It’s amazing how much more effective decision making is when it is based in reality.
One of the things I try to do with this blog is teach people how to think better so that they can make better choices. The three skills I teach are how to combine critical thinking, compassion and personal responsibility into better decision making. Learning HOW to think better is the key to making better choices that you CAN feel confident about your choices.
The nice thing about the Humanist approach – is it is woo free – no magical thinking required. And this is important because reality based decision making is vastly superior to assumption based or fallacy based decision making. You are just going to have to trust me on this one – but I’m pretty sure if someone ever did do a scientific study on this – I’d be proven right.
(Note: I actually did try to find evidence to back up this assumption that reality based decision making is better, but it’s so obvious that if you base your decisions on evidence of what works and what doesn’t, you are going to have a better chance of success. This is so well understood that a search on “study – reality based decision making” turned up pages of studies on HOW to most effectively integrate evidence based decision making in medicine.)
Regardless, on when making a reality based or evidence based decision – you need to do your homework. You need to find out what is factually true. What works and what doesn’t to solve your problem.
You see, we humanists are very aware that we have cognitive biases and that these biases can throw us off course. And of course, we also make a LOT of assumptions. To counteract these built in defects in our thinking, we have to work hard to challenge our assumptions and doubt whether what we think we know is actually so, so that we become motivated to find out so that we can base our decision making on evidence, to the best of our ability.
And this brings me to the next bit. You can’t ever have perfect information. It doesn't exist. At some point, you do have to make decisions with imperfect knowledge. And, you need to be OK with that. For me, I do this by accepting that I might be wrong and make a note that if I find out I was, to be humble enough to correct my mistakes. Quickly. Because the only thing worse than being wrong, is continuing to be wrong after you find out.
Finally, my rule of thumb with decision making is to do the most good and the least harm possible. Again, reality based decision making requires me to acknowledge that I don’t live in a perfect world. All I can ever do at any time is what I think is right (Thoreau said that or something very close to that in case you were wondering).
So – to sum up – reality based decision making, coupled with a commitment to do the most good and the least harm with an acknowledgement that you may be totally screwing up but you are going to do the best you can anyway – oddly enough – leads to good confident decision making. It really does.
Try it – you’ll see. The more humble you are about what you don’t know – the more effective you become at decision making. At least, that’s how it works for me. Someone ought to do a study to see if my personal experience translates into the rest of humanity.