I recently had the honour of speaking at the graduation ceremony for Oxford Business College. I talked about DNA – no, not that DNA, this one…
It occurred to me that for many of us, choosing a college is the last big decision we make that is heavily influenced by adults – parents have views and some power over our choices, probably teachers too.
Finishing college is a major life transition. You are pretty much responsible for your own decisions from here, on the journey of becoming in charge of your own destiny.
The ability to make good decisions is critical for future success, if you are to find a way forward that is the best choice. To make a good decision, there are a few things to take into account:
- Logic and emotion. Listen to your head and your heart. We tend to make decisions with our heart and then use our intelligence to justify them. Be aware of what you are doing. Make sure you listen to both, and take both into account.
- Know the situation. Gather enough relevant information and look at it objectively. Do you understand the context, know the full picture?
- Know yourself. Or rather, know who you are now. We change through time and experience; you might not have the same interests and desires as you had before college. Is it time to re-evaluate what it is that drives and excites you?
- Generate and weigh up options. The best decisions come when alternatives have been found, weighed up and eliminated. Find some options, weigh up the pros and cons of each one and choose the best one.
Don’t be afraid to make the courageous decisions, or of getting it wrong now and again.
“Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from bad decisions” (Mark Twain)
It takes effort, time and concentration to do the deep thinking required to make a good decision. Does our current lifestyle get in the way?
Neuroplasticity is the brains capacity to organise itself as a result of experience. It continues to create new neural pathways and alter existing ones in order to adapt to new experiences, learn new information and create new memories. That’s great, it’s how we survive, but I am concerned about how the experiences we give our brain impacts on our ability to make good decisions.
Think about how you use your phone, your laptop.
The digital age puts the world at our fingertips. What impact does the way we use technology have on us? What experience are you giving your brain? How does this affect your decision making?
Nicholas Carr researched this after realising he had lost the capacity to read a book:
“Dozens of studies point to the same conclusion: when we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. It’s possible to think deeply while surfing the Net, just as it’s possible to think shallowly while reading a book, but that’s not the type of thinking the technology encourages or rewards (The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember by Nicholas Carr).
Attention spans are down. Concentration is down. we are sleeping less and waking more often. The result is to scatter our attention and diffuse our concentration. We have butterfly brains.
We risk turning into “‘pancake people’—spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button.” (Richard Foreman).
- Ten years ago our attention span was 12 minutes. Now it is five.
- Five hours of computer use can alter the way our brain works.
- Those who don’t use the internet are better at problem solving and decision making
We need to retain the ability to make good, solid, decisions. Don’t let your habits train your brain.
Do your actions lead you to where you want to be? It’s a simple question but we often forget to ask it.
Don’t be passive.
Don’t be dependent on others
Don’t be blown by the wind
“In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” (attributed to Theodore Roosevelt)
Make good decisions. Train your brain to enable you to think deeply when you need to. Take action – even if it is only small steps.
It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things. (Leonardo Da Vinci)
Take time to notice if your action leads you towards your goal
- Don’t say ‘I should’. Say ‘I choose’.
- Enthusiasm gives actions wings, Remind yourself why you’re doing it. Imagine it as done
- Ask yourself ‘What can I do right now to make this goal a reality?’
The day you take complete responsibility for your decisions, and act upon them – that’s the day you start to achieve your dreams.
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