We make decisions every day – almost every moment of the day and sometimes we do it without thinking, whilst at other times it involves a lot of consideration and often a large dose of courage. Whether making decisions about life, work or something as simple as walking or taking the bus – our lives are full of options and our world is full of choices. If you are living in a first world country then you are fortunate enough to be in an environment in which almost everything is possible and you can do what you want. You decide. You choose.
Somehow, however, that doesn’t always make it easy and it’s not strange to wish some options were taken away from us. For what it’s worth – here are my top 4 tips to help you feel a little more confident about making decisions.
What’s the worst that can happen?
When making a big decision, I always think about the worst-case scenario. ‘If I do this, what’s the worst that can happen?’. By doing this I am forced to spend some time thinking about the consequences, working out the fall out, considering the value and benefits. This question helps me to not only holistically think about what the risk is for me and what I am really afraid of but also if there is anything that can be done to nullify it. This year, I had to make a decision about moving country with my partner and the worst thing that could happen for me there was that I wouldn’t get a job, my career would dive-bomb and I would be financially dependent. When I thought it through, I realised that I would just have to set myself up as an independent and virtual consultant as a back up plan in case there were no jobs. In this case, my worst case scenario and back up plan, turned out to result in a dream job. Knowing what the worst case is can be a big strength and get you thinking about workarounds before its even become necessary.
Get someone else to do it!
With some decisions that are not critical or do not have severe consequences, although they can still be important to you, it can be useful to get someone else to make the decision for you. Most of us have a network of friends, family or acquaintances of whom we value their opinion and we often ask them for it in casual ways on a regular basis. This group of people are an invaluable place to turn if you ever need to make a decision in which neither way is wrong but both offer opportunities that seem equally attractive to you. Where you would choose the same colour, holiday or book, a friend will ask you to try something else, comment on how they have always thought a different decision might be better for you or reveal a decision-habit you were unaware of but constantly make. I’m sure its happened that you’ve proudly made a decision you think is pushing the boat out and someone says ‘You always choose that’ as they wonder passed you. Use the people around you to make decisions for you that can help expose those blind spots and decision-habits.
A wise man and one of my all time favourite people gave me this advice once when I was faced with a dilemma. Do absolutely nothing! Just wait and see!’ This strategy for decision-making is best used when you are not sure what to do about a decision that is mostly about another person. Obtaining and understanding the facts is a natural first step in making any decisions but this is tricky if it involves trying to decipher the motivation, feelings, thoughts, emotions and strategy of another person. We end up second-guessing what the other person may want or prefer and playing a very complicated game of decision-chess in our mind. This winds us up in a lot of complicated thoughts that move us away from what we are ultimately seeking – clarity. If you do absolutely nothing, one of two things will happen. Either the other person will eventually make a move, say something, email, text or make their own decision, or, no one will do or say anything, time will pass, the decision to be made will disappear and life will just continue. The result of either of these outcomes will result in a decision-made.Use life’s natural patience, silence and pace to help you make decisions in a ‘natural’ way.
Get out that spreadsheet and decision-matrix tree!!
When all else fails, there are a large number of decision-making tools out there. From apps, to diagrams to models to meditation – there is no shortage of web pages and resources sites to help you carefully detail out the components of your dilemma and mathematically calculate the right next move down to a decimal point. I like Mind Toolsand highly recommend their summary guide of all the different decision-making tools available. A very simple approach that an old flatmate and I used to decide where we wanted to live together has fared me well in many other circumstances since then. List all your criteria together for the decision you have to make, rank these in order of importance, score your decision-options against these criteria and see what comes up highest. Importantly at this stage, if one of you doesn’t like the outcome then maybe you are not agreed on what is important, if you bothdon’t like the outcome then you need to re-think your criteria. Make use of a simple decision-making tool and give yourself the space to think it through properly and trust in the outcome.
Don’t ever make a permanent decision based on your temporary emotions.
Feel free to share your decision-making tips