I spend far too much time reading news stories and watching television news. Last week, I stayed awake until about 1:00 a.m. watching the drama as Democrats took part in a sit-in at the U.S. House of Representatives. I awoke earlier than usual last Friday morning to discover the outcome of the British Brexit vote. I devour news stories of political candidate responses to these and other events.
As I considered recent events, I began to think about decisions and how decisions affect all of us. Decisions (and actions) have consequences.
Since the Brexit vote, for example, stock markets around the world have dealt with investor uncertainty and drops in stock value. I hear discussions about other European nations leaving the European Union and the possibility that Scotland will break up with England.
Some of the people who voted to leave now say they did not think their votes would make any difference and they would like to vote again. I hear reports that some votes to leave were cast on the assumption that money now going to the common market would go to health care, an election promise that has now been walked back.
It appears that many voted to leave without first checking on possible consequences. A startling outcome of the Brexit decision was that after the referendum, the number of Google searches in Great Britain for “What is the EU? and What does it mean to leave the EU?” started climbing after polls closed.
Personally, I would have preferred a very different outcome and informed votes that took the history and purpose of the EU into consideration. I would also like to have seen a careful review of possible consequences.
In the United States, we also have very important decisions to make. In November, voters will decide if they want a purely untested and uninformed candidate who offers excitement and the opportunity to stick it to the establishment or a candidate who has knowledge and experience but who, I believe, has been wrongly vilified for 25 years by the same group who now reluctantly offers the aforesaid questionable candidate.
As I look at decisions in general, I believe Donald Trumps’ decision to run for President was a bad one—for him and for the country. According to the New York Times, his foray into politics began as an effort to gain stature after repeated incidents that left him feeling inadequate, something his narcissism cannot tolerate.
There is ample evidence that his descent into politics on that escalator last year was designed to “build his brand.” Stephanie Cegielski, a former Trump insider, said he never planned to be President. He was running as a protest candidate, and he wanted to come in second.
He is immanently unqualified and he does not really want the responsibilities of the Presidency. In an interview with Huffington Post, his campaign manager said of his Vice Presidential pick, “[Trump] needs an experienced person to do the part of the job he doesn’t want to do. He sees himself more as the chairman of the board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO.”
From my own perspective: What if the things he does not want to do are critical to the job? What if the things he wants to do are in conflict with the Constitution?
However, the decisions millions of people will make when they vote in November are much more significant than his individual decisions. Will voters rely purely on emotion or look to verifiable facts from sources such as FactCheck.org , Fact Checker or my own favorite, Pulitzer Prize winner Politifact.
From my own review of fact checkers, voters will not vote for him if they hold truth and reliability as important Presidential traits. My fervent hope is that voters will look to fact checking on both sides before believing so much that is thrown out for public consumption.
However, if a conversation I had last weekend is any indication, not all voters will. I spent a little time on Saturday registering people to vote. My role was to register, not to influence registration in any way. After one couple insisted on telling me they planned to vote for Mr. Trump, the woman said, “He is looking much more like a statesman. He no longer looks like a carnival barker.” Those were her exact words.
Nonetheless, she planned to vote for him. My unstated question was: What made her think he was going to change if she had ever thought of him as a carnival barker?
Another area requiring serious thought and prudent decisions is that of climate change.
Failure to act on environmental issues has the potential for even greater damage than even the Presidential election. However, too many individuals and government officials refuse to act. They continue to deny the evidence in spite of the more than 95% of climate scientists who say it’s very real. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “The science is clear. Global warming is happening. We are the primary cause.”
Scientists predict that the impact of global warming includes increased coastal flooding, more damaging wildfire seasons, more frequent and intense heat waves, costly and growing health impacts, more severe droughts, disrupted food supplies, and others. They did not specifically mention migration of people, but that is already occurring. Smithsonian Magazine reports that mass human migration is already occurring as a result of climate change.
People choose not to act because they are comfortable in their current situation, they have listened to misinformation put out by people who gain from inaction or they don’t see the shift with their own eyes. At what point can we no longer halt or reverse the trend?
FAILURE to act also has consequences.
Life is an on-going series of decisions. We make choices every minute of the day: How will I spend my time?What will I eat? What will I wear? With whom will I associate? What job is right for me? Whom shall I marry? How will I vote?
After the fact, we too often find our choices were not the best ones. How is it possible that so many people vote or act against their own self interests?
A very interesting This American Life segment on NPR last weekend discussed how basketball players like Wilt Chamberlain refused to do underhand free throws. Chamberlain stopped making underhand free throws even after he broke 100 points and had the highest scoring individual game in history using that method. He said he felt like a sissy. Most basketball players adopted the same position.
Another portion discussed how football owners and managers spend much more money for a first-round draft pick in spite of evidence that choosing a greater number of less expensive second-round picks makes more sense economically and in terms of winning.
Voters also frequently vote against their own self interest when they do not carefully analyze all the issues.
Taking action or failing to act is the result of emotional responses to factual or fictional information. The question is: Which do we choose?
According to researchers, it seems that all decisions are based in part on emotion, but good decisions result from pure luck or from analyzing all the facts and all the emotions associated with possible outcomes.
We don’t know what the results of the Brexit referendum will be. We don't know if the Washington sit-in will make any difference in weapons laws or whether we can save our planet from the catastrophic effects of climate change, but we can look at how we make decisions, then make the best decisions possible and take action on issues that we believe can make a difference.
MAKING GOOD DECISIONS
So, as we consider decision-making and getting it right, what are the important components of good decision-making?
Richard Branson, co-founder and chairman of Virgin Group, offers four rules for making difficult decisions: 1) Don’t act on emotion. 2) Find as many downsides as possible. 3) Look at the big picture. 4) Protect the downside.
Phillip Mudd, a former CIA executive, offers his five steps: 1) Find the real question. 2) Identify your “drivers.” 3) Decide on your metrics. 4) Collect the data. 5) Look for what’s missing.
These men provide some valuable suggestions, and I believe there are other important decision-making strategies to consider. Answers to the questions below offer valuable insights into making the best possible decisions.
- What are the possible outcomes? How can this decision or action affect me or those I care about?
- Can I live with the outcomes or fallout of each choice? What do I do if things do not go as planned?
- If I do (or don’t do) this, will I regret it?
- How will I feel about myself if I take this action or choose a particular decision? Will I like myself?
- What are my fears? Is fear holding me back? Is fear propelling me? Is my fear realistic?
- What is my felt sense? What does my heart tell me is right?
- What is my real motivation? Does that motivation or the possible outcomes coincide with my life goals and values?
- What do knowledgeable and recognized authorities say is the best course of action?
- What are other options? What are the advantages or disadvantages of each?
- Without paying particular attention to what other people think about you, what do you want other people in similar situations to do?
- What are my assumptions about this situation? When I reverse those assumptions, what are the possible outcomes?
Other than trying to educate other people, we cannot control their actions, but we can make decisions and take action that makes a difference in our own lives.
Image shared under Creative Commons Guidelines: By © Nevit Dilmen, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12214419