Effective Decision Making: How to Make Best Decisions in Life

The Decision Making Process

Everyone is often confronted with situations that require decision making. Sometimes we must make tough choices in life that have lasting consequences on how personal lives, relationships, and work. Therefore, it is important to learn effective ways of making decisions and how to acquire good decision making skills. This lesson will define what decision making is, its processes, and how to acquire the skill.

Decision making is defined as the process of choosing a course of action by identifying the issue, gathering information, and evaluating the alternative choices. Using a scientific procedure to make decisions is essential because it helps a person to take deliberate and thoughtful action. When a decision is critically thought about before being implemented, it reduces the chances of failure and maximizes the outcome.

Situations that Require Decision Making

Decision making is generally required when making choices of any kind, as long as there are alternative solutions. For example, you may need decision making even when choosing the type of shoes to wear to a function. However, there are situations that require tougher choices than others due to the nature of the problem being handled.

The following is a list of situations that may require decision making:

  • Identity issues/developmental crises: sometimes you may reach a point in life where you start exploring yourself. Identity crises may occur when you start realigning yourself with certain groups such as gender or family.
  • Drug and alcohol use: Young people often face tough choices when it comes to the use of alcohol and drugs. While wanting to maintain their peer groups, they become persuaded to abuse drugs and alcohol in order to belong to the group. There comes a time when a youthful person has to choose between friendship and avoiding the use of drugs and alcohol.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases: People also have a choice to make in regards to sex and sexuality. You have to choose the right approach to sexual relationships such as being faithful to avoid sexually transmitted diseases.
  • HIV/AIDS: Young people also make decisions regarding the issue of HIV/AIDS. This includes the best way to avoid the disease such as the use of protection or abstaining. If you are sexually active, you can decide to use protection or become faithful to one partner. Otherwise the best decision is to abstain from sex until marriage.
  • Delinquency and Violence: you also need to make the right decisions to avoid delinquent behavior or engaging in crime. For instance, you can decide to make the right choice of friends. There is a saying that you are the average of your five best friends. This is to say that if you have five bad friends, you are number three among the bad guys. When they fall, you fall along with them.
  • Irresponsible Sexual Relationships: You also need to make the right decisions when choosing partners and engaging in sexual relationships. Irresponsible sexual behaviors may use to sexually transmitted diseases, early pregnancies, and other bad situations.
  • Unplanned pregnancies: Here you are required to make the right choices and identify the best ways of avoiding unplanned pregnancies such as abstinence and use of protection.

Challenges Facing Youth in Decision Making

Although decision making skills are essential for a healthy living and career development, the youth often face multiple challenges as they make lifelong decisions.

  • Unplanned pregnancies: the first challenge that the youth face when making decisions about sexual relationships is unplanned pregnancy. For example, when girls decide to fulfill their sexual desires, they might become pregnant before completing their education. This makes decisions on sexual matters quite challenging. To avoid this, young people should choose to pursue education and career dreams first before engaging in sexual issues. If necessary, they should use protection and/or stick with one partner.
  • Peer Pressure: Most young people are not able to make the right decisions due to peer pressure. Friends can mislead you if are not principled. There comes a time when someone has to choose between their friends and their dreams.
  • Drug Abuse: When someone becomes addicted to drugs and alcohol, their sense of judgment becomes distorted. You are not able to think well and make the right choices if you are under the influence of alcohol and substances.
  • Being Orphaned: Someone who is raised without parents don’t get the parental guidance they need to make the right decisions. Parents play a significant role in a child’s cognitive and behavioral development through social learning. Children can learn the right way of doing things by imitating their parents or getting parental love and advice.
  • HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases: The youth also face the challenge of catching serious diseases when they make decisions in life. Deciding to engage in sexual activities can cause trouble, yet young people have massive sexual urges as they grow. Trying to fulfill their sexual desires can cause diseases.
  • Relationships: Being in a sexual or cordial relationships can sometimes cause obscurity in decision making. You may not be able to think positively when you are emotionally attached to someone. For example, a girl who falls in love with a boy may not control their emotions, and they eventually succumb to pressure and engage in sexual intercourse. This could lead to early or unplanned pregnancies.
  • Career Choices: The youth also face challenges when trying to choose their careers. You can get into dilemma when trying to choose between two or more courses.

Factors that Influence Decision Making

People have different ways of making decisions. Each approach is influenced by certain factors. Some of the key factors that influence decision making are:

  • Personal and social experiences: people can make decisions based on their life experiences or the experiences they encounter in their cultures and societies. For example, a person can decide to drink alcohol due to social experiences such as peer influence when most of the youth in their community are drinking.
  • Uniqueness: Each person is unique in their own way. You can decide to do something according to your own unique beliefs, perspectives, and interests.
  • Self-awareness: you can also make decisions according to your level of self-awareness. You should be able to understand what you need and make choices that will enable you to achieve your own dreams.
  • Economic Factors: Your decisions can also be affected by your economic or financial position. For instance, if you have more resources you can decide to marry early because you are ready to provide for the family.
  • Psychological Factors: another important factor that affects decision making is psychological factors. This includes your level of motivation, learning, beliefs, and attitudes. For example, some people are more motivated to pursue education than others. Such people will choose to pursue education first before engaging in relationship issues.

Steps Involved in Decision-Making

Decision making is a scientific process that involves several steps. To arrive at a sound decision, an individual needs to follow a specific process guided by facts, rational thinking, and critical evaluation. Below are the key steps involved in decision making:

  • Step 1: Identification of the Problem

Problem identification is the first step in decision making. The decision maker identifies a specific problem to solve or a decision to be made. This is a very important stage in decision making because it enables the individual to define the nature of the problem clearly. If you don’t understand the problem, how it has occurred, and its nature, you will not be able to solve the issue. For instance, if you want to make a decision about drugs and alcohol abuse, you should first understand what alcohol and drug abuse is and why it is an important issue to be addressed in society. By understanding the issue clearly, you will be able to solve it more effectively.

  • Step 2: Identify the Source of the Problem

The second step in decision making involves gathering information about the problem. Once you have defined the problem clearly, you should collect pertinent information or data related to the issue. Information can be collected through online research, survey interviews, observations, etc.

  • Step 3: Identify Alternative Solutions or Options

In the third step of the decision making process, the decision maker identifies several alternative choices to make based on the information collected from step 2. Here, you should identify all possible and viable alternatives. For example, when you are short of finance you can develop alternatives such as: start a retail shop, look for a job, steal from your neighbor, or do nothing. Each alternative has merits and demerits, and you will evaluate these options in the next step.

  • Step 4: Evaluate or Weigh the Options

This step involves weighing the options available by establishing the outcomes and benefits of each option. To weigh the options effectively, you need to use various tools of analysis and evaluation such as cost-benefit analysis, using statistical tools, or reflecting on the pros and cons of each option. Here, you will analyze and evaluate the data you have gathered in step 2 to determine benefits and costs of each option.

  • Step 5: Select the Best Alternative – Make a Choice

The fifth step of the decision making process involves selecting the alternative with the best outcome. You need to select an option that maximizes on benefits and minimizes costs, that is, an option with more benefits than costs compared to all other alternatives. Here, you will consider the benefits to you in terms of physical, social, and personal outcomes. Rank all your options, with number 1 being the option with the highest net outcome (benefits – costs). In our example above, stealing will have the most costs while doing a business could compete with looking for employment at the top.

  • Step 6: Implement your Chosen Option (take action).

The last step of the decision making process is putting your choice into action. In this case, you need to take action by doing what your best option says you should do. For instance, you may have chosen “doing business” as your best option in our scenario. In this case, you should implement that option by looking for capital and starting to rent space for the business, then buy stock, and market your business.

Consequences of Not Making Effective Decisions

Failure to take action or make effective decisions could have grave consequences. Some of the consequences of not making effective decisions include:

  • You may develop poor self-concept – you don’t understand your worth and start doubting yourself. This way, you won’t achieve your full potential.
  • Low Self-Esteem – This is a key psychological effect of failing to make effective decisions.
  • Teenage pregnancy – If you fail to make bold decisions you may lose control of yourself, and allow other people to take charge of your life. This way you will allow yourself to be preyed and end up being impregnated earlier than you deserve. If that happens, you lose focus on your dreams and possibly drop out of school.
  • HIV infection: this is another consequence of not being able to make personal decisions on issues concerning your own sexuality.
  • Delinquency: failure to make decisions could make you to be swayed by friends and peers, meaning that you can be influenced to commit crime.
  • Truancy: this refers to absenteeism or missing school for no apparent reason. This is a consequence of being unable to make effective decisions.

Decision-Making Institutions within the Community

There are various communities responsible for decision making in the community. They include:

  • Family
  • Schools/Colleges
  • Courts
  • Peer arbitrators
  • Religious bodies

Values Associated with Effective Decision Making

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Peace
  • Tolerance
  • Responsibility
  • Simplicity

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