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Business decision-making is a simple arena of choices expressed in dollar terms, and that simplicity is the reason for discussing the decision-making process in the context of business, though it can apply elsewhere just as well. Values, ethics, means, and social complexity must enter into the decision-making process along with the monetary evaluation such as cost-and-benefit analysis.

We all know the difference between "right" and "wrong", and we can tell "good from "bad". But we also know that the more difficult decisions come when we have to choose between good and better. The toughest decisions of all are those we have to make between bad and worse.

Many people believe that predetermined destiny rather than their own decisions govern the affairs of their lives. Personal mastery teaches us to choose. Choosing is a courageous act that entails opting for various courses of actions that will define one's destiny. Destiny is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. Striving for goals (i.e., the objective of your decisions) that do not reflect your values and consequently do not make your life joyful is how we make ourselves unhappy. But if you do not know what you want, then how will you know how to achieve it? Have a very clear picture of what you want out of life and what it will take to get it. There is a popular, classic song in which a raspy female voice exclaims to her independent female audience, "use what you get what you want."

Be realistic about your abilities. When there is a way, there is a will. The opposite is not true as many people unfortunately believe and have taken as the basis for decisions concerning their personal life. Thinking about strategies to strive after that are beyond your abilities can ruin your life. If a goal is unattainable and you go after it anyway, the consequential failure may cause you pain and diminish your energy (and resources of the organization). You do best in your profession and your personal life by doing well with respect to your capacity and values rather than trying to do better than another person or organization. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it. Remember that, if you are attempting the impossible, you will fail; therefore ask what is possible for you.
He knows not his own strength that has not met challenge. When you are facing a decision, then you are sounding-out the depth of your own strengths and the richness of your resources. One is responsible for one's own life. Passivity provides no protection: One must accept responsibility for a decision before one can make any decision.

All religions, arts, philosophy, morality, and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations have pondered the search for what constitutes a good life. Yet only in the last decades has the study of well-being become a scientific endeavor. The results indicate that the goals and values of personal life are very subjective and mostly cultural. Most people spend a lifetime searching for happiness. They chase idle dreams, addictions, religions, even other people, hoping to fill the emptiness that plagues them. The irony is that the only place they ever needed to search was within. Moreover, once a doctrine, however irrational, has gained power in a society, millions of people will believe in it rather than feel ostracized and isolated.

One must decide for oneself: Leaders and followers face different problems. The leaders have to wonder if the followers will follow them faithfully and the followers wonder if the leader will bring them to the "promised land". In essence, the leaders and the followers are slaves to each other's needs.

There are many factors that contribute to being a good decision-maker, the cardinal ones are:

  1. Self-esteem (not pride): Self-esteem is a big factor in making good decisions. Some people easily pressured into doing things by others are easily told what to do because they have very low self-esteem. Never feel sorry for yourself -- it has a deadly effect on your thinking. Recognize all problems, no matter how difficult, as opportunities for enhancement and/or affirmation of your life, and make the most of these opportunities. Creativity in making good decisions requires having a clear mind.
  2. Courage: Courage is doing what you are afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you are scared. Courage is to think for yourself. When one has low self-esteem one can be talked into doing almost anything because one depends on others too much for advice. This is all because one may not have strength and courage to listen to his/her own thoughts. There are many ways to escape from your own strategic thinking engagement. For example, have you asked yourself why you read newspapers? Could it be an escape device? As a reporter puts it "Fact that is fact every day is not news; it's truth. We report news, not truth." It may be a shock to most of us that, Thomas Jefferson said, "I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it." You ought to never try to avoid the duty of making up your mind for yourself. If you do not make decisions for yourself, others do it for you: "You're legally allowed to drink now so we figured the best thing for you was a car."

Of all the gifts that a parent can give a child, the gift of learning to make good choices is the most valuable and long lasting. It is the nature, and the advantage, of courageous people that they can take the crucial questions and form a clear set of alternatives. The weak always have to decide between alternatives that are not their own.

It takes education and courage to gain more self-esteem to be positive or confident in decision-making. Listen to yourself and think for yourself. This won't get you into trouble because of someone else. Courage means the act of intelligent risk taking while looking forward into the future. Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dare, as something inside them was superior to circumstance in making their decisions.

  1. Honesty: Honesty is to be the one you are. Be objective about yourself and others. It is important to identify your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Being honest with yourself is the most important thing you can ever do. When it comes to yourself, you have to be brutally honest.
  2. Love: Love means caring about yourself and other people. It means that you go to sleep at night knowing that your talents and abilities were used in making decisions that, served others. The wonderful thing about love is that it embraces, without binding.

To be honest, you must fully accept that at this moment, you can only be what you are. No more, no less; however, with the inevitable passing of each moment of time, you will gradually, but surely change -- to become more or less, better or worse, stronger or weaker. Your choice is the direction of change: it is yours alone. The only true competition is the rivalry within your changing self. It is the very basis of a good decision making.

Hard Decisions: Only you can change your life. No one can make decisions for you when it comes to serious questions, such as, What ought I to do?, What should I believe?, What can I know?, How should I live? What Ralph Waldo Emerson tells us is that the only good answers to such questions are personal and examined ones, rarely those adopted by large groups; conscious, reasoning minds should neither pray to strange Gods, nor encourage the vanities of the self. That alone can set us on the path to freedom. All the interest of your education should come together to make decisions for yourself. What is the use of education if you cannot face these questions to your own satisfaction? While you are making these decisions, you feel for the time being that your life is your own. Do not envy others, because who envies others does not obtain peace of mind. Everything starts with yourself -- with you making up your mind about what you're going to do with your life.

The more amiability and esprit de corps among the members of a policy-making in-group, the greater is the danger that independent critical thinking will be replaced by groupthink, which is likely to result in irrational and dehumanizing actions directed against out groups.

Major decisions require courage. We must have courage to bet on our decisions, to take the calculated risk, and to act.
Finally, in personal decision-making there is no one better to talk to than yourself if you really want to get things worked out. No other person has as much information about your problems, and no one knows your skills and capabilities better.
Self-Realization: Maslow's work specifies that individuals have a hierarchy of needs ranging from basic needs for survival and safety to higher-level needs for esteem and self-actualization, as shown in the following figure:
Hierarchy  of Needs Described by Maslow

  1. Physiological Needs: These are primarily biological needs. They include such things as the need for adequate nutrition, shelter, warmth and medical care.
  2. Safety Needs: After physiological needs, the second most compelling needs that individuals face are safety and security.
  3. Belongingness and Love Needs: When physiological and safety needs have been addressed, the next set of needs -- those related to belongingness, affection and love -- can emerge.
  4. Esteem Needs: If the first three needs are fulfilled, the need for esteem may become dominant. This refers both to self-esteem and to the esteem a person gets from others.
  5. Self-Actualization Needs: The highest level of needs, those that individuals are able to satisfy when all other more basic needs have been met, is the need for self-actualization. Self-actualization is a person's need to be what he/she is. A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.

What does Maslow mean by his observation with respect to self-realization? My answer is: If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music; sweep streets so well that everybody will have to pause and say, Here lived a great sweeper, who swept his job well.


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Jones M., The Thinker's Toolkit: Fourteen Powerful Techniques for Problem Solving,Crown Publishing Group, 1997.
Johnson S., "Yes" or "No": The Guide to Better Decisions, HarperCollins Publishers, 1993.
Klein G., Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions, Published by MIT Press, 1999.