How to make rock solid decisions

Your life depends on your decisions and actions, not your situation

– Tony Robbins

Since our decisions shape our life outcomes, one would imagine that people think rationally through their decisions. Sadly, that’s not true.

Few people think more than two or three times a year. I’ve made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.

– George Bernard Shaw

Most people think they think but they aren’t. They just run on autopilot, taking the path of least resistance ( or least thought). So how can we make better decisions? Here are some techniques which have helped me immensely.

Think in a foreign language

If you are thinking that’s weird or what does that even mean, here’s an example:

My mother tongue is Punjabi. I may be an expert in Hindi or English, but I don’t feel the same way about the things said in these languages. Your mother tongue is closer to your feelings.

So, if I have to make a rational decision, I think in English. This has two advantages:

First, it improves my command on the language.
Second, it helps me to make a wise, rational, less emotional decision.

Worst case and best case Scenario based decision-making

This one is my favourite.

When we need to decide on the future course of action, fear of failure can be crippling and may lead to no decision, which in itself may be a bad decision.

So, think to yourself, what’s the worst that can happen. What’s the best the can happen? What’s the average scenario?

What you would realize is that the worst case scenario isn’t really that bad and is very easy to recover from.

I have a couple of personal examples where I applied this:

  1. When in my first job as an online tutor in TCY, they paid me Rs 10,000. Many colleagues in TCY talked about how Tutorvista paid better then. But nobody actually moved to Tutorvista – as you had to work from your home and it was a revolutionary to teach from home and people were unsure about for how long this will continue.
    I thought to myself, that if they pay more, Rs 15,000 and can do that for even couple of months. that would be a massive increment. Even if they fire me after a couple of months, I can always find another job or go back to TCY.
    Luckily, being a top performer, I earned much more than Rs 15,000.
  2. The second instance was when near to my marriage, I was split between the decision if I should leave my job as a QA analyst in NTT Data.
    They paid around Rs 20,000. I was already earning more from then, even while working part-time.
    I also believed that I can earn more if I paid more attention to the business. But the sheer fear of losing out on the job just in case the website doesn’t work out kept me on the job.
    My brother, thankfully, guided me to the right decision. He told me – “Even if you don’t make any money from the website, the maximum you can earn from the job for a while is Rs 20,000. I will cover that for you for a while until you find a new job”.
    Just that safety net was enough for me to take the leap. I left my job immediately after the marriage.
    My in-laws thought I lied in marriage and was never really employed. Well, that’s another story.

Most of the decisions we don’t make are based on what’s the worst that can happen. Generally, we think ourselves of not having enough food, or money to pay rent. Usually, it’s not that bad once you rationally think. So, just thinking clearly about the worst case can help us make a lot of decisions that we don’t take.

If you are even a little mathematically bent, you can also use the following formula

Decision value = worst value * probability of worst value + average value * probability of average value + best case value * probability of best case value


Probability Expected Value probabilistic value =
probability * expected value
Worst outcome .5 $20,000 $10,000 (.5 * 20,000)
Average outcome .25 $30,000 $15,000 (.25 * 30,000)
Best outcome .25 $100,000 $25,000 (.25 * 100,000)

So if you are in a job that’s earning you $30,000, even if the chance of your failing are the highest (50% in the above example), you still want to take that decision as the cumulative decision value is 10+15+25 = $50,000.

You can’t just be thinking that most likely you are going to fail and will be stuck at 20,000. You also need to take best case scenario and evaluate accordingly.

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