Podcast Episode 6: Decision Making

Justin Aglio and Emma Hance of the Readiness Institute at Penn State talk about decision making as part of being future and community ready. Then, teens involved in the Readiness Institute’s Summer Program reflect on their own experiences.

Transcript for Podcast Episode 6: Decision Making

Ciara: I think being taught the fundamentals of decision making helped me come up with a better process for actually carrying out decisions, because I didn’t have a structure for that before now.

Vikrim: Now, when you’re making decisions, you want to set your goals, what are your values, what do you want to accomplish with this decision? And even make a pros and cons list to determine what is the benefits and harms of this. And you can look throughout everything from a risk versus reward lens.

Henry: I think the whole visualization of decision making as a chain with different aspects is a really good way to look at it. Like every part is equally important.

Larry: This is Larry Berger at the studios of SLB Radio Productions in Pittsburgh, along with Justin Aglio and Emma Hance from the Readiness Institute of Penn State. We are talking about the Readiness Institute today, and before we do so, we want to make sure that you understand its purpose and what it does. Justin, can you give an overview of the mission of the Institute and what it does?

Justin Aglio: Absolutely, Larry. So the Readiness Institute of Penn State enables education, industry and community partners to coordinate, collaborate, and create learning experiences for learners to achieve community and future readiness. And you cannot be future ready without being community ready first.

Larry Berger: Now, today we are going to focus on one of the essential skills at the Readiness Institute, and that skill is decision making, how you make good logical decisions and what some of the fundamentals are in doing so. Emma?

Emma Hance: Good decisions are ones that keep you heading in the direction that you want to go. The thing is, as much as we want to think that we’re logical decision makers, many of the choices that we are making are really heavily based on emotion, and we use logic to kind of justify our actions to ourselves and to others. It’s important to have balance in our decision making process. So if we’re naturally inclined to make emotional decisions, it’s imperative that we take the time to learn and develop our ability to make good logical decisions. So those are ones that are avoiding either-or traps. They are providing creative alternatives. You’re framing your decision. How are you clarifying it? What specifically are you hoping to achieve? And also good and logical decisions are ones that you’re committed to, where you are actually following through on your decision. It’s not just a hopeful thing, it’s something that you can really then take to fruition.

Larry Berger: What are the ripple effects that can happen once any individual, especially a student, understands the principles of making a sound decision? I would imagine the world opens up and there are incredible consequences once you get better at making decisions.

Emma Hance: Yeah, I mean, if you’re able to avoid decision making fallacies and those traps, you’re able to really take in all of the information around you and make unbiased decisions. I think that that’s super, super important in today’s society being able to know where to seek out quality information and make sure that you are hearing from a variety of different voices before you make a decision that’s going to impact others.

Larry Berger: Now this topic, decision making, could be the subject of an entire podcast from the Readiness Institute at Penn State. But just to bring it home, something as simple as what you described as the either-or fallacy, can you explain how that might be looked at from too narrow of a lens? And then what changing that lens ends up doing in terms of helping to make a better evaluation?

Emma Hance: The either-or trap is one where if you’re going in and making a decision, you think that you have to choose either A or B. When realistically life is not black and white, you are dealing with a gradient. And to be able to avoid that and say like, okay, let me see, let me explore other alternatives, it’s not just one or the other. What are other things that I can do, other steps that I can take to incorporate a variety of different options, opportunities, et cetera, and move forward with a choice that best benefits not only you, but also those around you?

Justin Aglio: A good decision makes sense and has to feel right. We want to give students the tools to make decisions instead of just thinking about it and doing what’s best for your gut. It’s important that we have to make sure we give students the tools to be successful in anything they do in life. Deciding where to go to college, deciding on who you date, deciding on really anything. And so we really walk them through at the Readiness Institute, a set of tools to help them make decisions and it starts with values. What do you value? What do you want from the decision making process? What’s your sound reasoning? At the end, how do you know it’s the right decision? Because that decision could impact things in their life that could be great or could harm them. So it’s important not just to go through life and not have the skills and tools to make decisions, you have to have the skills and tools to make a decision.

Larry Berger: That’s Justin Aglio of the Readiness Institute at Penn State And you also heard Emma Hance from the Readiness Institute. Now let’s hear from some students who recently completed training at the Readiness Institute and get their thoughts about the importance of good decision making and what they learn about decision making.

My name is Ethan. The model that they gave you about making decisions, there’s so many different aspects to it, especially having clear frame of mind when you’re making them, sound reasoning and using true information to make those decisions.

My name is Grace. So there’s a lot of elements that go into decision making, and you have to factor in that, okay, there’s going to be changes, there’s going to be roadblocks, and you’re going to have to try and make decisions that will work around those.

My name is Charles. What conditions is a person in in order to make a good decision? Whether or not they’re angry, tired, hungry, whether they’re lonely or not. Like, if you’re feeling that way, it’s probably not a good idea to make, like, a life changing decision.

I’m Heidi. You definitely have to learn to compromise because in a group, there is a lot of other input from people and it’s also their values that you have to take into consideration and you have to be able to communicate well with them to make the decision as a group instead of just always making it yourself.

My name is Janelle. Without commitment, you can’t do any of those things that they tell you to do on this good decision making list.

Hello. My name is Ralfy. If I have a bright idea, I don’t wait to take this opportunity and I decide when I’m ready and go. I don’t take too much time for waiting.

Larry: Justin Aglio and Emma Hance, thank you so much for being with us today for the Readiness Institute at Penn State podcast. Emma, how can people learn more about program activities?

Emma Hance: To learn more about the Readiness Institute at Penn State, check out our website at readinessinstitute.psu.edu and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @riatpenn state.