Tag Archives: Decisions

Identify Your Happiest Moments to Make Money Decisions Based on Your Own Values

Identify Your Happiest Moments to Make Money Decisions Based on Your Own Values

Most people cringe to see the words “money” and “happiness” in the same sentence, and rightfully so. Money doesn’t equal happiness. You can, however, use money in a way that satisfies your own values. To find those values, it helps to consider your happiest moments.

Money is used to measure value, so it’s easy to think of it as the end goal, but it’s not. Money is just a tool. And here’s what personal finance blog Mom and Dad Money suggests for using that tool in a way that speaks to your own values:

If you know which parts of your life make you happiest, you can make spending and saving decisions that allow you to experience those parts more often. The number-crunching becomes an exercise in accumulating more happiness rather than accumulating more money.

Your happiness becomes the purpose behind your financial plan. The numbers are just the muscle that helps you get there.

This is sort of like our previously mentioned suggestion to answer “why” when drafting financial goals. But if you have a hard time figuring out what that answer is, contemplating your happiest moments can help you identify your values and make better spending decisions. For more detail, check out the full post below.

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When Are You Happiest? | Mom and Dad Money via Rockstar Finance

Photo by Tommy Wong.

Don’t Ask “Can I Afford It?” Instead Ask “Should I Afford It?”

Don't Ask "Can I Afford It?" Instead Ask "Should I Afford It?"

Just because you have the money for something in your account—or the space in your budget to make the monthly payments—doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good idea to buy it.

The difference between “can” and “should,” aside from preventing possible dinosaur-related disasters, is key to setting up a financial plan that’s sustainable over the long run. As personal finance site Wealth Redesigned explains, your financial well being is determined largely by the habits you form. Rather than approaching a purchase or a financial decision from the perspective of whether or not you can, ask yourself if you should:

Making larger purchasing decisions with a buffer mindset can be tricky. It’s not a question of “can I afford it?” because if they wanted to, these people could probably write the check or line up the financing. It’s a question of “should I afford it?” What will taking that big vacation, upgrading to a nicer car or remodeling a bathroom do to the bigger financial picture?

By running your purchases through the filter of “should,” you can gain a better perspective on your overall finances. Sure, you could buy a new laptop with your tax refund even though your old one works okay, but you’d probably be a lot happier in the long run if you put that money towards your credit card debt.

Should I afford it? | Wealth Redesigned via Rockstar Finance

Photo by Thirteen of Clubs.

Find Your “Chief Initiative” to Make Better Financial Decisions

Find Your “Chief Initiative” to Make Better Financial Decisions

Financial decisions and life decisions often go hand in hand. Do you buy a home or move to a different city? Do you start your own business or keep working your 9 to 5? To make your money work for you in the best way possible, it’s important to establish what financial planner Mindy Crary calls your “Chief Initiative.”

Crary, a Certified Financial Planner, says this is what she advises her clients when they’re having a tough time with big financial decisions—find the thing you value most in life. It might be family. It might be exploring, learning, or your career. When you know your “chief initiative,” you narrow your focus, Crary says, and it’s easier to see whether or not a decision is compatible with that initiative.

To figure this out yourself, she suggests asking a few questions. For example:

What’s causing you stress in your life? It’s likely that you’re feeling stressed by something because it’s going against a core value.

What is most important to you in your life? I’m talking about the thing that you would do or want or believe no matter what.

I tried her exercise, figured out my own chief initiative (independence), and it’s a great decision-making shortcut. I go back and forth on big money decisions a lot. Ultimately, I usually end up aligning them with what feels right, but actually knowing why it feels right makes the process a lot easier.

Her full post is definitely worth the read, so check it out for yourself at the link below.

How One Concept Can Simplify ALL Your Money Decisions | Creative Money via Rockstar Finance

Photo by DieselDemon.

The Best Productivity Tricks Used By Evil Dictators

The Best Productivity Tricks Used By Evil Dictators

History is full of evil dictators, and while the had their share of bad qualities, it’s undeniable they were efficient at getting things done. Here’s what we can learn from them, despite their evil nature.

This post, originally published in 2012, is part of our Evil Week series at Lifehacker, where we look at the dark side of getting things done. Sometimes evil is justified, and other times, knowing evil means knowing how to beat it. Want more? Check out ourevil week tag page.

http://lifehacker.com/welcome-to-lif…

Dictators manipulate people when their willpower is weak, they get rid of close friends, and they give rousing speeches that can convince people to do just about anything. Here’s six things, both good and evil, we can learn from the ways dictators have handled situations.

Force Difficult Decisions on People When Their Willpower is Weak

The Best Productivity Tricks Used By Evil Dictators

As we’ve talked about before, working when you’re tired and when you’re suffering from decision fatigue leads to poor decision making. A good dictator knows exactly how to exploit this.

http://lifehacker.com/5902269/trying…

Cuban dictator Fidel Castro loved 4 a.m. meetings where he’d often get people out of bed so he could put them at a distinct disadvantage. Russian dictator Joseph Stalin would also use this tactic, even meeting Winston Churchill late at night to draw up plans to attack Germany.

How you can use this: In both of these cases, the idea is to catch your enemies (or allies) when their willpower is low and they’re willing to do anything to work with you. On the flipside of this, it’s a reminder that decision fatigue is real and easily exploitable by anyone for a variety of means—so whenever possible, avoid those 4am meetings with your boss (or give yourself enough time to wake up beforehand). Photo by Garry Knight.

Create a “Five-Year Plan” for Personal Goals

The Best Productivity Tricks Used By Evil Dictators

Popularized by Joseph Stalin, the Five-Year Plan was an economic plan that sought to bring about a specific end goal like industrialization, lower unemployment, and general readiness for possible problems. On top of being embraced in Soviet Russia, the idea of a Five-Year Plan was used in The People’s Republic of China, Cuba, Pakistan, Vietnam, and others.

How you can use this: While your five-year plan will likely be less ambitious than most dictator’s, the idea itself is still a solid one. In fact, we’ve talked about making a five-year financial plan before, and “where do you see yourself in five years?” is a popular interview question you should have a response to.

http://lifehacker.com/5867612/create…

To figure out what you want, and how to work towards those goals, financial blog The Simple Dollar recommends you create a Five-Year Sketch:

Here are some elements to think about when making this sketch:
What will your job be like?
What will your family be like?
What will your physical appearance be like?
What will your home be like?
What will a typical day be like?
What will you be looking forward to?
What will your social circle look like?
I encourage you to try to write down at least ten traits for each of these questions that describe the way you’d like your life to be in five years.

Planning ahead five years is a great way to figure out what you want, and how you want to get it. We’ve shown you how to prioritize those goals with a hierarchy, how to fight back when your brain stops you from achieving goals, and even how working towards your goals in public can help. Photo by Pascal.

http://lifehacker.com/5912971/focus-…

Purge Threats to Your Power

The Best Productivity Tricks Used By Evil Dictators

In order to hold onto power, a dictator often needs to get rid of threats. This means purging your closest friends and advisors when they get too close to you or you feel like they want your power. The threat alone makes those outside the circle vie for power and attention, while the inner circle is stuck sucking up to you.

Nearly every dictator uses this tactic to some extent, but Fidel Castro and Peru’s Alberto Fujimoro were especially good at it. As Steven Levitsky points out in the Journal of Democracy, Fujimori is most famous for his self-coup in 1992 where he closed Congress, suspended the constitution and got rid of the judiciary so that he could take control.

In their book The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics, authors Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith outline this idea as “Rule 1: Keep your winning coalition as small as possible.”

Fidel Castro was legendary at this. After the revolution in Cuba was a success, 12 of his 20 ministers had resigned (or were ousted). This included Castro’s fellow revolutionary Che Guevara. Castro sent Guevera to Bolivia for a mission in 1967, then cut his funding and left him stranded there because Castro saw Guevera as a threat.

http://smile.amazon.com/dp/1610391845

How you can use this: If someone is challenging your authority, the easiest way to deal with it is to get rid of the person in question. Be careful and keep an eye out for anyone gunning for your position. On the flipside, if you’re looking to move up in the ranks, you’ll either want to be extra nice to the person who’s job you’re gunning for, so they don’t feel threatened. Alternatively, you could try to get rid of them before they get rid of you, but that’s much riskier (and not as nice). Photo by Cory Doctorow.

Embrace Your “Cult of Personality”

The Best Productivity Tricks Used By Evil Dictators

The cult of personality is a well-known dictator trick. The idea is to present yourself as the most amazing thing possible. To do this, dictators would pick up ridiculous habits, plaster their photos all over the country, or even give themselves nicknames.

The most prominent (and possibly over-the-top) example of was North Korea’s Kim Jong-il, aka, the Supreme Leader of North Korea. Jong-il’s cult of personality rose to the point where, according to author’s Chol-hwan Kang and Pierre Rigoulot in the their book, The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag, people actually believed that Jong-il could control the weather with his outfits.

This is common practice amongst dictators. Romanian communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu gave himself the title, “The Genius of the Carpathians,” Italy’s Benito Mussollini made himself look taller by only allowing pictures from certain angles, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi only employed female bodyguards known as the “Amazonian Guard”, and Cambodia’s Pol Pot rarely allowed pictures of himself at all.

http://www.amazon.com/Aquariums-Pyon…

How you can use this: Your own cult of personality isn’t likely to get as extensive as a dictator’s, but the idea that you can embrace and control it is important for things like job searches. As we’ve mentioned before, shameless self-promotion during interviews isn’t a bad thing. More important is establishing and maintaining your online identity, which is essentially the non-dictator version of the “cult of personality.” If you control what others see, you can control their perception of you, and come off looking a lot better than you are in real life.

http://lifehacker.com/5899349/shamel…

Give Direct, Powerful Speeches

The Best Productivity Tricks Used By Evil Dictators

By a lot of accounts, Germany’s Adolf Hitler was one of the best public speakers in dictator history. At least part of that was due to his timing. Before Hitler started to take power, public speaking was often an intellectual thing, filled with complex, lecture-like readings. Hitler’s performance, in contrast, was excited, emotive, and filled with slogans. In Richard J Evan’s The Coming of the Third Reich, he describes Hitler’s public speaking like so:

http://www.amazon.com/Coming-Third-R…

[Hitler] gained much of his oratorical success by telling his audiences what they wanted to hear. He used simple, straightforward language that ordinary people could understand, short sentences, powerful, emotive slogans. Often beginning a speech quietly, to capture his audience’s attention, he would gradually build to a climax, his deep, rather hoarse voice would rise in pitch, climbing in a crescendo to a ranting and screaming finale, accompanied by carefully rehearsed dramatic gestures…as he worked his audience into a frenzy emotion. There were no qualifications in what he said; everything was absolute, uncompromising, irrevocable, undeviating, unalterable, final…he exuded self-confidence, aggression, belief in the ultimate triumph of his party, even a sense of destiny.

Of course, Hitler’s speeches were all about rhetoric and absolution. While the content itself was horrible, he was undeniably good at getting people to agree with him—even when he was openly calling them stupid. Bruce Loebs, from the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies at Idaho State University points out that Hitler used a few tricks to get people on his side. These included arguments that used passion over reason, black and white reasoning as propaganda, and of course, repetition.

How you can use this: In some ways, Hitler’s speeches were similar to what we talked about when we showed you how to plant ideas into someone’s mind, but Hitler was far more over the top. Still, a lot can be learned from his speech style. Hitler was an obsessive editor of his speeches, and he consistently delivered them in plain language that everyone could understand. Keep this in mind when giving a presentation at work, raising office morale after a bad day, or even presenting an argument to a friend. Simplify your speech (as opposed to trying to sound smart), put some emotion into it, build up slowly, and you’ll have your audience eating out your hands. Photo by Liton All.

http://lifehacker.com/5715912/how-to…

Learn From Experiences, Not Books

The Best Productivity Tricks Used By Evil Dictators

The strongest and longest lasting dictators embraced the idea of “practice makes perfect”, and put themselves on the front lines at some point in order to gain experience. Julius Caesar, for instance, fought on the front lines with soldiers, slept in the same beds, and learned from them before coming up with the quote, “Experience is the teacher of all things.”

Napoleon Bonaparte, of course, did the same thing as he worked his way through the French Revolution (before eventually installing himself as a dictator). Vladimir Lenin was extremely well read, but still spent his time practicing his craft, writing pamphlets, and talking with his people. Mao took this a step further and used his peasant upbringing not just as an excuse not to shower, but also as fuel for his control over peasents.

How you can use this: The point is that experience is far more necessary to get a job done well than a bunch of reading material. New experiences are important, and with deliberate practice you’ll eventually be the best you can be.

http://lifehacker.com/5802583/why-ne…

As we know, practical experience is often better than grades or books in the job market. Internships are more valuable than grades, because when you have experience—but no direct qualifications, you’re a better candidate for the job. Heck, even when we hire here at Lifehacker, having a personal blog of writing samples is far more useful than previous, irrelevant job experience. If you don’t have those types of experiences, make the experience yourself. Photo by @sculp_official.

http://lifehacker.com/5910871/what-e…

The title image was illustrated by Dominick Rabrun. You can find his illustrations on his personal web site, or works in progress on his blog.

Reduce Your Stress by Making “Good Enough” Decisions

Reduce Your Stress by Making "Good Enough" Decisions

Being faced with a decision—even between two positive things—can be a source of stress. Make life easier on yourself by accepting “good enough” decisions when you can.

It’s no secret that humans aren’t perfect decision makers. Without the help of outside tools, we’re just not great at holding all the information we need in our heads at once. Fortunately, we don’t have to. As tips blog Barking Up the Wrong Tree points out, “good enough” decisions are usually good enough:

Make a “good enough” decision. Don’t sweat making the absolute 100% best decision. We all know being a perfectionist can be stressful. And brain studies back this up.

Trying to be perfect overwhelms your brain with emotions and makes you feel out of control.

Of course, there are always exceptions. Who you marry and what career you choose are important, and it’s okay to think those over. What you eat for dinner or what movie you watch? Those don’t matter as much. The less you worry over making the right decision when it doesn’t matter, the less it’s going to stress you out thinking about the decisions that do matter.

New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy | Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Reduce Your Stress by Making “Good Enough” Decisions

Reduce Your Stress by Making "Good Enough" Decisions

Being faced with a decision—even between two positive things—can be a source of stress. Make life easier on yourself by accepting “good enough” decisions when you can.

It’s no secret that humans aren’t perfect decision makers. Without the help of outside tools, we’re just not great at holding all the information we need in our heads at once. Fortunately, we don’t have to. As tips blog Barking Up the Wrong Tree points out, “good enough” decisions are usually good enough:

Make a “good enough” decision. Don’t sweat making the absolute 100% best decision. We all know being a perfectionist can be stressful. And brain studies back this up.

Trying to be perfect overwhelms your brain with emotions and makes you feel out of control.

Of course, there are always exceptions. Who you marry and what career you choose are important, and it’s okay to think those over. What you eat for dinner or what movie you watch? Those don’t matter as much. The less you worry over making the right decision when it doesn’t matter, the less it’s going to stress you out thinking about the decisions that do matter.

New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy | Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Reduce Your Stress by Making “Good Enough” Decisions

Reduce Your Stress by Making "Good Enough" Decisions

Being faced with a decision—even between two positive things—can be a source of stress. Make life easier on yourself by accepting “good enough” decisions when you can.

It’s no secret that humans aren’t perfect decision makers. Without the help of outside tools, we’re just not great at holding all the information we need in our heads at once. Fortunately, we don’t have to. As tips blog Barking Up the Wrong Tree points out, “good enough” decisions are usually good enough:

Make a “good enough” decision. Don’t sweat making the absolute 100% best decision. We all know being a perfectionist can be stressful. And brain studies back this up.

Trying to be perfect overwhelms your brain with emotions and makes you feel out of control.

Of course, there are always exceptions. Who you marry and what career you choose are important, and it’s okay to think those over. What you eat for dinner or what movie you watch? Those don’t matter as much. The less you worry over making the right decision when it doesn’t matter, the less it’s going to stress you out thinking about the decisions that do matter.

New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy | Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Don’t Spend More Than a Few Seconds on Minor Decisions

Don't Spend More Than a Few Seconds on Minor Decisions

We’re all obsessed with finding the best—the best TV, the best laptop, the best…toothpaste. At a certain point, though, you’re just wasting time. Ramit Sethi explains it well: don’t spend more than 2 seconds on decisions that don’t really matter.

The above exchange, which he highlights in a blog post, pretty much says it all. It’s hard for us control freaks to just make a decision—we deliberate, we research, we ponder. We “spend the same amount of time debating over the type of salt [we] buy as the type of car [we] buy.”

We’ve talked about this before—it’s why President Obama only has suits in two colors, or why we recommend automating as much as possible. But for some of us, this needs to be a habit. The next time you find yourself deliberating, ask: is this something that actually matters? Or should this be a two second decision?

http://lifehacker.com/5944198/presid…

Stop Wasting Time on Minor Life Decisions | I Will Teach You To Be Rich

Quantify Your Pro-Con List to Make Better Decisions

Quantify Your Pro-Con List to Make Better Decisions

A pro-con list is usually the place to start when it comes to tough decisions. These lists are nothing new, but here’s an interesting way to make them more useful: quantify every item on the list, then add it all up.

In his book, Get Smarter: Life and Business Lessons entrepreneur Seymour Schulich has an effective way of making decisions based on a pro-con list. Instead of just writing down a standard list of things to mull over, you give a numeric value of importance to each item. He explains the process:

On one sheet of paper, list all the positive things you can about the issue in question, then give each one a score from zero to ten—the higher the score, the more important it is to you. On another sheet, list the negative points, and score them from zero to ten—only this time, ten means it’s a major drawback…If the positive score is at least double the negative score, you should do it—whatever “it” is. But if the positives don’t outweigh the negatives by that two-to-one ratio, don’t do it, or at least think twice about it.

I actually use a method similar to this, but I don’t use Schulich’s double metric for making the decision. My pro number simply has to surpass the con number. But I think Schulich’s rule may actually be a better gauge, because it accounts for optimism bias—our habit of exaggerating the upside of something.

You know your own tendencies, so you can adjust your bottom line rule accordingly. Either way, quantifying each item takes an old standby and makes it a little more useful. Check out the full post for more detail.

Get Smarter: Life and Business Lessons | via Farnam Street

Photo by lecates.

How to Make Objective Decisions When You’re Emotionally Invested

How to Make Objective Decisions When You're Emotionally Invested

Objectivity is one of those traits we all like to think we have. After all, the best course of action in any given situation is to consider the facts and circumstances, and then arrive at the best possible decision. That’s easy, right? Not so much.

This post originally appeared on Fast Company.

The reality is we all have biases. If they’re not managed, we then may pay in lost opportunities, money, relationships, and other ways, says Elizabeth R. Thornton, professor of management practice at Babson College in Boston.

“We commit cognitive errors all the time,” she says. “We perceive something, and in an instant, we project our mental models, our past experiences, our backgrounds, onto whatever that is—a person, situation, or event. Oftentimes, we get it wrong.”

Thornton recalls her own business deal gone bad because she had her personal identity too tied up in a venture. Instead of objectively evaluating the signs that the venture wasn’t working out, she focused on her passion for the project and the self-worth she got from heading it up. That lack of objectivity ultimately cost her $1 million.

When she was able to get some distance and focus on the situation, she began to think about and study the concept of objectivity, which led to her book, The Objective Leader: How to Leverage the Power of Seeing Things As They Are.

You may not have a cool million on the line, but your lack of objectivity could be costing you in other ways. Bust your biases and get a clearer view by tackling these important steps.

Realize the Limits of Your Objectivity and Find Your Weak Spots

If you think you’re truly objective, you’re wrong. People are naturally biased, says leadership consultant Brandon Smith, whose professional moniker, “The Workplace Therapist,” reflects his expertise in clinical counseling. Once you realize that you’re inherently not objective, you can take steps to make yourself better at getting close to it, he says.

Thornton says we leave clues when we’re less objective. Are there topics about which you’re particularly argumentative or which get under your skin? Are there situations where you routinely overreact? If you’re getting agitated or highly emotional, you’re probably not thinking rationally or objectively, she says. That may be because you are emotionally invested in the subject or because you hold particular beliefs that aren’t letting you clearly see other viewpoints.

“It takes self-awareness, but in the moment, you have to be aware of your triggers and do the opposite,” Thornton says.

Gather a Brain Trust and Get an Outsider’s Opinion

The best way to become more objective is to expand the input you’re receiving, says management consultant Floranne R. Reagan, president of EXXELL, Inc. in Boston. Build a network of people you respect whose viewpoints typically vary from your own and seek out their opinions on various matters. They may be colleagues, professionals in other businesses, advisory boards, or directors. “Ideally, it’s someone who cares about you, but also has the ability to say something clearly in a way that you’ll actually hear,” she says.

Whenever you think you know all there is to know about a subject, it’s time to check your views in the interest of objectivity. A good way is to solicit new viewpoints from others, Smith also says. Specifically ask people to share how their views differ. By being explicit about your opinion and inviting others to share theirs in a nonthreatening way, you can compare points and see where you might be missing something.

“Saying something like: ‘Here’s what I’m seeing. Do you see it differently?’ lets people know that you’re interested in hearing how their views differ,” he says.

Consider Your Personality Type

Your natural way of being can lead to certain biases, Thornton says. If you’re naturally a people pleaser, then you may be making decisions based at least partially on your desire to avoid conflict or unpleasantness with others. It’s another form of bias, and can prohibit you from weighing the facts strictly on their merits.

With a bit of self-reflection and gathering the perspectives of your colleagues, you can help distance yourself from decisions to which you’re emotionally invested, and hopefully gain a more objective perspective.

How to Be Objective When You’re Emotionally Invested | Fast Company


Gwen Moran writes about business, money and assorted other topics for leading publications and web sites. Find her on Twitter @gwenmoran.

Image by Ho Yeow Hui (Shutterstock). Want to see your work on Lifehacker? Email Andy.