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The 6th Annual Conference for Engineering Students ACES 10

Session two Find Your True North

The 6th Annual Conference for Engineering Students ACES 10

Decision Making Background Paper

The 6th Annual Conference for Engineering Students ACES 10

Have you ever had to make a difficult decision? What did you do? Did you think carefully through your choices and then attack the decision with enthusiasm and confidence? Or did you react with diffidence and ask others what they would do? Did you actively try to invent new alternatives that might be better in some ways than the possibilities you immediately confronted? Or did you look only cursorily at the choices you had, assuming that the best among them would be good enough? Did you seize the day, thinking through your interests and making a choice that was truly consistent with what you wanted? Or did you acquiesce to some higher authority and do what they wanted? Decisions can be very difficult, and many of us do take the easy way out at times. Sometimes we do what is expected of us by our parents, children, friends, colleagues at work, and supervisors. perhaps most incriminating, we often simply float along, letting circumstances take us from one situation to the next, rarely grabbing the opportunity to think deeply about what is important to us, what consequences we might face, and what better options we might be able to come up with.

Why do decisions matter?

Why do we even bother to make decisions? The answer is that the different alternatives we face can lead to different consequences. Some of those consequences may be good, and some may be bad. And what is good or bad depends on the decision makers values the many objectives that the decision maker wants to accomplish. To some extent these objectives usually conflict, and to make matters worse, the alternatives we face usually represent some kind of tradeoff among our conflicting values. In summary, decisions matter because we have values and the alternatives available to us typically represent tradeoffs with regard to those values. If the alternatives we faced never had any impact on what we want to accomplish, then there would be no sense in working hard to make a good choice; all the choices would have equivalent consequences. Because our choices can and do impact our lives in terms of what we want, we need to take care in making those choices. We all recognize that some decisions are more important than others, whether in their immediate impact or long term significance. In order to know how much time, effort and resources that has to be spent on the decision; we have to understand the significance of the decision that we are planning to take.

The 6th Annual Conference for Engineering Students ACES 10

What are values? We have said that a decision makers values are his or her goals and objectives, the fundamental issues that the individual cares about and wants to accomplish. This definition, though, is too general to be of much use. When you think about your values, it becomes apparent right away that there are different categories. For example, at a very basic level you might have the objective of helping other people. This general objective can be broken down into others. You might want to distinguish, for example, between helping members of your immediate family, helping your neighbors, helping your more distant relatives, and helping strangers. This kind of division is useful because of decisions that we face; we are often asked to contribute time, energy, and money to various causes and the extent to which you devote these resources to one group of people means that you will have less to devote to the others. If you agree to serve on the local School Board, you will be helping your immediate neighbors and some strangers. Although you will also be helping your children a little, on balance the time you spend on the school board is like to detract from the time you can spend with your kids.

It is too simplistic to assume that we all know ourselves so perfectly; indeed, our values change over time. Perhaps more to the point, in some ways the maturity of an individual refers to the extent to which that person has a clear understanding of his or her values. We grow, we make choices, we have experiences, and through all of this we come to know our likes and dislikes, our preferences, our values.

The 6th Annual Conference for Engineering Students ACES 10


This process is easy and the most known. It can be applied whenever you need to make a decision. By following it, you will find yourself already was doing most of its steps, but missing some important ones which by applying; you will find yourself making wiser decisions both in your professional life as well as your personal one. 1. Define as specifically as possible the decision that you need to make. Start asking yourself: - Is it your decision to make or someone else's? - Do you really need to make it? - When does it need to be made? - Why is it important to you? 2. Write down as many alternatives as you can think of. This is in other words called "brainstorming". Brainstorm as many different alternatives as you can imagine, making sure that you suspend any comments or judgments because this is not the time for that. Just let your imagination run free and make sure to write everything down.

3. Think where you could find more information about the decision to be made. If the alternatives that you could think of were few, then you may want to get more information about the decision which will lead to more alternatives. You can look for the information you want from family, friends, co-workers, professional organizations, libraries, newspapers, internet 4. Check out your alternatives. Once you have a list of alternatives, use the same sources of information to find out more about the specifics of each option. The more information you get, the more ideas will pop into your mind. 5. Sort through all of your alternatives. Now that you have your list of alternatives, it is time to start the evaluating process in order to see which ones work most. You can do the following: st 1 : Write down the values that would come into play for each alternative.

2 : Look for the alternatives which would meet the greatest number of your values.

3 : Cross out the list the alternatives which dont fit into your personal value framework.

6. Visualize the consequences of each alternative. For each remaining alternative, visualize and picture the outcome that would come into play. 7. Do a reality check. Cross out those alternatives that most likely won't happen to you, such that the contents of your list now are the alternatives that meet your values and perceptions and at the same time are likely to happen to you.

The 6th Annual Conference for Engineering Students ACES 10

8. Choose the alternative that most fits you. Review your list of alternatives and decide which one feels the most comfortable to you. Remember that you want to make a wise decision where you should be totally satisfied with and at the same time comfortable with its outcome. Other than that would be clue that that is not a wise decision for you. 9. Get into action! Once you have made your decision, start putting it into action because worrying or second guessing will only cause you grief and be sure that you have done your best in the present and that you always have the time to change your mind in the future. 10. Review your decision. Be sure to review your decision at specified points along the implementation road. - Are the outcomes the way you expected? - If they are, are you happy with them? - Do you like to let the decision stand or would you like to make some adjustments?
If the decision did not come out the way you planned, go through the complete decision-making process again and in the process answer the following questions:- Did I not have enough information? - Where my sources of information irrelevant? - What values actually came into play? - Were they may values or someone else's?


Making a decision is choosing from among alternatives, not choosing between write or wrong. Make sure to write everything down, make notes and make your ideas visible so you can consider all the relevant information needed for your decision. Be sure to choose your decision based on what is write not who is write. Make decisions as you go along. Do not let them accumulate, as a set of many little decisions could be harder to deal with than one big decision.

Remember that not making a decision is a decision not to take action. Dont waste your time making decisions that do not have to be made. Brainstorming alternative solutions with others will lead to fresh, unexpected ideas that in many times are promising ones. Before implementing what appears to be the best choice, assess the risk of your choice and consider what might go wrong with that choice. Once you have made the decision and have started the implementation process, put the "what if's" aside and do it with commitment.

The 6th Annual Conference for Engineering Students ACES 10

Personal SWOT Analysis:

Discover new opportunities. Manage and eliminate threats. SWOT Analysis is a powerful technique for identifying Strengths and Weaknesses, and for examining the Opportunities and Threats you face. Used in a personal context, it helps you develop your career in a way that takes best advantage of your talents, abilities and opportunities. What makes SWOT particularly powerful is that with a little thought, it can help you uncover opportunities that you are well placed to take advantage of. And by understanding your weaknesses, you can manage and eliminate threats that would otherwise catch you unawares.

How to use the tool:

To carry out a SWOT Analysis, print out the worksheet attached, and write down answers to the following questions:


What advantages (for example, skills, education or connections) do you have that others don't have? What do you do better than anyone else? What personal resources do you have access to? What do other people (and your boss in particular) see as your strengths?

Consider this from your own perspective, and from the point of view of the people around you. And don't be modest; be as objective as you can. If you are having any difficulty with this, try writing down a list of your characteristics. Some of these will hopefully be strengths! In looking at your strengths, think about them in relation to the people around you - for example, if you're a great mathematician and the people around you are great at math, then this is not likely to be a strength in your current role, it is likely to be a necessity.

The 6th Annual Conference for Engineering Students ACES 10


What could you improve? What should you avoid? What things are the people around you likely to see as weaknesses?

Again, consider this from a personal and external basis: Do other people perceive weaknesses that you do not see? Do co-workers consistently out-perform you in key areas? It is best to be realistic now, and face any unpleasant truths as soon as possible.


Where are the good opportunities facing you? What are the interesting trends you are aware of?

A useful approach to looking at opportunities is also to look at your strengths and ask yourself whether these open up any opportunities. Alternatively, look at your weaknesses and ask yourself whether you could open up opportunities by eliminating them.


What obstacles do you face? What are the people around you doing? Is your job (or the demand for the things you do) changing? Is changing technology threatening your position? Could any of your weaknesses seriously threaten you?

Carrying out this analysis will often be illuminating - both in terms of pointing out what needs to be done, and in putting problems into perspective.

Key points:
A SWOT matrix is a framework for analyzing your strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities and threats you face. This helps you to focus on your strengths, minimize weaknesses, and take the greatest possible advantage of opportunities available.

The 6th Annual Conference for Engineering Students ACES 10

Goal Setting Background Paper

The 6th Annual Conference for Engineering Students ACES 10

Have you ever decided to go out with your friends without knowing where exactly? Usually this outing has one of two options 1. Either you have fun and its the best outing ever 2. Or you just waste time doing something you are not really fond of. We can afford taking this risk with an outing BUT Are you willing to take this Risk with your life?

One of the factors that help people succeed is that they see the big picture of their life; they have a dream for which they are willing to do anything to achieve. Every one of us must have his/her own dream, something to be remembered with, and something that will make you happy in 50 years when you remember that you had an influence; you changed someones life to the better. But is it enough to have a dream, a big picture goal? Of course NOTThe next step is to build the steps that will make you reach this big goal.

Goals Categories:

Big picture goals your end destination as defined by the Big Picture Statements
for your various life aspects. These goals are typically not achievable in one simple step there is a journey to be taken to get there. Milestone Goals these are the series of goals that will take you to your destination

Mini Goals milestone goals may need to be broken down into bite size chunks to
make them more manageable.

The 6th Annual Conference for Engineering Students ACES 10

Once you have set your lifetime goals, set a 25 year plan of smaller goals that you should complete if you are to reach your lifetime plan. Then set a 5 year plan, 1 year plan, 6 month plan, and 1 month plan of progressively smaller goals that you should reach to achieve your lifetime goals. Each of these should be based on the previous plan. Some goals only effect what youre going to do tomorrow and others will determine what happens 20 years from now. Without goals we just bounce through life letting situations, other people and life in general make decisions for us.

To have a goal make sure you have it SMART; every letter stands for a very important point your goal must have

Goals should be straightforward and emphasize what you want to happen. Specifics help us to focus our efforts and clearly define what we are going to do. Specific is the What, Why, and How of the SMART model. WHAT are you going to do? Use action words such as direct, organize,

coordinate, lead, develop, plan, build etc.

WHY is this important to do at this time? What do you want to ultimately

HOW are you going to do it? (By...) For example instead of setting a goal to lose weight or be healthier, set a specific goal to lose 2cm off your waistline or to walk 5 miles at an aerobically challenging pace.

If you can't measure it, you can't manage it. Choose a goal with measurable progress, so you can see the change occur. Include precise amounts, dates, etc in your goals so you can measure your degree of success. If your goal is simply defined as "To study Hard" how will you

The 6th Annual Conference for Engineering Students ACES 10

know when you are successful? Without a way to measure your success you miss out on the celebration that comes with knowing you actually achieved something. For example "I want to read 3 chapter books of 100 pages on my own before my birthday" shows the specific target to be measure. "I want to be a good reader" is not as measurable

Make sure that it's possible to achieve the goals you set. If you set a goal that you have no hope of achieving you will only demoralize yourself and erode your confidence. However, resist the urge to set goals that are too easy. Accomplishing a goal that you didn't have to work very hard for can be an anticlimax at best, and can also make you fear setting future goals that carry a risk of non-achievement. By setting realistic yet challenging goals you hit the balance you need. These are the types of goals that require you to "raise the bar" and they bring the greatest personal satisfaction. A goal should be reachable but sometimes goals are set unrealistically high and here are some reasons why:

Other people: Other people (parents, media, and society) can set unrealistic goals for you, based on what they want. Often this will be done with disregard to your goals, desires and ambitions. Insufficient information: If you do not have a clear, realistic understanding of what you are trying to achieve and of the skills and knowledge to be mastered, it is difficult to set effective and realistic goals. Always expecting your best performance: Many people base their goals on their best performance but it is better to set goals that raise your average performance and make it more consistent.

Goals should be relevant to the direction you want your life and career to take. By keeping goals aligned with this, you'll develop the focus you need to get ahead and do what you want. Set widely scattered and inconsistent goals, and you'll fritter your time - and your life - away. When you set goals for yourself, it is important that they motivate you: This means making sure it is something that's important to you and there is value in achieving it. If you have little interest in the outcome, or it is irrelevant given the larger picture, then the chances of you putting in the work to make it happen are slim. Motivation is key to achieving goals.

The 6th Annual Conference for Engineering Students ACES 10

To make sure your goal is motivating, write down why it's valuable and important to you. Ask yourself, "If I were to share my goal with others, how would I tell them to convince them it was a worthwhile goal?" You can use this motivating value statement to help you if you start to doubt yourself or lose confidence in your ability to actually make it happen.

Your goals must have a deadline. This again, is so that you know when to celebrate your success. When you are working on a deadline, your sense of urgency increases and achievement will come that much quicker.

Just remember to tell yourself every day that you are working towards your goal and look at your timeline so that you can see the finish line. Youll get there!!

The 6th Annual Conference for Engineering Students ACES 10

Tips for goals setting:

Make an Action Plan

This step is often missed in the process of goal setting. You get so focused on the outcome that you forget to plan all of the steps that are needed along the way. By writing out the individual steps, and then crossing each one off as you complete it, you'll realize that you are making progress towards your ultimate goal. This is especially important if your goal is big and demanding, or long-term. Read our article on Action Plans for more on how to do this.

Phrase your SMART goal in the present tense and assume success
Don't say, "I want to." Say, "I will." This subtle technique tells your subconscious that you have already achieved your goal which means it will go work at helping the goal become a reality. It will attract the people, places, and situations you need to achieve that goal.

Put your SMART goals in writing.

This simple act helps you clarify your goals and will allow you to visualize them more effectively. I recommend that you record each goal on a separate index card and review them twice a day - once in the morning (when you first wake up) and again before you go to bed. This process reinforces your SMART goals, acts as a reminder and drives your goals deep into your subconscious. In fact, this is one of the most powerful goal setting techniques you can use to achieve your targets.

Set priorities
When you have several goals, give each a priority. This helps you to avoid feeling overwhelmed by too many goals, and helps to direct your attention to the most important ones.

Goals Formula
This is the goal setting formula for ensuring that you're setting a specific goal:

"I will (goal + performance measure) BY (specific actions)."

The 6th Annual Conference for Engineering Students ACES 10

The performance measure in the goal is often a date or a length of time, but it could be any objective criteria that you can use to determine whether or not you've accomplished the specific goal that you've set.

Suppose you're goal setting because you want to lose weight. An example of a specific goal to help you meet this objective is:

"I will lose 10 pounds in two months BY running on a treadmill for half an hour six days a week."

"One month from now, I will work three hours less a week BY becoming better organized"