I have discussed the ways in which our minds deceive us and how that deception causes malfunction/dysfunction in our lives and businesses. I enumerated several actions that should move you closer to fact and away from fiction. For context, here's that list:

• Deliberately put people in your life who will give you critical feedback and when they give it, pay attention.

• Read material that provides varying perspectives on any issue or subject. I often challenge people to peruse my personal library and try to discern my views on ANYTHING. If you only read material that validates your world view and preconceptions, you simply cannot grow.

• "Decisiveness" and "correctness" are not the same. Come to terms with that.

• Become aware of your reasoning pitfalls and develop methodologies to overcome them. Critical thinkers analyze the way they think and the quality of their reasoning.

• Most humans live within meanings, world views and beliefs that entrap them. Raise your reasoning with the help of relentless scrutiny.

• Most people are governed by their thoughts. Learn ways to govern the thoughts that govern you.



In the remainder of this column, I'll be dealing with the fourth and fifth points. I developed the following questionnaire to help business leaders examine the assumptions that underlie their business decisions. It can be used at a strategic level as well as helping you to make tactical decisions "on the fly." You can also employ this approach to issues, analysis, decision-making and action-taking in your personal life. An explanation/elaboration follows each question in italics:

I. What is the problem, opportunity or issue that requires attention?

Refer to an issue that you have determined to be a priority. For example and from a personal perspective, you may have decided that you want to be less of a "people pleaser." From a business perspective, you might believe that you have to "drive your operating costs down by 20%." This is the place to document your initial hypothesis.

II. What evidence do you have that confirms that this is a problem, opportunity or issue requiring attention?

• What are the data and hard facts?
• What does your intuition tell you?
• To what degree do your preconceptions and past experience make objective evaluation difficult?

Webster defines truth as "the body of real things, events, and facts." The operative words are "real" and "facts." Real facts are unassailable; they're indisputable; they just are. They pass the test of "reasonable scientific certainty." 2 + 2 = 4 is a fact. "I have to please all of the people in my life all of the time" is not a fact.

Truth is the state of certainty to which successful people aspire. It implies fact-based analysis and decision-making. It differentiates facts from legitimate but incomplete intuition. It requires the ego-less testing of assumptions, and the relentless scrutiny of preconceptions. It explains results in terms of valid reasons but never translates reasons into excuses.

Arriving at the truth is difficult. As humans, we all cling to our own ideas and perspectives as if they represent the truth rather than merely our truth. It's a protective mechanism that helps us make sense out of nonsense, bring order to chaos, and validate our own rules for how the world works.

The "sub-questions" in this section are designed to get you to the real issue.

III. Is your answer to the first question still the problem, opportunity or issue that requires attention?

After putting your issue through the truth test in question II, has your answer to the first question changed? Perhaps, for example, your original assumption merely scratched the surface. Perhaps the issue you identified is really only a symptom of something deeper or something else. This question is a good checkpoint; it is a place to stop and reassess.

IV. To the best of your knowledge, what are the causes of #I being a problem, opportunity or issue worth your attention?

• What are the data and hard facts?
• What does your intuition tell you?
• To what degree do your preconceptions and past experience make objective evaluation difficult?

This question intends to get at the root cause(s) of your answer to question I. The sub-questions, identical to those in II, will aid in getting to an answer that is as close to being objective as possible.

VI. What are your desired results?

To be legitimate, results must either be measurable or observable.

VII. What alternative actions can you take to create the results you want? As you assess those, consider the following:

• What obstacles must be overcome?
• What opportunities exist?
• What strengths can be leveraged?
• What are the possible unintended consequences that may occur as a result of the alternative actions you documented?
• What will the "cause and effect" time span be between each of the alternative actions and the results you want?

Question VII. Its sub-questions are the source for your objectives and action plans.

A few additional points about those:

• Every action we take to produce a desired result confronts obstacles. You need to identify those of which you are aware and document them. Some may be more subtle and tough to identify than others. Some may test your will more than others. Answering this question will provide two benefits:

First, it will help you accept the fact that achieving results requires conviction, will, discipline and a very thick skin. Second, it'll help you consider appropriate actions for the time when those obstacles arise.

• Issues are best dealt with, opportunities are best exploited and problems are best solved by dealing from strength. Peter Drucker once said that the primary job of management is to "make strength productive and render weakness irrelevant." He was speaking from an organizational context but the situation is no different for you personally. Leveraging your strengths will help you to build momentum more quickly and achieve the results you want.

• Four of the immutable rules of cause and effect: All causes have multiple effects, all effects have multiple causes, all causes have unintended effects, and cause and effect are almost always remote in time and place. Said another way: cause and effect relationships are never absolute, linear, and time-bound.

So, when you take an action, something(s) you didn't expect is (are) going to happen. Also, when you take an action, your desired result will almost never happen immediately. Knowing this in advance will help you confront your impatience and craft reasonable timelines both on paper and in your psyche.

Good luck!

Author's Bio: 

Rand Golletz is the managing partner of Rand Golletz Performance Systems, a leadership development, executive coaching and consulting firm that works with senior corporate leaders and business owners on a wide range of issues, including interpersonal effectiveness, brand-building, sales management, strategy creation and implementation. For more information and to sign up for Rand's free newsletter, The Real Deal, visit http://www.randgolletz.com