Image default
Education

What is Decision-Making & Why is it Important?


Did you know that we make about 35,000 decisions a day and most of them are instinctive? We are not even aware of more than half the decisions we make in a day – right from what we are going to eat to what we are going to wear, and what we are going to do after work. Decision-making is one of the 10 core life skills laid down by WHO and the focus point of this article. 

What is Decision-Making?

Decision-making is the process of considering various options to take a particular action. The decision-maker weighs the pros and cons, analysis the problem from different perspectives, seeks advice, does research, evaluates facts, and then makes a choice to achieve the desired outcome.

Why Build Decision-Making Skills in Children?

In a recent survey we conducted, we asked parents – what life skills would they want to develop in their children. Some responses we received were – swimming, riding bicycles, tying shoelaces, etc. Unfortunately, these are not life skills. These can be classified as technical or physical skills, but not life skills. Simply because one can get by in life without knowing these skills.

Decision-making is an essential life skill that we should help develop in children early in life.

I am sure you will agree, with me, when I say that decision-making is an integral part of our lives. It’s a basic skill to lead a happy life. Of course, there is no formula to come up with a foolproof decision. I wish there was! We are bound to falter and take some wrong decisions. Our children will too. But do we rectify our mistakes and learn from them? That is the important question.

It is crucial to give children the independence to make their own decisions early on in life for the following reasons: 

Children are the Leaders of Tomorrow

The children we raise today are the future of tomorrow. They are the ones who are going to be leading society at the forefront twenty years from now. Taking this long-term view, we as parents and educators should try to impart sound decision-making skills to our children – making them happy, compassionate, and confident.

Decision Making is Important for Building Relationships

As children grow older, they choose their friends and decide with whom they’d like to meet or interact. Good decision-makers will mostly get drawn towards people who will be genuinely there for them and support them. Of course, not all of us can predict behavior or a person’s availability, in good times and bad. But, a sense of awareness and mindfulness also sharpens one’s intuitive side and helps good sense prevail.

Overcome Difficult Situations with Patience

Experienced decision-makers will have confidence in themselves based on the previous decisions they have taken. This will help them make decisions with patience even in unusual and difficult scenarios.

Helps Children Become Better Decision Makers

Today, children are far more assertive and have a mind of their own. Right from the age of six months, a child begins to express their likes and dislikes. By the time they turn two or three they are pretty clear about certain decisions like what they want to eat, wear, go, etc. These are their first steps towards independent decision-making and establishing their individuality. If we as parents can help them reason some of these decisions, respect their decisions without any of our own prejudices, it will help the child become a confident decision-maker.

“After children have grown to a certain point, the parents’ job is to encourage their independence. Children are adorable until about five. From then on, they gradually become independent. Although children will continue to need their support, parents must change the way they interact with them. It is after children enter elementary school, especially, that the period of character formation begins. We may call this the time when a child becomes his or her own person”

– Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, Modern-Day parenting, Happiness begins at home.

This is a keen insight offered by Dr. Ikeda. Adults must respect children as distinct individuals. Children who are allowed to be decision-makers earlier on in their lives gradually get comfortable with this skill as they progress in life. By the time they reach the age when they need to choose their career path, they will perhaps be able to make informed decisions. And, when they finally step into their professional careers and take on roles such as teachers, lawyers, managers, political leaders, etc, a sound decision-making quality will certainly help them stay ahead and rooted, at the same time.

via GIPHY

How to Make Better Decisions?

There is no methodology to arrive at a foolproof decision. But, these basic guidelines can help us arrive at the best possible outcome. These are points we can discuss with our children in their early years to guide them in making better decisions.

Making Happiness Your Purpose

Most children start by making small decisions that mostly revolve around them and their families. In these situations, children can be asked to reflect on the following questions:

  • Is my decision contributing to my happiness and that of my family? 
  • Am I harming anyone directly or indirectly because of my decision?
  • Is my decision based on the larger good as opposed to self-interest alone?

Build a Team of Decision Makers 

Encourage your child to build a team of decision-makers. People who they can trust, and, who they know, would be true to them. These people should know the child inside out and guide them whenever they are stuck. This team of decision-makers may comprise parents, friends, and other adults from different walks of life. They may be chosen as per their special experiences or even a skillset. For eg., a friend could be a good listener while a successful uncle could be good at giving career advice. It’s not necessary for us as parents to help our children with all their decisions, always. In fact, it’s always a good idea to seek help from others in our ecosystem. After all, it takes a village to raise a child! 

Making Decisions with an Open Mind

We should encourage children to make a decision with an open mind while taking various perspectives into account. In the long run, a rigid mindset hurts us, while an open mindset makes us adaptable.

Do not guess the Future

Discourage the child from thinking negatively. Encourage them to voice their opinions and their decisions. Moreover, the decisions they make should be based on evidence. One should not make decisions based on things one assumes. For eg. Recently my child wanted to participate in a cricket competition which was happening on a weekday. He completely skipped asking me about it. When I found out about the competition, I asked him about his decision to not participate in the competition. He had decided not even to ask me about it, for he assumed that I would not agree, since the competition was clashing with his school classes.

Do not Overgeneralise based on Past Experience or Hearsay

Have you ever heard yourself say – “Oh! This will not work”, “No diet plan works for me – all diets are useless”. “He told me that the school is useless” etc? We sometimes just overgeneralize things and do not want to try new things based on some past experience. The fact is that till you do not try something new, you will never know. It is also important to ask for evidence or seek evidence before believing anything that comes your way. 

Having a Purpose can help make Decisions

If you can instill the ability in your child to find a purpose for their decision, it can really help them make better and faster decisions. Recently, a friend was contemplating if she should move overseas but could not make a decision as she would have to leave behind her ageing parents. She then questioned herself on her purpose. She realized that she always wanted her children to gain more exposure and get a better education. Keeping this purpose in mind, it became easier for her to take the decision.

Types of Decision Makers

Some of the decision-making traits become evident in children from their early years. If, as parents, we can identify these early on, it gives greater scope to evaluate and nurture children in the right direction. Broadly, these are the types of decision-makers.

Indecisive

They are unable to make decisions quickly and effectively. Sometimes on mundane things like, ‘what to eat and wear’ or  ‘where to go for a vacation.’ But, indecisiveness leads to problems with bigger and more serious decision-making.

Impulsive

Those who jump to conclusions without analyzing the consequences. Acting in this manner may lead to regrets later. 

Over analyzer

Those who mull over a problem longer than required. As a result, one can miss out on an opportunity if not seized in time.

Followers

Those with a herd mentality simply follow the trend in order to fit in without making informed choices in certain situations. 

One needs to find a middle ground and not completely belong to either of these categories. We live in an age with innumerable options at our disposal. That makes decision-making more difficult. Our children will be facing more challenging circumstances, tougher competition and it is imperative that they become wise decision-makers.

Better decisions start with finding the opportunity that exists in every obstacle. You may often struggle to see opportunities because you focus on imagined disappointments and misleading generalizations. Or you allow confusion, rigidity, or emotions to take hold. But if you consider facts over fears, embrace new ideas, and let purpose guide you; you can confidently make decisions that will lead you in the right direction. And it’s easier if you have people to help you.”

– Mike Bayer, One Decision 

via GIPHY

How do Stories Help in Building Better Decision Skills?

Stories work in wondrous ways and provide ample scope for discussion. Here is one to illustrate my point: 

This is an interesting anecdote from the life of Sardar Patel. He was a prominent leader of the Indian independence movement and later got the title, The Ironman of India. In his childhood, he travelled a great distance from his home to school every day. With limited means of transportation, he would cover this distance by foot. 

One day, while walking to school with his friends, he tripped and fell on a boulder that was awkwardly placed in the middle of the road. While he sat down to nurse his wound, he saw many others, like him, tripping and falling over the same boulder. He requested his friends to help him push the boulder away but they refused to say they would miss their exam if they got late in reaching school. Vallabh urged them to carry on and decided to move the boulder all by himself. With great painstaking effort, he finally managed to move the boulder. As a result, he reached school late. Far from being reprimanded, he was showered with praise by his teacher on learning the reason for his late arrival.  

To me, this is an inspiring story. It is a story based on a decision for the larger good over one’s self-interest. Sharing similar stories with children from an early age and having a discussion based on them will help one convey these points with ease. Children are sensitive and gradually pick up the values we try to imbibe in them.

Conclusion 

We all have to make decisions in our lives. The process of decision-making can be difficult, but with practice, we can become better at it.

I often wonder about the world wars, the partition of India, the recent Russia-Ukraine war. They all happened because of decisions made by a few political leaders. However, the number of people impacted by wars is always far greater than one can ever imagine. 

What if nobody had agreed to wage a war? Perhaps, history would have another story to tell. We can only hope that such horrific acts are never repeated again, but that’s only possible when we nurture our children with the desire to make decisions that have humanity as a purpose. Only then will they become compassionate and humanistic leaders and decision-makers of the future!

Related posts

Values that I picked-up in School: A Memoir

Larry McKee

The Sky is the Limit: Story for Women’s Day

Larry McKee

Story: Miracles are a Prayer Away

Larry McKee