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Book Review: The Art of Decision Making by Richard Worringham, Ph.D.

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The decision to get The Art of Decision Making was largely based on my inability to make decisions. That’s not quite true. I can make decisions when I have to; I just don’t want to “have to.” Seeing that decision-making is an art made it all the more attractive — after all, don’t I have a secret desire to be an artist?

Inspired by encounters with university students who found it difficult to make decisions, Richard Worringham concluded that “…as a nation, we are not teaching or helping people to make good and satisfying decisions.” Some people avoid decision-making because they’ve never actually been given the opportunity to make decisions; others because it’s so much easier to allow someone else to make the decisions — and be responsible for them.

Worringham became even more convinced when his three children, all in college at the same time, exhibited problems with the process. He admits that his family did not make decisions easily, and gives hope to those of us who face the same problem.

Another interesting aspect of the book is the disclosure of some very bad decisions, historically speaking. Did you know the Titanic went down because the captain made a disastrous decision? A lot of people fear doing the same thing — perhaps not on as large a scale — and find it easier to avoid decisions than be responsible for their repercussions.

Worringham tells us, “Probably the primary or most powerful reason why people find decisions difficult, is the fear of making a mistake, and the imagined negative consequences that might be associated with it.” Probably?

Worringham prepares the reader for decision-making (after reminding us that “Not to Decide is to Decide” with a very pointed example), and breaks learning how into a series of steps. He outlines approaches to decision-making and offers a variety of check-sheets readers can use to help them in the decision making process. One of the most valuable is the “Consequences Check Sheet.” Others measure the influence of religion, education, emotions, family, ethics, and culture on the decision-making process.

This slim volume was intended for people who 1) want to learn to make decisions, and 2) don’t want to spend a lot of time reading about it. There are a number of steps involved in making a decision, though one suspects that good decision-makers take these steps unconsciously and naturally. It is up to the rest of us to learn how to do it in a way that works for us. The Art of Decision Making is a helpful guide to getting on the road to decision-making, independence, and responsibility.

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