How Do You Decide?

my planeThis was my baby when I flew airplanes. A Cesssna 177. I loved that plane, because it was so smooth to fly. I can’t tell you how much fun I had doing chandelles, and lazy eights in that aircraft.  (If you are curious about what these maneuvers are you can click here and here ) To execute any aircraft maneuver, correctly, required training, and then hours of practice. Once mastered, however, that skill became second nature; and yet, we still needed to use a checklist every time we got into the aircraft to fly.

When I was a commercial pilot and a certified flight instructor at American Flyers, we had learned early on that a pilot’s judgment was one of the key elements to a safe and successful flight. We used a framework called the 5P’s that would help each pilot to evaluate his or her progress at key decision points before, during, and after the flight. It was essential to have a plan in place, and to stay ahead of the airplane, because if the pilot fell behind, or got distracted, things could snowball out of control very quickly. So, when I was thinking about this blog post, it occurred to me that there must be a similar framework for decision-making in everyday life.

I found that I was more successful when I planned, when I prioritized based on my values, when I took into consideration others’ needs and wants, when I evaluated my options, and when I clearly identified what the choice was about. (Sounds a lot like a checklist to me!) Therefore, I was so excited when I found this little gem in a post by, Dana Radcliffe, Senior Lecturer at Cornell University, that discussed decision-making. 5P

Radcliffe writes,

The Johnson School believes that, with adult students, ethics education should focus not on trying to inculcate basic values, but rather on equipping students with concepts and questions that will help them make sound decisions... This instrument consists of a series of questions that press users to identify their obligations to the sundry stakeholders and seek a defensible balance among them when they conflict…

For those of you who are interested, you can read the full post is here.

While this framework focuses on ethical decision-making, I believe that it can be used for all decisions in which we are unsure about the best course of action.  Here is my tweak on the headings above:

  1. Priority – The needs and values that are most important to you
  2. Principles – Your values that are in alignment with who you believe yourself to be
  3. People – Needs and wants to consider, including your own
  4. Possibilities – Your Options
  5. Problem –  The “What”  that requires a decision on your part

Now with this framework in mind, I have created a checklist that you can use when you arrive at a key decision point:

Decision Making Check List

Similar to when we were ready to take off or land, once you complete your checklist, you must decide!

My hope is that the next time you need to make a key decision,  this checklist will help you to make your choice with a little less worry – and it might result in a smoother ride! 🙂

Until next time,

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