The Scales of Decision Making

The image to your left is of the Scales of Justice, which typically symbolizes the measure of a case’s support and opposition (at least that’s how I understand it and as Wikipedia describes it). Starting in my college days (when I thought I was going to be a lawyer), whenever I was making a decision or someone was trying to convince me of something, I used to pull out the phrase, “let me see what the Scales of Justice say.” I did this mostly in jest and (if you can visualize this), I placed both hands palms up beside me and teetered back and forth, as if I actually was the scales while contemplating my decision. What I didn’t quite realize then was that gesture served as a mechanism for me to buy some time while the actual pros and cons of a decision were flying through my head. Over the course of time, as I became more confident, the scales came out less frequently, but the process would still occur, albeit with more expediency.

I was talking to my son recently about decision making. As I described the process that one should take while making a well-calculated decision, once again the Scales of Justice came out, and I began to teeter back and forth to display weighing a decision. I instantly realized what I was doing and chuckled – but it got me thinking. In everyday practice, the Scales of Justice are actually just the Scales of Decision Making; it’s a great mechanism to lead you to a proper verdict.

I told my son that when making a decision, he should create two mental columns: one listing the pros and the other, the cons of the direction of the decision. Now, he’s only nine, but striving to be independent, so it was a timely conversation to have with him. When he was younger, Patricia and I would say to him, “if you are going to do something or say something you have never done or said before – prior to doing so – you should ask yourself if  Mommy and Daddy would like this or dislike it,” and that would help him make the decision. He has followed that rule quite well, and has done a nice job making “kid” decisions, but it is definitely time to build upon how he thinks about decision making in the future.

So, I proceeded to tell him to list the pros and cons of the decision he was making and to weigh both sides. If there is all upside and no downside, then that is a pretty good indication you are making an appropriate decision, and vice versa. It does get tricky when the sides are more evenly balanced, making for a tougher decision. That decision should warrant more time to reach a conclusion than the one-sided ones. He really grasped the concept and, to my delight, started rattling off examples with the appropriate decisions to back them up.

I write about this because, even as adults who should know better, I wonder if we appropriate the proper amount of weight to our decisions based on their complexity. I am one who professes decisive behavior, and have often said that bad decisions are better than no decisions at all because it creates progress. But, one still should go through the exercise of weighing the ups and the downs of a decision. Some people can do it quickly and easily in their heads. Others may need to write it down in two columns. If writing it down helps you reach a better conclusion, then you should do it. What you don’t want is to make a rash decision and have hindsight telling you, “I didn’t think of that.” What you choose to eat for lunch should not take you more time than the decision to change careers. If you invest the appropriate amount of time in weighing the decision, the likelihood is you will probably have all the facts to make the right one.

Whatever the mechanism, if the Scales of Decision Making are leaning to one side – there is probably a good reason, and you should listen to what they are telling you. Don’t fool yourself; let the scales lead the way.

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *