One of the unfortunate facts of life is that, more often than not, we’re forced to make some of our most important decisions under pressure. Whether that pressure comes from time constraints, high emotion or some kind of crisis, it’s just not a good time to successfully arrive at good decisions. But whether you like it or not, there’s a good chance that at some point in either your personal or professional life, you will be confronted with tough choices under less than ideal circumstances.
So how can we try to make sure that the decisions we’re making in a crisis are the right ones? The answer is to focus on the outcome.
Our brains are hard-wired to only consider immediate survival goals when we’re under pressure. This is great when you’re being chased by a grizzly, but not as useful when you’ve got two hours to think through the implications of a hostile takeover bid for your company.
Here’s a few steps that you can take to shift your brain away from the grizzly and back to the boardroom.
1. Be Ready
The best way to ensure a good decision is to plan for it. Every organization should have a crisis management plan, and every individual should have an emergency plan. But often, both organizations and individuals make the mistake of hypothesizing the crisis rather than envisaging a way out of it. It’s important to remember that the type of crisis doesn’t matter, so long as you know the outcome needed for success. Once you know the outcome you need, taking the steps backwards to your decision will be a lot clearer.
2. Trust Your Crystal Ball
Once you’ve worked out your outcomes, you’ll need to do a bit of informed fortune telling to predict the consequences of your decision. The best way to do this is by thinking through where each of your options put you (or your organization) in the future. Try to predict the consequences in a day, a week, a year from now. It’s easy to get sidetracked by thinking about the short-term consequences when you’re under pressure, but the impact of your decision in the long term is where your perspective should lie.
The thing about making decisions under pressure isn’t just that they’re hard to make in the first place, it’s that they’re hard to commit to. I think everyone knows the feeling of decision remorse, where the words ‘did I do the right thing’ seem to be permanently attached to your consciousness. The best way to overcome these feelings is to start implementing your decision as soon as possible.
You can never totally remove the emotional responses that come from being under pressure, but you can minimize the impact that they have on your decisions. So next time you’re faced with a big decision, instead of focusing on madly putting out the fire, try to focus on building a long term solution. It might sound like semantics, but you’ll be surprised by the shake-up it gives your mind.
Header courtesy of JasonLangheine