The Art of Decision-Making

The Art of Decision-Making

Chocolate or strawberry? Life or death? We make some choices quickly and automatically, relying on mental shortcuts our brains have developed over the years to guide us in the best course of action. Understanding strategies such as maximizing vs. satisficing, fast versus slow thinking, and factors such as risk tolerance and choice overload, can lead to better outcomes.

When making a decision, we form opinions and choose actions via mental processes which are influenced by biases, reason, emotions, and memories. The simple act of deciding supports the notion that we have free will. We weigh the benefits and costs of our choice, and then we cope with the consequences. Factors that limit the ability to make good decisions include missing or incomplete information, urgent deadlines, and limited physical or emotional resources.

When people are put in a familiar situation, their decisions are often fast and automatic, based on longtime experience with what works and what doesn’t. However, when encountering a situation they’ve never been in before, they have to take time to weigh the potential benefits and risks when choosing a course of action. They are more likely to make mistakes and face negative consequences.

The ability to think critically is key to making good decisions without succumbing to common errors or bias. This means not just going with your gut, but rather figuring out what knowledge you lack and obtaining it. When you look at all possible sources of information with an open mind, you can make an informed decision based on facts rather than intuition.

How to Make Good Decisions

How do we choose between two or more options that seem equally appealing on the surface? Decision-making usually involves a mixture of intuition and rational thinking; critical factors, including personal biases and blind spots, are often unconscious, which makes decision-making hard to fully operationalize, or get a handle on.

However, there are steps to ensure that people make consistently excellent choices, including gathering as much information as possible, considering all the possible alternatives, as well as their attendant benefits and costs, and taking the time to sleep on weightier decisions.

In life, there is often no “right” decision. When surrounded by an abundance of options, it’s easy to experience decision paralysis or feel less satisfied with your decisions. You may even blame yourself when really you are going through “choice overload.” The key is to find ways to simplify your decision and not ruminate over the many roads not taken.

Decision-making can be stressful, and follow-through is essential. You may need to accept that panic, fear, and lack of self-confidence are often part of the decision-making process. It’s crucial to get enough sleep, so you can think clearly. Try to keep your priorities straight. Carefully weigh the trade-offs, commit to a decision, and then follow through on it.

Avoiding Bad Decisions

The field of behavioral economics demonstrated that people are not always rational when it comes to decision making. Fortunately, most personal and professional choices have few or no long-term, negative consequences. However, sometimes a person has to make a decision that will have a profound impact on their future—from who they marry to where they live to how they manage their professional career. In these cases, it’s important to avoid the common pitfalls that can lead to poor decision-making. These can include doing too little or too much research, mistaking opinions for facts, decision fatigue, a failure to learn from past errors, and more.

6 Secrets to Goal Setting with ADHD

6 Secrets to Goal Setting with ADHD

ADHD has no “cure” — nor should it. Managing ADHD is not about fitting in or calming down; it is about standing out — identifying your competitive advantages and developing those strengths into skills that will help you achieve your personal goals.

Over 15 years of treating adults with ADHD, I have identified six interventions that are reported to be the most helpful in managing ADHD symptoms and challenges. I have found that mastering these six “super skills” empowers people to make progress in their lives with – not in spite of – ADHD.

Skill #1. Name Your Strengths

Many individuals with ADHD suffer from low self-esteem and poor self-concept – often due to years of negative messaging about their abilities compared to individuals without ADHD 1 . These negative beliefs can sabotage quality of life and contribute to the development of mood disorders, anxiety, and other complex psychiatric issues over time.

For all of these reasons, cultivating the skill of identifying your strengths — or “finding your gifts,” as I like to say — is powerful and essential to well-being.

To get you started, here are five ADHD gifts I’ve repeatedly observed and noted:

Creativity – some studies suggest that individuals with ADHD are better at divergent thinking than their neurotypical counterparts. 2

Empathy — people with ADHD know that life’s biggest struggles are sometimes invisible to others and their care can increase positive social connections.

Emotional sensitivity – intense emotions can help us see parts of the world that need to be fixed as this intensity can make people more sensitive to life and therefore be motivated to repair the world. Their passion can become a source of motivation for unleashing focused attention and action, another way to view hyperactivity

Nature smart – the ADHD brain blossoms in green outdoor settings 3

How to Find Your Strengths

  • How did you succeed this week?
  • What are the three biggest successes in your life?
  • When did you feel most appreciated?
  • What are five things that interest you?

Skill #2. Set Meaningful Goals

Life is but a series of personal goals – daily or long-term, big or small. Goals span education and personal enrichment, health and fitness, interpersonal relationships, career, hobbies, bucket list activities, and much more.

Setting and achieving goals increases our well-being – a fact supported by research4. But ADHD symptoms like poor working memory, inattention, disorganization, and overall executive dysfunction often derail efforts to set personal goals — and obtain results.

Knowing how to set reasonable, attainable goals is an important skill that helps narrow down what it is you really want and, eventually, the means to get there.

What is Quest Depot?

Quest Depot is an incentive-tied, science-based gamified experience for personal growth that helps people as young as elementary school to set goals, track progress, review performance, think positively and live out their dreams.  

Personal goals are turned into quests at Quest Depot, and users benefit from all proven effective productivity and success methods automatically applied to their goal in a simple and visual way.  Parents, grandparents, families and friends can sponsor adventurers on their quests with cash prizes that are only released upon verified completion of quests.

Quest Depot replaces:

  • Reward charts
  • Diary/journal
  • To do list, Project management tools
  • Progress tracking charts
  • Behavior contracts
  • Mood monitoring apps
  • Consequences / punishments

Uses for Quest Depot:

  • Change habits
  • Record progress
  • Goal setting
  • Guided journal
  • Emotions check-in
  • Manage allowances and reward for behavior
  • Involve extended family and friends in what’s important to you

Benefits of Quest Depot:

  • More confident. Develop a growth mindset.
  • Self discovery. Become more self-aware.
  • Better mood, happier, calmer.
  • Stronger relationships. Allies share your successes and setbacks and become better connected.
  • More successful.  Increase likelihood of achieving goals.
  • Earn rewards–money for achieving your goals.
  • Self-discipline.  Committed to what you set out to do.

Goal Setting Tools

Creating and setting goals is great, but actually achieving them can be much harder.  Using the proven goal setting exercises discussed in this article can help you not only in setting an achievable goal, but also in the individual steps and processes needed to achieve it.

The way we spend our lives, those seemingly small daily decisions, actions, patterns, determines our success, happiness or lack thereof.  Having knowledge of goal setting is one thing, it’s another thing to put them into action and stick to them. Goal setting tools are a great way to help you set goals, track progress, and focus on what you’re trying to achieve.

  • Regular meetings / reviews with your manager, coach, parent or teacher
  • Join groups and meet people trying to achieve the same goals (such as sports teams, weight loss,  / classes).
  • Using goal setting software to keep you up to date (Quest Depot and GoalScape are just a few)
  • Put your goals and journal about your daily performance
  • Use your phone to set up daily reminders or alarms to do your action item 
  • Inspirational posters and quotes around your desks and wallpapers set on your devices as friendly reminders
  • Tell your friends and family what you’re working on so they can provide support (and it’ll also make it more difficult for you to quit on your goal)
  • Visualization activities, including meditation, positive affirmations, and mindfulness
  • Work with a coach, counselor or mentor who motivates you to stay on the right track

The right tool for you depends on your perception/learning style, your personality, limitations, and current abilities. We’ll elaborate on  these goal setting tools below.

1. Goal Setting Journal

Keeping a journal allows you to record your progress, the setbacks you have faced and brainstorm ways to overcome them. As few as ten minutes a day to review and record your goals and progress will help you stay focused, motivated and more positive about your quest (Robinson, 2017). It’s re-affirming to see how far you’ve come in achieving your goals.

2. Digital Productivity and Goal Setting Tools

You’re on your devices daily, so why not use them to your advantage in achieving the best life possible?  Quest Depot is a daily habit tracker app that allows you to focus on goals you’re hoping to achieve and check them off as you achieve them. It’s got a very appealing and intuitive graphic interface, built-in reminders and in-depth functionalities that incorporate best practices from goal setting, performance science, psychology and goal completion. 

Not only can you create goals and track progress, but it also gives you access to professional coaching and a whole community of like-minded, success-oriented people.  Quest Depot is unique in the social nature of its reward system, encouraging users to seek out “allies” to join them on quests and put in real money as incentives for successful completion of goals. This exceptional function is based on human psychology, and greatly increases users’ motivation and accountability to the goals they’ve set.

3. Visualization and Meditation

Both visualization and meditation have been proven to improve our sense of happiness and contentment, as well as overall well being (Meevissen, Peters, & Alberts, 2011, Peters, Flink, Boersma, & Linton, 2010).  More specific research shows that visualization can help to encourage  and improve goal-setting behaviors (Taylor et al, 1998).  The Average Perfect Day and One Year from Now and some of the other exercises introduced in this article utilize visualization to assist goal setting.

Our emotions play a crucial role in our health, thinking, so it’s no surprise that they affect goal setting. Studies have shown that when we associate our goals with our values,and link them to emotional outcomes, we are more motivated to succeed and stay positive in the journey (Austenfeld, Paolo, & Stanton 2006). 

Visualization and meditation help to improve goal-setting behavior by keeping our eyes on the prize, creating structured plans, and involving our emotions positively in our success. Creating mental images of our ideal future, how it looks and feels, also helps in setting goals. Oyserman, Byby, and Terry found that they asked participants to use visualization to improve their motivation to set the goals needed to create their vision in real life.

Meditation is a core component of visualization so it makes sense that it would also help aid goal setting. Meditation allows us to calm our thoughts and mind, and take stock of our current being and presence. It can be a useful tool when visualizing what you want your goals to look like, but equally beneficial when you might begin to feel overwhelmed. Meditation allows us to calm our distracted thoughts and notice our present.  It can make it easier for you to visualize, and help when you start to feel overwhelmed.

Goal setting is a double-edged sword.  If we’re not achieving them exactly as we think we should, the fear of failure can creep in and our self esteem suffers. Meditation can prevent these unhealthy negative thoughts from seeping through and zapping our motivation, enabling us to proceed with clarity (Chen, 2015)

Picture yourself vividly as winning and that alone will contribute immeasurably to success. Great living starts with a picture, held in your imagination, of what you would like to do or be.

Harry Emerson Fosdick

Too Many Quests? Exercises For Elucidation

Studies have shown writing about positive life goals topics to be hugely beneficial for our well-being and help us achieve our goals, so take some time to explore your future self and what you want to accomplish with the exercises below.

In 2001, King asked students to write about either a traumatic experience, their best future self, both topics or any non-emotional control topic for twenty minutes a day, across four days. The student’s mood was measured before and after journalist and followed up three weeks after the initial test. King found that writing about life goals – or best possible future self – was associated with a significant increase in feelings of well-being compared to writing about trauma.

 1. The ‘Perfect Groundhog Day’ 

Create a day you will never get bored of, that you could happily relive over and over.  Do one ‘Perfect Groundhog Day’ for your work/school day and another one for your downtime. 

You’re aiming to create a detailed description of your ideal average day. Really think about the pace, interactions, activities and behaviors that occur in your ‘Perfect Groundhog Day,’ and stay grounded in reality, without adding any unlikely events (i.e. teleporting around the world, winning the lottery). 

Below are some prompts to help you get started.

  • When and how do you wake up? 
  • Do you snooze for 20 minutes before getting up? 
  • What do you wear?
  • Is there music, the radio, morning TV in the background?
  • Do you go to school or work – what does that look like? What are you doing when you’re at work/school? Or is the perfect day staying at home?  
  • Who do you talk/text/video conference with throughout the day?

…..and so on

If you are really honest with yourself, you should discover your ideal future, what you truly value and cherish through this exercise.  Next, ask yourself what prevents you from living your ‘Perfect Groundhog Day’ everyday.  Are there habits that you need to change?  Skills you need to build?  Your answers are possible ideas for your next quest!

2. The ‘X Years from Now’ Exercise

This exercise is similar to King’s research experiment of asking students to think about and write down what their best possible future self might look like.  You think about what your dream life might look like one year, five, x years from now.  

‘X Years From Now’ works to switch up your perspectives.   If you’re feeling stuck or failed on a quest previously, try this tool to switch up your quest approach and formulate an improved Grand Plan for your quest. 

Basically, you reverse the traditional goal setting process. You start with the ultimate end results in mind. But instead of figuring out what the first step might be, then the second, third, etc., you work backwards and identify the key milestones that are necessary for getting to the goal.  This can help you clarify what you truly want, and can help you create a strong action plan for achieving success.

You can do this exercise alone or with family or a close friend. It can be really rewarding to share your ideas with someone you trust, who will also challenge you to stretch your comfort zone. 

Make sure you consider the areas below:

  • School/Work – What job will you be doing?Where and what will you be studying? How will you be working towards what you want this to look like?
  • Home – Who lives with you?  Do you own a home?  What kind?  Do you live in the city, suburbs or country?
  • Finances – How much do you have in your bank accounts?  Do you have some debts you want to pay off, once and for all? Are you saving for something in particular? 
  • Relationships – Do you have a tight group of close friends?  Are you happy in love? How much value do your friendships bring? Do you need to work more on connecting with people?
  • Yourself – How do you want to feel about yourself one year from now? Mentally, physically, socially, personally? What does that look and feel like?

Once you’ve created  your version of “What X Years From Now,” figure out the steps required to achieve those things. 

Be reasonable.  Don’t be greedy and even try to tackle everything at once. Pick one or two achievable and measurable goals (no more than three) and build a quest for each.  Again, you can write this down here or in an old-fashion paper notebook. Just make sure it’s written and you can refer back to it and add to it if necessary.

 3. The ‘Map To My Treasure’ Exercise

In ‘Map To My Treasure,’  a spin on vision boards, you give your visualizations a physical form with pictures, painting, collage, or digital art. 

Start by clarifying the goal you want to work towards–visualize what this looks and feels like. Is it a personal achievement or more tangible, like running a marathon or getting a promotion?

What happens when you’ve achieved your goal? How will you celebrate? What do your friends and family say? What will be different? 

After you write all this down, it’s time to create! Grab your art supplies, glitter, magazines clippings or whatever else you want to use to create your treasure map. Spend enough time looking for images, phrases, any visual representations of what reaching your goals look like. You can collect as many images as you like-–there is no wrong or right way to do this. There’s only one requirement: All the images you choose should make you feel and remember the visualization of your goal.

Next, move your clippings in a way where you can see how they connect. You may connect them with yarn, by marker or digitally.  Your ‘Map to My Treasure’ should be highly personal, and make you smile and feel great.  This will help imprint how you are going to achieve them in your mind. You reap the full benefits of this ‘Map To My Treasure’ exercise when you go beyond just completing the physical map.  Look at your treasure map and brainstorm what you must accomplish to achieve that ultimate goal. 

Use these exercises here as a jumping board, and try a few to find out what you respond to most and works best for you. All these activities focus on identifying your most important quests. It’s worth trying a few activities, and revisit them over time to see how your ideas change.

How Pursuing a Quest Can Bring Purpose to Your Life

How Pursuing a Quest Can Bring Purpose to Your Life

In 2002, I walked into a cafe, laptop in hand, to begin a grand adventure.

My adventure did not involve swords, dragons, or golden cups; it didn’t require me to hike the Appalachian trail or steer a boat solo across the world. All I had to do was sip a cappuccino and tap away at my keyboard. After years of detour as a corporate lawyer, I was finally allowing myself to reach that mythical state of being I’d dreamed of since age four: becoming “a writer.”

Believe me when I tell you that I had no idea I would ever publish a best-selling book. My goal was simply to publish something— anything —by age seventy-five. That took the pressure off and put me in a state of near constant flow, and occasional bliss. I wrote a play, a memoir, poetry, and half a novel.

After three years, I started writing Quiet and knew instinctively that this was the one.

But the adventure began long before Quiet and its runaway success. The adventure was the simple act of trying to become a writer in the first place.

In September 2014, my friend Chris Guillebeau came out with a wonderful new book . A book about quests and adventures and about how doing that big crazy (or quiet and intimate) thing you’ve always dreamed of may be the best thing you’ll ever do.

I’ll let Chris tell you all about it…

How Pursuing a Quest Can Bring Purpose to Your Life

by Chris Guillebeau

We all like to adopt habits and make choices that improve our lives—or at least we like the idea of doing so. Small changes can lead to big results, whether it’s being mindful about what we eat or trying to get an extra hour of sleep. Improvement is good.

But what if there’s something bigger that you could do…something that would fundamentally change your life for the better? After thinking carefully about what you enjoy doing and what you find most meaningful, maybe you should think about making that thing the focus of your daily life for years to come.

Perhaps you should consider a quest .For the past ten years, I’ve been pursuing a grand adventure . Even as an introvert (or perhaps because I’m an introvert), I’ve always loved travel, whether it’s exploring new cities and losing myself in foreign markets or heading into a small village after an extended bus ride from a larger hub. After going to a bunch of places, I decided to create structure around those discoveries. Instead of just traveling for fun, I’d turn it into a mission: I’d attempt to visit every country in the world.Every country, no exceptions—and in case you’re wondering, there are 193 […]

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