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  • Making Good Decisions in 2011

    For many of us, with the New Year about to ring in, our thoughts are turning towards ideas of starting things a fresh.  Down come the holiday decorations and with them our merry festive spirits that held us high above the trials and tribulations of the passing year.

    Yep, it’s time for sensibility and reason to show up on our doorsteps and march us forward with renewed purpose.  Closets are cleaned out to squeeze in those last minute tax write offs, exercise and diet strategies revised and of course, resolutions are made with the best intentions.

    It’s time for us to decide what we’re going to do to make this New Year new.  And if not for the book I picked up this past fall, “How We Decide” by Johan Lehrer, I might not have given this notion about making decisions a second thought.

    In his book, Lehrer offers up the latest research and a good number of compelling examples to demonstrate our human capacity for decision making.  He describes how both logic and emotions play vital roles in good decision making.   He also warns us that if they are not in proper balance according to the problem at hand, we can fall into some inherently human mental flaws while trying to evaluate our choices.

    For example, there is the loss aversion bias, something that easily creeps in to our thinking process as we evaluate our risks associated with anything from investment portfolios, to relationships, to that little gamble on the office football pool.  We just don’t like losses and will make decisions that influence our behavior to avoid them, even over gaining something of the same value.

    Another piece to this same flaw is how we choose to frame our choices or options when making a decision.  What I mean here is, there is usually more than one way to look at things and we need to be conscious of how our choices are framed.  Are they framed as losses or gains?  Does it make a difference to us if our burger is 95% lean or if it’s 5% fat?  Would we rather get a 10% discount or avoid a 10% handling fee if our out of pocket expense was $20 either way?

    Bottom line is, as Lehrer points out, we need to think about how we think, especially if we want to make good decisions.  Actually, we need to not only think about how we are thinking, but we need to think about how we are feeling too.   So keep these wise words in your head as you go about making good decisions in 2011.  Happy New Year!

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