Decision Journaling

First let’s start with an excerpt from an article on

Mentor: Our brains play an important part in how we perceive objects. For example, take a look at this tessellation and describe what you see:

Student: I see rows of crooked lines with a distorted checkerboard pattern in them.
Mentor: Are you sure the lines are crooked?
Student: Yes! They look wider at one end than the other.
Mentor: Hold a ruler or other straight edge along the horizontal lines in the image and tell me what you observe.
Student: (holding a ruler to the image) It doesn’t seem possible, but the lines actually are straight! Why do they appear to be crooked?

My biggest takeaway from the above optical illusion is that even when it is becomes clear that your initial assumptions are wrong, your perception is still difficult to change. 

This debacle is even worse with entrenched cognitive biases and the stories we tell ourselves in order to live with ourselves. We lack accurate data on our decision making, yet glorify our gut feelings, because our brains have an uncanny way of increasing the odds in our favor and getting even with everyone but ourselves.

I learnt a simple way of checking myself and staying grounded on what my real decision-making success rate is, by keeping a decision journal as advised by Daniel Kahneman. 

No standard template on decision making or decision journaling is being recommended, all I am asking is that you try out documenting your critical decisions, the intended outcomes, the reasons for the decision, how you feel about the decision and the sign posts that will act as signals for progress.

You can use a pen and notepad or an electronic device – whichever is more convenient.

What you will find by keeping a decision journal is that it will actually help you think more critically about your decisions (because writing is a great way to improve clarity), and you cannot come back to say – “If all the other people or things had acted in a standard way, it would have worked”. Whatever you missed in your decision journaling that led to an undesired outcome, is only indicative of your limitation. Undesired outcomes actually help to expand your limits, by improving the variables you will consider in future decision making.

Outcomes are the best reality checks. Outcomes provide a golden opportunity to refine your decision making in the future and improve your gut responses in emergencies. But it only works if you put down your thoughts on how you arrived at the decisions, failing which, your brain kicks in and rationalizes how you were right in spite of the outcomes and the world was wrong for its unpredictable variables.

This does not mean that for every decision, you whip out a notebook to start documenting, no, that will lead to an unprecedented number of accidents that you may not survive. What I am suggesting is that you pick 3 critical areas you need to take a decision on every week and document why and how you arrived at that decision. Then open yourself up to let the outcomes shape your cognitive biases. 

At the end of each process, your brain might still be able to trick you into believing you are always right (hindsight bias), even when the outcomes say otherwise, but you will become more conscious of the illusion.

 – Osasu Oviawe

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