Making a SOUND Decision

We make a lot of decisions in our lives. Some are daily decisions like "What will I wear today?" Others have more long-lasting import such as "Should I accept this job offer?" or "Will I get married?"
When it comes to the big and important choices in life, what makes a good decision?
For many, it's a rapid one. A decision made quickly so that action can be taken.
Rapid decisions are necessary in many situations. Think of a battlefield. Or an emergency such as a fire.
Some years ago, the concept of a RAPID decision making model was developed where the letters identified different roles related to a decision: R for Recommendation, A for Approval, P for Performer, I for Input, and D for Deliberation.
Like SMART for goal setting, RAPID is a useful tool for thinking through the various players that may have an impact on a decision.
But unlike SMART, it doesn't seem to really cover the process of decision making itself.
So here is a new model that I call SOUND:
S = Size up the Situation: When facing a significant life choice, a good first step is to step back and survey the situation in as objectively a way as you can.
What are you facing? How "momentous" is it? How much is at stake?
Even in emergencies, the "Size Up" step is absolutely critical. Imagine a commander at a fire scene who did not first size up the fire before sending his crews into danger.
O = Options: Hopefully you have the time to ask yourself, What are my options?
Years ago, the famous pastor Robert Schuler recommended taking a piece of paper and making a list of the ten options you have as you face a major life decision.
In making the list, don't be limited by what is reasonable or realistic. Just put the ideas down on paper. You can eliminate the "wild" ones later as needed.
Giving yourself several alternative options is a way to free yourself from feeling trapped or painting yourself into a corner.
U = Urgent & Important: Years ago, the legendary consultant Stephen Covey recommended asking yourself, Is this (issue, situation, decision) Urgent or Important?
Urgent means "Do it now." An urgent issue is one where you must drop what you are doing so that you can address it. Not addressing an urgent matter right away could have disastrous consequences.
Important, by contrast, means that the issue has a high degree of value to you but is not something that you have to address this minute.

Covey then displayed four combinations of these concepts, his famous four quadrants.

For this decision making model, I recommend considering a variation on Covey, where the term "urgent" blends the two concepts:

Urgent = a pressing and insistent imperative, a matter requiring your attention.
N = Needs: So if you have an Important choice before you, and you have Sized it Up and considered your Options, then ask yourself, What do I most Need?
Your needs are the things you want out of Life. It could be anything. For example, you might want Comfort. Or you might want Challenge.
Knowing what you want most out of Life, at a given point in time,* gives you a guide to sorting through the possibilities.
(*Our Needs change over the course of Time as we go through Life.)
D = Direction: Finally, ask yourself, Where am I going in my Life right now?
Whether we realize it or not, we are Going Somewhere. Perhaps we are at a stage where we know exactly where we are going.
At other times, we may be aimless and adrift.
When facing Big Decisions in Life, it's the right time to ask, Where do I want to go next? Where do I want to land?
The decision you make is bound to have an impact on where you end up.
Obviously there are many factors that impact a decision, as well as the aftermath of a decision.
Many decisions are made with limited information. At times, we must decide even when much is uncertain.
With a model such as SOUND, you can proceed into a decision with a guide.
With SOUND, you can assess any decision quickly and comprehensively.
With SOUND, you can be SMART about your most important decisions.
Terrence Seamon is an organizational development consultant. Follow him on twitter @tseamon


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