The Secret to Better Decision-Making

Do you ever struggle when making complex decisions and feel unsure about which option is the right one? Making complex decisions can be a challenge. Sometimes the choices don’t align with your values. How do you choose when the options seem contradictory? Fear not, I’m going to share with you the secret to better decision-making from both personal and business perspectives!

We all want to make good decisions. Decisions we believe will create the most “good”, or value. But it’s not always clear HOW to do that. Which factors are the most important? What if your ideas clash with your partner, colleague, or organization?  How do you know or “weigh” what’s most important? And what happens when we realize that WHAT we value and HOW we value don’t seem to match up?

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Aligning Our Values with Our Actions

For example, we may say we value FAMILY, yet our behaviors don’t match up. You may work long hours – or sometimes put your work ahead of your family. (This may be out of necessity, but it might also be out of choice). So, while you may think you value FAMILY, your behavior and actions show the opposite. How you define your values and align your actions will be different for each person based on your unique circumstances. Now, let’s look at this from the business leader side. You or your organization may say they value FAMILY, and yet you expect (or it’s standard practice) that your colleagues will answer emails after hours, or during vacation time. Your organization provides personal paid time off, yet your company (or you as a leader) make it uncomfortable to leave work early. What kind of message is this sending to your team?

The same goes for HONESTY, TRUST, or COMMUNICATION.  If you profess to value these ideas (or “ideals”) but hold back on the behavior or actions that demonstrate your commitment, what happens? What if tough discussions are difficult for you, so you avoid them? What if you don’t take enough time to talk with your team because you’re busy doing other things, you think are “more important”? What if you say one thing and do another? What do your actions communicate to your team about you, or your organization? And, how can you bridge that gap and make decisions that truly reflect what you believe and what matters most?

Formal Science of Axiology

Today, we’re delving into decision-making, but with a unique twist – we’re going to approach it from a scientific and measurable standpoint. This scientific discipline is known as Axiology. The Science of Formal Axiology is a tool that allows us to not only understand but also measure and evaluate HOW we value and make decisions. In simpler terms, it helps us decipher why we prioritize certain things and make the decisions we do. We hope it will also help you learn HOW to make better decisions in the first place.

Now, let’s connect the dots. By applying the Science of Formal Axiology, we gain the ability to understand the how and why and make decisions that are truly aligned with our core beliefs. Imagine it like steering your ship using a precise navigation system, or a compass for keeping you headed due north.

Unraveling the Hierarchy of Value

Next, we’ll look at the Hierarchy of Value, or what’s also known as Value Theory. The Hierarchy of Value has three dimensions of value or ways of thinking about the value of people and things. The three dimensions are systemic, extrinsic, and intrinsic value.

Systemic Value

The systemic level is all about “black-and-white” thinking, like “yes or no” or “right or wrong.”  This is the type of thinking and valuing that has the least value, and it’s where so many people get stuck. When we can’t agree on something like a policy or an idea, then we think we can’t agree on anything. And while that may be true, most likely, there are some things we can agree on. Let’s be clear, this type of “all-or-nothing” thinking has the least measurable value – you either “agree or disagree”. One or the other. We also call this dualistic thinking.

Extrinsic Value

The extrinsic level, on the other hand, deals with measurable things like achievements, performance, productivity, and products. We can measure the value of things like a good chair, car, or home (that is if we can agree on what makes it good!). Keep in mind that the qualities that determine a “good” car for one person, may not be the same for every person. That’s why it’s important to agree on the qualities or attributes that are needed in advance, to get everyone on the same page.

Intrinsic Value

But the magic happens at the intrinsic level. The Intrinsic is about recognizing the unique, immeasurable, and irreplaceable value of a person or thing. And, when we focus on intrinsic value, our decisions become clearer. The Rescue of the soccer team of 12 Thai boys and their coach who became trapped in an underground cave, is an illustration of intrinsic value driving decision-making. Never was the extrinsic expense of saving these boys discussed. Instead, an international group of special service members and volunteers came together and through their heroic efforts brought all 12 boys and their coach to safety.

The Intrinsic Matters in Relationships

Now it’s time to get personal! Consider a time when you truly felt valued by someone just for being YOU – including your quirks, your strengths, your everything.

I remember a time when I was disappointed and upset about how I’d handled something. I was feeling pretty low. And a friend showed up for me in the biggest way. My friend reminded me that I am none of the stuff I was thinking.  I am not my mistake. That who I am is untouched. That I am an amazing human. That feeling was powerful.  I knew my friend was in my corner, no matter what. Ugly tears and all.

Now imagine you apply this kind of thinking and valuing as a leader, or manager.  I remember a story a colleague shared with me when she was struggling with a family issue. She was speaking with her boss, overwhelmed she began to cry. Immediately, her boss reached out, touching my colleague’s arm. The boss said, “Whatever it is, it will be okay. We’ll get through this”. The boss recognized the need to connect as humans. My colleague was so moved by this, she shared her experience with me.

Intrinsic valuing – creates a deep connection, and a more compassionate and supportive environment. It’s the kind of experience you never forget.

And while it’s great when someone intrinsically values or validates you, learning to appreciate the intrinsic value in ourselves is even more valuable. Embracing the value we bring to the world just by being authentically and completely ourselves without saying or doing anything “special”, is infinitely important.

Applying Axiology to Better Decision-Making

So, let’s review how this applies to your decision-making. When making a complex decision, consider the Formal Science of Axiology (how we think and value) and the three dimensions in the Hierarchy of Value. 

Systemic. While we may or may not agree on an idea or plan at the systemic level, we cannot ignore systemic ideas either. A safety plan, or the rules we follow when driving are important whether we agree with them or not. But we do need to watch out when “rules”, “policies”, or judgments (our ideas about ideas) are used as a primary way of making decisions since systemic ideas hold the least amount of value.

Extrinsic. On the extrinsic level, there are lots of measurable factors and attributes to be discussed and determined when making decisions about products, productivity, performance, and achievements. Involving all parties in decision-making can be helpful in considering all the factors necessary to make a good decision.

Intrinsic. Lastly, we must keep in mind the intrinsic and immeasurable value of people and things. This is how someone or something makes us feel. It can be a manager that makes you feel valued, or disvalued in the decision-making process. It may be how you feel about a loved one, or your most cherished possession because of the personal value it holds for you. The immeasurable quality of people and things is often the most important, and yet sometimes most overlooked or undervalued dimension.

Bringing Intrinsic Value Home

Let’s bring more appreciation of the different ways of valuing into our daily lives, with our family and friends, and even our colleagues at work. Don’t get hung up on who is right or wrong, or agrees or disagrees with you, that’s the least important.  Be sure to talk to one another. Be curious. Ask questions. Learn how someone thinks. Try to understand their point of view.  And lastly, don’t forget that how you make them feel is most likely what they will remember. 

As Maya Angelou famously said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But, people will never forget how you made them feel.

By keeping in mind the Formal Science of Axiology and the Hierarchy of Value, you may be surprised to see how it can transform your relationships in the most beautiful ways!

We hope this article resonated with you. If you’re ready to dive even deeper into this topic schedule a personal introduction with me. And until next time, put your to-do list aside (at least for a few minutes), and really see, hear, and intrinsically value those around you, because that’s where the secret to better decision-making happens!

Kristin Clark is a certified Axiogenics Partner and Coach and co-author of Living a Richer Life; It’s All in Your Head. She has coached hundreds of people from a range of backgrounds and beliefs, industries, and professions. Kristin trains and coaches executives, leaders, and individuals in Valuegenic Self-Leadership. This powerful development program will help you tame your limiting thoughts to master your mindset for more confidence, clarity, impact, and meaning, so you can start Living a Richer Life.

Photo by Valentin Antonucci on Unsplash | | YouTube