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How to Make Smart Decisions: Ask and Integrate

As a Certified Associate in Project Management with experience in a PMO environment, I know how important it is to plan & execute projects.

At a Crossroad


Decision-making is the action or method of making decisions, especially important ones. It is like being at a crossroad where you need good instincts to come up with a logic to make a decision and to be smart enough to know what is right for you.

When you are at a crossroad, it means you must choose between two or more options. Making your own choices about what you do is important because it gives meaning to your life. These could be choices about things you like best such as going places in the community, keeping or changing jobs, spending time with friends, feeling safe, and having food to eat that is good for your health.

In a global economy that emphasizes modernization and production where everything happens fast, you need to use as much observation and insight as you can in decisions you have to make on a daily basis.

Use your mental ability to learn from experience, adapt to new situations, understand intellectual ideas and perceptions, and use knowledge to influence your environment.

Perception and insight take time to develop. To speed up your progress in gaining experience or new skills and in applying practical decision-making, you have to make use of experience and careful thinking to find the right course of action.

You frequently face an excess of information coming from different sources and of different worth. At times, you have to take a decision with partial information. To act in a capable manner, you have to plan a reasonable future situation, decide on the result that is advantageous to you, and then act.

Rola Ruohong Wei and Jeffrey Yip wrote the Leadership Wisdom–Discovering the Lessons of Experience book. They talked about the need of leaders to bring as much wisdom as possible to decision-making as they often find themselves torn between making quick but well-thought decisions almost all day every day.

Research on cognitive psychology says that people with the intellectual ability to make sound judgments who learn from common experiences, and embrace values that benefit them and others are considered wise. People who learn from the experiences of others as well as from their own can often outshine others.

Investigating, considering, and thinking carefully help you reach a clever approach to making decisions. Investigating takes your attention externally by having a dialogue with others, which opens you to valuable learning that people get from significant life events. Careful thinking takes your attention within where an inner space is created that allows you to understand and learn from your own experience.

To investigate properly, you must find out who to ask, what to ask, and how to ask.


Who Should you Ask for Input?

When selecting people to ask, older and better educated individuals are not automatically the best choice. Young or less educated individuals may have a better understanding on how to handle difficult situations. The best people to approach are those who are aware of their personal strengths and limitations, deal with a lot of people, are good listeners and open-minded. They must also have a wide knowledge base, that is a broad store of information or data that is available to draw on.

What to Ask?

You could find out from them about how they handled situations or events related to a current situation that is causing you trouble. You could ask them for details about what happened, how they felt, what their reaction was, and what was the consequence of their action.

How to Ask?

  • Listen carefully and pay attention to their body language as much as their words.
  • Withhold judgement until you have heard everything.
  • Rephrase and summarize. When you rephrase what people tells you, you repeat what they say in a different way to help you understand and memorize.
  • Take notes.
  • Share your own issue and ask for advice; and
  • Be open-minded and accept different perspectives.

Careful thinking and Integration

Careful thinking takes place when you grasp what you have learned, why and how you have learned it. This allows you to integrate what you know. If you do not integrate and embrace what you learned, your experiences become incoherent and puzzling.

Looking for a personal meaning means putting your experience in its context, trying to understand the reason this experience was meaningful, judging your action based on whether it led to the desire outcome, and finding out if another approach would have given a different, and perhaps better, outcome.

You can start by identifying a major event in your life and taking time to consider the lesson you have learned from that particular event. You can do the same with other major life events. This could lead you to understand better where you are in life compared to where you thought you were heading. You can then adjust to steer the course of your life.

Careful thinking involves examining, scrutinizing, and combining into a meaningful whole. This helps you to understand yourself and your environment, which in turn enhances and improves your ability to make smart decisions.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.