your History
Not too many people like to think about the poor decisions of their past. Most of us try to bury those mistakes deep down in our memory banks so that we don't have to experience the pain of our bad decisions all over again. However, if we want to become better decisionmakers, we must review our past mistakes. Studying our past can help us avoid the same or similar bad mistakes in the future.
For example, if you own a business and have a difficult time with your staff, you should look at how you found, interviewed, screened, and selected them. What choices did you make that you can change moving forward? Looking at past failures can be an enlightening experience if you allow it to be.
While we won't know until the series finale, there is a good chance that Daenerys could end up regretting her decision to wipe out the people of King's Landing. Unfortunately for Daenerys, she might not be able to learn from her poor choices moving forward. However, if we focus on building our decision-making muscles by avoiding emotional reactions, analyzing possible outcomes, relying on ourselves, and learning from the past, we may be able to ascend to the Iron Throne.
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