The Art of Making Wise Decisions

making wise decisions

When you make decisions, what do you base them on? Do you ever find yourself searching for reliable information to base your decisions on, but never finding the answers you really need?

Have you ever wondered how the questions you ask affect the decisions you make?

Sometimes it seems like the moment you go looking for meaningful answers to important questions to help you formulate your decisions, things begin to get confusing. Either there is not enough information available, or there are so many opinions that you really don’t know who to believe.

Decisions should start with asking the right questions

Decisions are a big part of life, and learning to ask the right questions directly affects our ability to make decisions. We base most of our decisions in life on the answers we receive to the questions we ask. This is because thinking people like to make informed decisions. We like to weigh the information we gather so we can choose the best option.

When we look around, it’s pretty obvious that not everyone applies this process to the decisions they make. In fact, how many times have you been amazed by other peoples decisions? Have you ever said: “I don’t get it, what were they thinking”? Well, it’s obvious that we all have our own criteria the decisions we make.

The point is, without the right information we simply can’t make informed decisions. And if we are not asking the right questions we won’t have the information we need.

How confusion affects decisions

There are certain areas in life where getting truly helpful information can pose a real challenge. As a result, making quality decisions in these areas can be extremely difficult. For example, how about finding reliable diet information. How many diets are there? How different are they from each other? How are you supposed to make informed decisions about which one is best for you? This kind of confusion really impedes your ability to make sound decisions.

How about exercise? Should you focus on cardiovascular or muscle building exercises? How many times a week? How long should you workout, or how far should you run? Can too much be harmful? Which is better, high-intensity or low intensity? You see what I mean; too many opinions only create more confusion and confusion undermines the quality of our decisions.

These are just two areas where our ability to make decisions can become overly complex. In this age of information overload, we can have a similar experience in almost any area of life. This only emphasizes the need to hone our skills with regard to the decisions we make.

Skillful questions lead to informed decisions

You might feel that something as important as making decisions should have been addressed in school. Well, it wasn’t and questioning that would just be an exercise in futility. Even with all the information on the internet at your finger tips, making informed decisions still comes with knowing where to look for answers. Like so many other important life skills, it’s up to each of us to learn the art of making wise decisions and asking skillful questions.

Because the questions we ask have such a strong influence on the decisions we make, it’s an area that deserves some special attention. Over the years I have discovered several helpful guidelines for cutting through the confusion when asking questions and I’d like to share a few of them with you. Hopefully you will find them useful.

5 keys to finding answers that lead to wise decisions

1) Don’t ask circular questions. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? That’s a question that will just lead you around in circles. Even if you could answer it, the answer has no relevance. It’s a good example of a worthless question. To find meaningful answers you need to ask meaningful questions that are 100% relevant.

2) Identify your objective. The first thing you need to decide when looking for answers is what your true objective really is. What do you actually want to know? If you don’t know exactly what you’re trying to accomplish, things can get confusing really fast. So spend some time getting a clear idea of what your objective is before you go any further.

3) Scan the field. If you quickly survey all the information available under a broad topic, certain things will stand out. Make a list of the ones that seem to apply to your objective. If you’re into online research, one of the ways to do this is with the public Google search. You can type in a broad topic, and they will usually give you a list of related subtopics.

4) Reevaluate your objective. Now that you know what’s out there try to clarify your objective. This is really just a process of elimination. Narrow your list to things that seem to have specific application to your clearly defined objective. This part of the process will add even more clarity to your objective.

5) Choose reliable sources. When you’re looking for answers to important questions the reliability of your source should be a primary concern. This is especially true when you’re dealing with topics that are partially reliant on someone’s discernment, experience, and opinion. Try to identify sources that you feel you can trust. If you’re looking for marriage advice, don’t ask someone who’s been divorced several times.

Let experience guide your decisions

There is only so much information gathering you can do, and then it’s time to make a decision. At some point you need to make application of the answers you have formulated. In the long run, only experience will make it clear how good your decisions really are.

Sometimes the answers we get are like shining beacons that guide us to making excellent decisions. Other times they are like guard rails that keep us from running off the road of our intended path. Either way, the value of the answers we find will be in direct proportion to our ability to ask the right questions from the most reliable sources.

The quality of your life today is a reflection of the decisions you have already made. The quality of your life tomorrow will depend on the decisions you make today. That means you have an amazing amount of control over your future. How will you decide to use it?

How do you find the answers you base your decisions on?
How much thought do you put into your decisions?
The lines are open!

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  1. Stephen February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hello Jonathan, great advice!

    I like your suggestion to:

    “Scan the field”

    Like you said I like to take a broad quick view of the available information and narrow it down to several that catch my eye. I don’t really try to analyze why I’m drawn to them, but I depend upon my intuition to guide me. Then I drill down into those several sources.

    Wise advice about wise decisions from a wise man :-)

    • Jonathan March 1, 2010 Reply

      Hi Stephen, sorry to you and everyone else for my delayed response. I’ve had some server issues that kept me busy for a few days.

      I’m glad you mentioned intuition because I wouldn’t want anyone to conclude that this process should be purely analytical. There is plenty of room in each of these steps to listen to your gut and value your intuition.

      Thanks for pointing this out my friend.

  2. Mike King February 26, 2010 Reply

    I think we are all different when it comes to making decisions as it depends very much on our behavioral styles and practices. I know I make decisions fairly quickly and don’t dwell on a lot of data to help with it. I also can trust in my own ability to carry through and I’m not afraid to make mistakes, learn from them and change my approach quickly for the better with my next decisions. For me, I think too many people think that a decision sets more in stone than it really does and so dynamic living and decision making are what I rely on.

    • Jonathan March 1, 2010 Reply

      So true Mike. Not only do we all have a different decision making process, but each decision requires a slightly different approach. Some have long lasting implications while others carry much less weight. Experience helps us access each situations requirements.

  3. ZuzannaM February 27, 2010 Reply

    Hello Jonathan,

    When comes to decision making I base my thoughts on my intuition. Usually the intuition works well for me. Everyone is different, but I do some research proper my final decision and pick the one that feels the most applicable…Wonderful article!

    Thank you,

    • Jonathan March 1, 2010 Reply

      Thanks Zuzanna, I put a lot of value in intuition also because it’s often based on all the experience that preceded it. When we “know” something on an intuitive level, I say go with it.

  4. Steven Aitchison February 27, 2010 Reply

    Hi Jonathan. You have made a great point in that it is the questions we ask ourselves that will lead us to the right decisions for us.

    I also use the ‘gut instinct’ approach sometimes. This is usually with events when I don’t have time to evaluate such as split-second decision making.

    • Jonathan March 1, 2010 Reply

      Hi Steve, I wondered when I wrote this how many would mention the role of intuition in the process. Nobody has missed it yet. We should always listen to that inner voice, ALWAYS.

  5. Rocket Bunny February 27, 2010 Reply

    I find I make decisions quickly when it comes to business then in personal life. I also feel many times it what isn’t being said that worries me. lol

    Great article, it makes me think!

    • Jonathan March 2, 2010 Reply

      Hi Bunny, that’s an interesting observation between business and personal decisions. Perhaps it comes down to your level of emotional investment. If so, that would probably suggest that you are able to keep business in it’s place which is a very healthy viewpoint. It would also indicate that you value your personal and family more, also a healthy approach.

  6. Nea February 28, 2010 Reply

    Decision-making is one the hardest skills to learn for so many people. But the way to go about it is different for each personality type.

    Highly analytical, cautious types spend a lot of time gathering information and seeking a perfect answer. While others simply make great decisions on the fly. I try to fall somewhere in the middle. I don’t like messing up, so ideally I’d make 100% sure I’m doing the right thing. But I’ve learned that this behavior can lead to missed opportunities. So, part of my personal self development journey is learning to strike that balance. I’ve worked on improving my intuitive sense so that I feel better about just following my gut, with some (but not too much) time spent investigating alternatives.

    • Jonathan March 2, 2010 Reply

      Congratulations Nea, that is an extremely well balanced approach that gives due credit to both the logical and intuitive side of wisdom. I feel that both are vital and that the degree of each depends on the unique needs of each situation.

  7. Catrien Ross February 28, 2010 Reply

    Jonathan, really good advice on a very important topic. Living in Japan has shown me just how much people rely on what others think when making any kind of life decision. It is a cultural approach here, but people everywhere can be quite lazy when it comes to taking personal responsibility for decisions. I especially like your point on the importance of asking meaningful questions that are 100% relevant. So often we don’t know what we truly want, so we can’t even begin to ask the questions that will get us where we think we want to go. Fuddled thinking leads to fuddled questions that don’t help us identify the life skills we need to develop decision-making power for our personal journey. From the foot of Mount Fuji, thank you very much for your insightful post – Catrien Ross.

    • Jonathan March 2, 2010 Reply

      Hi Catrien, I think that cultural influences play a huge role in how much “expectations” influence the decision making process. In an ancient culture where honoring ones parents is part of their heritage you would expect much greater pressure to let others decide for you. Thanks so much for your insight and welcome to Advanced Life Skills.

  8. jonathanfigaro March 1, 2010 Reply

    They say the quality of someones life is based upon the question you ask. So why not ask better question? Like, how can i become a multimillionaire in the next 6 years while providing service of a legal kind to the masses. etc. These question dictate your life, not new reports!

    • Jonathan March 8, 2010 Reply

      Hi Jonathan, I agree that the questions we ask determine the answers we get. The mind loves to find answers. As soon as we ask a question our mind assumes there is an answer and goes to work looking for it. So yes, the questions do have a powerful influernce on our life.

  9. Robin Easton March 2, 2010 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    This would be so good given to young people. I am much better at making wise choices today only due to age and experience. But when I was younger I could have REEEEEALLY used something like this. It should be given to all high school kids.

    Nowadays I tend to just listen to and act upon my heart. But there were times when I was younger where I became completely immobilized with decision making, simply because I couldn’t get ANY grasp on which was right…this or that? Steps like these would have given a bases or method for my choice.

    I realize that sometimes we just have to jump in, and that in itself was a HUGE insight for me when I was about 26. I worked out that I could no longer let myself live in an immobilized state of being. I learned that at least if I “jumped in”, even if I didn’t know what I was doing, my life would continue to flow… even if I made mistakes I would still learn and know “next time.” BUT at least I wasn’t stagnating due to fear.

    I’ve often thought that many of your posts would be really good put into a book for high school students. I’m VERY serious. You could even make it age related. In school we are NOT given this type of information, and YET, I believe, we ARE ready for it and can use it.

    And in high school we are often discouraged from asking ANY questions. All through school it is more often than not…”Sit down and be quiet. Unless you have something intelligent to say don’t say anything at all.”

    Well done and very wise.

    • Jonathan March 2, 2010 Reply

      Hi Robin, with the benefit of experience we learn the ART of making decisions. We need intuition and we need the ability to analyze. Perhaps more importantly, we need the discernment to see what is needed in each situation. That’s what experience teaches us.

      I completely agree about the kind of knowledge that should be taught in school. This is a pet peeve of mine. They waste much of the educational opportunity teaching worthless nonsense that has no practical benefits. Then they ignore the practical life skills that people really need.

      What difference does it make if you can name the 13th president of the United States but don’t have a clue how to make an intelligent decision. Makes me nuts!!!

      Wow, that was almost a mini rant, lol.

      • Robin Easton March 3, 2010 Reply

        I like your rants!!! :) Wonderful.

        Also, I couldn’t name 10 presidents back let alone the 13th. I even went almost a decade, much o fit in the wild and didn’t even know a new president was voted in. And yet, the things that I DID learn in those 10 years were beyond compare. I learned all the things they NEVER teach you in school, all the things that made me REALLY shrewd, wise and living life “outside the box”. Total wake up!

        I was very touched that this is a pet peeve of yours as well. And yet it makes total sense to me because you are a free thinker! :)

        • Jonathan March 3, 2010 Reply

          Robin, you may be the only reader who can appreciate what I’m about to say, but I’m okay with that.

          News hounds will probably want to chastise me severely, but I haven’t watched the news or read a newspaper in over 20 years. I never heard Bush speak, although I heard he was a terrible public speaker.

          I honestly believe that the news, most of the educational system, the government, the judicial system, the FDA, and the entire medical establishment is 99% hype and propaganda designed to meet the agendas of the wizards behind the curtain.

          It’s all just a lot of worthless noise designed to distract us from the things that really matter. I lived alone in the forest for 3 1/2 years and what I learned was of far greater value, and exceedingly more useful than anything I ever learned (beyond the 3 R’s) in school.

          One of the reasons people are so lost is because they’ve been taught that worthless nonsense is important, while things of real value are painted as insignificant. In the intro to my book I labeled it “flash over substance.” This backwards thinking creates the necessity for a lot of unlearning before the important stuff can take root. The smartest kids I know are all home schooled. They excel academically, but they also excel socially and emotionally. They relate to people of all ages instead of just a small peer group. And they have a maturity in their ability to reason that is truly amazing.

          This is something that all responsible parents should look at very closely before sentencing their precious children to 12 years or more in the stupid factory.

          PS. I’ve decided to raise my level of transparency (like you didn’t notice, right). We’ll see what happens.

          • Robin Easton March 3, 2010 Reply

            OH MY WORD!! This is absolutely stupendous. You would not believe how much this means to me. I needed to hear this. It’s as if you wrote my exact thoughts, feelings, insights and life choices.

            I also think their are many in the world who are REALLY ready to hear this, in fact hungry. You may not find them all in “mainstream” but they are seeking the elder “wisdom keepers” like yourself who think, see and feel outside the box. Jonathan you truly bring “Wisdom From Outside the Box.” There are young people who are seeking it and you, and cannot find what they seek in school, among their peers, in their culture or anywhere for that matter. They then internalize the deficit and say, “It must be me. I must be crazy. I must not be smart enough, cool enough, ‘with it’ enough and so on.”

            I just can’t even begin to tell you how much this means to me. There aren’t words. I can only say that I too have not watched news, media, heard presidents speak, read newspapers or any of it. I chose not to from a very “conscious choice” place. For me too, it is a whole HUGE overbearing lot of “worthless noise” that tries to distract us from being truly aware, awake, free thinking beings. I refuse to be part of it. It serves no purpose. I am truly gratified and hearteded by this sharing. I like the transparent Jonathan. He is very very wise and has something singularly unique to offer the world.

            I hug you for sharing this today. It makes my whole week. I feel more real, more me and more solid. Thank you SO much.

          • I’m all done behaving myself. It’s time to polarize and let the chips fall where they may. I don’t want to be grouped with the fault finder, but the system is seriously broken and there are much more productive ways to live and think. I am so tired of people being jerked around as if it is their fault when they feel let down by reality, when in reality it’s because of the pie in the sky brainwashing they’ve gone through all their lives. It’s time to shine a little light on the situation and offer some legitimate strategies for living a better and more meaningful life. It’s time to look outside the box even if we have to flatten the box in the process.

            This is so much fun! Thanks for being with me on this Robin, it means more that you could know.

  10. Robin Easton March 3, 2010 Reply

    This is AMAZING!! I laughed out loud and got tears in my eyes and shivers up my arms. This is like a pivotal point for us both and many others. Reading this, it hit me that you have enormous power and capability to set others free. Free inside themselves so they can start to change their outlook, insights, concepts, and world view. You are a “freedom setter” or a “freedom maker”, one who guides others back to their authentic selves, wherein they have the power to make their OWN choices, divine their own insights, experience their own truths, and draw their own conclusions. That is setting others free.

    Due to many of your truly unique life experiences you carry within you “the forgotten wisdom”. We as a species have forgotten who and what we are. You have the ability to awaken others by helping them remember. You are walking a truly powerful path. And you need never worry about being seen as a “fault finder” because one of your strengths is to focus on the enormous potential we all have. You do that ALL the time. Imagine combining THAT with your honest and truly unique vision, a vision most have never known, a wisdom from outside the box. .

    What a great day this is!! I am SO proud of you. You not only set yourself free but you set me and others free. And yes, I am MOST certainly with you on this. I’m your cheering squad!! LOL!!! You go dude, and rock them boats!! LOL! :)

  11. Catrien Ross March 3, 2010 Reply

    Jonathan, hello again, another comment, because I just have to join in. Yes, I echo Robin. This is amazing. I am with you, too. Fifteen years ago we two professionals (a corporate consultant and an Oriental Medicine practitioner) left Tokyo to go and live in the mountains, which is a whole other story I will tell another time. But just some facts along the way about our life: no newspaper or T.V., no doctors or hospitals (for more than four decades), thinking totally outside the box, opening up alternative educational choices, so much learning beyond any of our previous education, including illuminating financial, physical, and social hardship. We have experienced amazing reconnection with nature, with our imagination, with our creativity, with our innate spirituality, with the deepest part of ourselves, which is also the deepest part of everybody else. Early in 2009 I realized it was time to raise my level of transparency, too, and this is what I am doing now. And the connections are appearing at lightning speed – we really are re-membering, Jonathan. I feel so grateful and privileged to have found you and the community of readers who appreciate what you are saying. This is is wonderful – I have tears of recognition and joy in my eyes, too – the long-lost parts of ourselves are reuniting and reintegrating. A huge hello to all of you, to me, to us. Cheers from the foot of Mount Fuji, Jonathan. Thank you so much for the light of your existence – Catrien Ross.

    • Robin Easton March 3, 2010 Reply

      Wow! Catrien, your comment moved me to tears. Yes, we ARE remembering. I am so glad you added your exuberant passion to this discussion that Jonathan and I’ve been having today. You insights are beautiful and so very exciting. Hugs, Robin

      • Catrien Ross March 3, 2010 Reply

        Robin, huge hugs to you, too. I am so glad to know you. Your exuberance is like a brilliant display of inner fireworks that makes people go AAHHHH ….How wonderful! The Japanese for fireworks translates as fire flowers. Showers of flowers to you from the fire heart of Mount Fuji – Catrien Ross.

  12. Steve April 2, 2010 Reply

    I think the key to good decision making, for me, is to know who is expert in the field, or at least more experienced than I am. For example, if I am going to start out in real estate investing, prior to making a decision to invest in a property, I would want to have spent enough time with a seasoned mentor who knows the right questions to ask. As Tony Robbins has stated in his materials, find a role model, and model their decisions. Of course, as we become more expert in the different areas, we can make our own decisions more quickly, because we can be confident.

    • Jonathan February 24, 2011 Reply

      Hi Steve, we benefit in so many ways from good role models, but the key is to be able to recognize substance and not get blinded by hype. Better to go it on your own than to hitch yourself to a faulty example.

  13. K.C. July 6, 2010 Reply

    Being smarter with your own life skills is definitely an important factor in whether you can make good decisions for your company. Thanks – K.C.

    • Jonathan February 24, 2011 Reply

      Hi K.C., that’s true to a degree but there are also those who run a great company but can’t manage their own life.

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