7 Tips for Enhancing Your Decision-Making Skills Without Stress (Convergent Thinking 1)
Life is demanding as it forces us to make decisions every moment. This ever-deciding status of mind is overwhelming, but there’s a way to mitigate the stress: enhancing our critical thinking skills and having fun!
Deciding is converging to a choice, which is the intention for an action. Decision-making is the arena where convergent thinking must be the king; the alternative would be deciding without control.
Let’s then apply the convergent thinking approach to decision-making.
Enjoy a 7-step procedure that will help you make any decision!
Tip 1: Jot it down
Everything is possible, but many things are highly challenging, like converging to a decision without writing down the thinking journey that should lead to it.
Remember: almost every success starts with jotting it down as a goal. Critical thinking is not an exception.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t suggest a formal description but a free writing experience where you write and draw to put ideas outside yourself. It’s funny! Take a white piece of paper and start writing here and there some words that link to the ideas you want to explore.
Remember: nothing is obvious, and everything deserves to be written down. A set of neglected obvious facts may lead to the wrong decision because losing focus on them implies ignoring the relationships among them. In contrast, those relationships could be crucial to making the right decision.
Simply put, the obvious is a hallucination. And writing everything down helps to avoid hallucinations.
Tip 2: Visualize
Critical thinking aims to put thoughts outside ourselves to make it possible to examine them with minimum bias. Writing things down is not enough because when you write, you mirror prejudices, too. It would be best if you organized what you wrote visually.
Why does visualization reduce biases? When you draw — positioning words in space and adding pictures and sketches is drawing — you are forced to adapt to the canvas that hosts your drawing: the size of the piece of paper, the colors you can use, ruled or squared or white paper, etc. Imagine that your hidden bias results in visualizing all your thoughts in red: your palette gives you five colors, and you use only one. Weird. Well, you likely discovered your bias! Or, at least, you can check whether a bias caused your visual to be only red.
Mind mapping is the most powerful technique for visualizing ideas and enabling the other two steps in our awareness journey: connect and discover.
Always mind map!
Tip 3: Connect
Once you see it, it’s time to connect. Connections are the roads in the map of your decision-making journey.
Awareness makes the difference between looking and seeing: when you visualize isolated ideas, you look at them; when you connect them, you see their relationships and grasp their whole meaning. That’s awareness. And what more does decision-making require than awareness?
Connections are bridges between domains that you’d otherwise consider only partially.
Think of a coin, for example. A coin has two faces, A and B. Before realizing they are two faces of the same coin, you could be tempted to look at faces A and B as belonging to two distinct coins. You never see both facets of a coin simultaneously, so it may seem reasonable that A is one face of coin C1 and B is one of coin C2.
How would you act if you had to decide which coin, A or B, to take?
Then, imagine that some analysis leads you to connect A and B, and B and A, with an arrow labeled ’is a facet of C’: thanks to this connection, you get the knowledge that A and B are the same coin and it’s not worth to spend time deciding which one to take, A or B: it’s the same! In this trivial scenario, a connection removed the effort of a useless decision.
Beware: after realizing that A and B are the same coin — only after — this knowledge becomes obvious. Remove the word ‘obvious’ from your vocabulary if you want to think critically!
Tip 4: Discover
Connecting ideas is thinking. When you visualize and travel across ideas, you can discover something new, like in the case below of the two faces of a coin.
At tip 4, you’re in a position to have ideas
- Written down
You have a speaking picture of your thinking: now, explore it. Challenge it. Make inferences from it.
Remember: the aim is to make decisions, and you want your choices to be observable. When you decide, you bet the assumptions behind your decision are correct — but you don’t know. Once the time reveals whether those assumptions were correct, you want to understand why they were right. Whatever happens, you want to learn from your decisions. What you discover through your critical thinking is the ground of your learning because you can control it. It’s in front of your eyes: written down, visualized, and connected.
Tip 5: Destroy
Discovery may contradict assumptions and even open new ways of thinking. Connections may lead to counterintuitive consequences and logical conflicts that destroy the whole picture you built so far.
Humility is paramount in this phase. Destroying our thoughts is simultaneously hurting and productive, so show no mercy on your ideas: they are a means, not your goal. Remember: you want to make the best decision, not be right.
2 Things You Can’t Have Together: ‘Being Right’ and ‘Understanding’
Whenever you discuss, there’s a decision to make: do I want to be right or understand? This decision is often…
People not used to critical thinking unconsciously refuse the destroy phase because they have remained in that infantile state in which being right is the indispensable grist to feed their egos.
When your goal is understanding, you must silence your ego: that’s the brutal truth. And there’s an even more tough truth: if you skip the self-destroying phase of your thoughts, facts will likely destroy you once you convert your ideas into actions. Acting means interacting with the world, which doesn’t care about you being right or wrong: the real world values what works.
Be always ready to be the fiercest critic of your ideas because only after the destruction stage can you move on to rebuild and then consolidate.
Tip 6: Rebuild
Once you destroyed your thoughts, save the best and rebuild them in a newer and firmer shape.
Critical thinking is not linear; it’s not like reading an already published book from page 1 to the end, but more like painting by adding colors and details progressively. The destroy phase allows you to challenge the whole picture; now, pick the most robust and reliable facets.
It’s possible, even desirable that the phases destroy and rebuild iterate more than once: the more iterations, the more solidly based decision.
How many times to iterate?
When the destroy phase results in less defined ideas, stop: You have reached the most refined possible picture of the thinking process that supports your decision-making.
Well, on a piece of paper or a screen, the decision is now under your eyes: get into the last phase!
Tip 7: Decide
You’re almost finished! The previous six steps helped you build a path of thinking that led you to define the decision you were aiming for: now, it’s time for action.
Actions make changes and originate the need for further decisions. Tip 7 is not the end of the story; it’s only the end of a chapter.
As you see, critical thinking is rooted in curiosity and is itself a productive mechanism. Let’s recap the tips that make moving its gears:
- Jot it down
The seven tips in this article are convergent thinking. You can decide based on gut feelings: convergent thinking applied to decision-making is the opposite as it aims to deduce the decision through a logical journey.
It’s a journey that always starts by writing things down. Then, step by step, it draws a model of your thoughts, and this is where the magic happens: when you model your thoughts, you control them and can make them serve you.
Follow me to get the second article of the Convergent Thinking series: Who Else Would Like To Get Awareness in Life and Business, Even Without Getting Bored? (Convergent Thinking 2)