Make Goodness Attractive

This won’t be the last time I tell you, I am blessed to have some of the most incredible and inspiring friends.

Today I was able to connect with two of my best friends who never fail to bring new ideas and a new sense of appreciation into my life.  Maria and Esteban spent all summer in Panama doing good (creating teaching programs with locals, mentoring Kalu Yala interns, and spreading joy) and dreaming of ways to do better (from phone apps to healthy recipe cards these two never stop).

So what are these amazing people up to next?  Their current goal: Make goodness attractive and make making good decisions easier. 

I have spent a lot of time thinking about making decisions, learning why we make certain decisions, and wondering how we can make better decisions.  But their approach provoked me to think of this problem as much more of an opportunity: how can we make making good decisions easier for each other?

In Predictably Irrational, Ariely talks about designing incentives for ourselves to encourage good decision making.  Pair things you have to do with things you want to do.  So if you have to do rehab exercises schedule time every day where you can watch a TED talk or listen to your favorite music while you do them.   Or if you know you indulge in fast food too often buy your favorite dessert and only allow yourself to eat it after you’ve cooked a healthy meal for yourself.

Now lets go social. How can you encourage friends and family to make good decisions?  Research has proven that we are influenced by others around us more than almost anything else.   In what ways do you influence people around you for the better? What about for the worse? Consider this:

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

-Jim Rohn

Identify people who make you better. Learn from them. Identify people who you help.  Team them.  Let’s make each other better.   Let’s make making good decisions easier.

Semi-related tangent story: Allison (my roommate) just shared a quote from an article she is reading about sugar, without really thinking I then grabbed a piece of candy next to me.  (bad influence) She then shared a few facts about how much sugar is in coke (10 oreos worth!) reminding me how much sugar can sneak into our diets if we aren’t careful (good influence).

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Decision Making

Making a decision, and confidently is something I have struggled with.  However  I think I am getting better, here’s how:

In my administration and management class we learned about decision making from many different perspectives.  Once you move to a position of influence the decisions you make affect you, your career, the people you work with, your company or organization, and varying amounts of the general public.  Our professor recognized that there is no way to teach us material to prepare us for these decisions rather we must learn how to assess each situation uniquely; utilizing the information we have to make the best decision possible given the current circumstances.  Therefore our learning was done through case studies, discussion, and readings rather than lectures.

For this class we read two books with distinctly different advice on decision making.  Predictably Irrational focuses on how our brain’s natural processes influence our decisions whether we are conscious of how we made them or not.  Defining Moments offered guidance on how to make extremely challenging, morally conflicting decisions.

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

Every chapter of this books points out a new cognitive shortcoming, how we routinely react irrationally in certain situations.   Ariely conducts studies to prove each of these very human errors which make it impossible to ignore the ways you too are prone to make such mistakes.  From the allure of FREE! to our inability to think in absolute values (we are much better at comparing things in measurable ways) to our desire to hold on to what we have in order to avoid the pain of loss I regularly notice how these principles affect me in both little and large ways.

Defining Moments by Joseph Badaracco

In this book Badaracco presents three complex moments when a decision needed to be made and then offers advice on how to see each situation properly.   He pulls wisdom from philosophers and examples to provide context for his advice.   Underlying all of his suggestions are reflection both in the moment and beforehand.  Knowing your priorities, morals, and allegiances before you have to make a tough decision is key.

The challenge, in short, is to keep the immediately important from overwhelming the fundamentally important.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What are the other strong, persuasive, competing interpretations of this situation or problem?
  • Have I orchestrated a process that can make the values I care about become the truth for my organization?
  • Have I done all I can to strike balance both morally and practically?

I found both books interesting, practical and insightful.  As a result I have recently been much more cognizant of how I go about making decision – hopefully for the better.