Principled Decision Making

Stepan Parunashvili
Stepan ParunashviliDec 26th, 2018

When you are deciding something difficult, how do you do it?

There are some common frames you can look at — results-based, financial-outcomes-based, social-outcomes-based, self-reward-based, macro-based, micro-based.

By default, a mix of these forces come together to influence your decision. The problem? These forces suck.

Decisions based on these frames often lead to short-sighted outcomes, and endanger what matters most in life.

So, what can we do? I think all religions, all stoics, all grandmas, point to a form of decision making that guarantees you won’t endanger what matters most.

That, my friends, is principle-based decision making.

What is it, and how does it work?

When you come across a problem, you ask yourself —

a) What has happened

b) What principles do I hold, which apply to this situation?

c) Given those principles, what actions can I take?

d) What is the best decision, and why?

e) Act

There’s multiple beautiful things about this process

  1. You can put your thinking into writing, and share with your peers. They should see that based on your principles, that is the choice that makes sense. They can then challenge your principles or show you a different path.

  2. You end up building a runbook of tough situations, that you can use over and over again. How should you treat a friend that let you down, how do you decide to leave your job? How do you decide whether you go on that vacation with your family? Principles, time and time again, will be your weapon to make the choices that will stand the test of time

If you like this way of thinking, here are some ideas for next steps —

  1. Read Dalio’s Principles. My ideas here initially stemmed from reading his PDF when I was 17 years old, and I have “nabbed” some principles from him myself

  2. Start a list of your own, and when you have an idea about how to live life, no matter how small or how big, start writing it down. From these scratches a castle will form.

Now, for some skin in the game — What do these principles look like? It’s unedited and rough, but it has come useful time and time again. This is a timestamped (as of Dec 23, 2018) view into the principles I hold related to friendships, work, and growth. I’m sure this will change and evolve, but I hope you find some ideas in there that you like. If you have a list, would love to see it!