In our daily lives, we always focus on decisions. Outcomes are not even part of our vocabulary. We stress over having to make a decision. The “Monday morning quarterback” attacks the decision we made. But little is ever heard of the separation between the two. Why even in our casual conversations we are always analyzing another person’s decision.
So what is an outcome? It is the result of a decision. What happens after a decision is made is an outcome. Why aren’t they one and the same? Because decisions always preceed outcomes.
Decisions carry a lot with them. They are influenced by many things. Our beliefs about a situation or challenge, our experience in dealing with the same type of situation, how incomplete the information is that we use to make a decision, our biases, the degree of knowledge we have around the available choices we choose from and so on.
Outcomes carry little with them. They simply are the outside world’s reaction to what we decided to do or not do. A reaction we have no control over. While our decisions embed an expectation of the type of outcome we hope for, outcomes never consider what went into a decision. They just happen.
The best example for the difference between decision and outcome would be when you invest in the stock market. You buy a stock for this or that reason. This is your decision. Three months into the future the outcome of your decision clearly can be seen in whether or not you have made or lost money.
We go into decisions with 100% certainty of success. Outcomes, on the other hand, are highly probabalistic. There is no certainty of outcome because of unexpected variables that appear unplanned for. We can make a good decision and have a bad outcome occur.
It takes practice and discipline to think in terms of both decisions and outcomes rather than decisions alone. This habit could be very meaningful in helping you become more effective. For it is always the outcomes – not the decisions – that bring traction to your life, career, project, organization or business.
Only when you focus on outcomes and then look back at how a decision was made, can you improve your decision making. Looking for outcomes that disappointed and finding the weak links in your thought process and then correcting them. Positive outcomes can also teach us what is good about our decision process. Both needing reflection, on our part, to self-evaluate and evolve.
Seeing our outcomes can become our best friend. They expose us to an objective reality, that sees us more clearly, amidst the self-delusion of mastery that all of us fall prey to as we live our lives.