Life would be so much easier if decisions were made with the flip of a coin. Then again, it would lose most of its spark, don’t you think?
Right now you may feel a knot in your throat when it’s time to make a simple decision. And it’s okay, that only means you care.
But decision-making doesn’t have to feel like turmoil, and neither has to be a dramatic moment of your day. Keep reading to understand why you struggle so much with this, and how to overcome it.
It’s challenging to take a path that you don’t know where it leads and what awaits you along the way. You always carry the doubt within you thinking “What if I chose a different path?” or “What if I get hurt?”
Anxious thoughts generally lead us to react in two different ways. The first one is where we try to weigh every single option over and over again. The second one is where we are so overwhelmed by the intensity of the consequences that we freeze. That’s why when we are making a decision, the first step is to invite ourselves into a place of calm. Then, there is a middle path in between where we can consider different alternatives and come up with a reasonable plan.
Whenever you struggle with a decision, following these steps will provide you with guidance (don’t forget to ask yourself the suggested questions!)
First, clearly define the situation you are in and check the facts. Ask yourself: How do you define the decision you need to make? What kind of decision is this? What is at stake for you?
This step involves gathering information about your situation and how you can improve it. This process is twofold: gathering external and internal information.
You can do some research and hear other people’s opinions as an external resource. However, while collecting information, be careful when you’re asking for advice. “If you want to make the wrong decision, ask everyone,” says Naval Ravikant. Narrow down the circle and talk to people who you trust truly. Too many opinions make our minds only blurry.
Our internal resources of knowledge are our values and goals. Once you identify how you’d like to feel and what you’d like to achieve as a result, you’ll be able to understand what kind of decision can best serve you. Ask yourself: How do you want to feel as a result of your decision? How do you picture yourself in the near future? Which of your values would you like to guide you?
Writing down the possible routes you could take can help you organize your thoughts and recognize your situation from a place of calm. It’s like checking Google Maps before heading out.
First, list the alternatives in your mind. Then, assess which of them is in line with your goals, dreams, and values. Ask yourself: Which of the alternatives reflects your most authentic self? Which of the alternatives serves the expectations of others? Which of the alternatives can help you achieve the goals in your mind? Which of the alternatives matches your values and dreams in life?
You’ve narrowed down the alternatives in your mind and now it’s time to consider their upsides and downsides. Preparing a pros and cons list helps you adopt a constructive perspective and consider the possible benefits and setbacks of acting in a certain way. For each alternative, ask yourself: What are the pros and cons of making this decision?
While making your final decision, remember your focus. Remind yourself of what you would like to achieve besides the pros and cons that you listed. Then, it’s time to choose a path and start taking action. In this step, preparing an action plan can help you have a clearer picture of the way ahead of you. Ask yourself: What are the things I need to do? What’s my first step? When will I take it? Is there anyone that can support me when I’m putting this decision into action?
Whatever the consequences are, each decision needs to be evaluated so that you can gain insight that will help you build more effective decision-making skills in the future. There’s no absolute right thing to choose when it comes to decision-making. Our mistakes can turn into successes and our errors can carry us forward, helping us grow.
The important thing is to track our process and cultivate awareness of the consequences of our decisions and actions. Any new information you learn and any new associations you make will contribute to your later decision-making processes. Ask yourself: What didn’t go as I planned? What went well for me? How did I feel after my decision? How is my life affected by my decision?
It can be even more challenging to make a decision if it has a crucial impact on our lives. For example, when our relationships, career, or our peace of mind is at stake. Rather than reacting with an anxious state or freezing because you keep dwelling on alternatives, follow these six steps. You will have a clear understanding of your situation and the paths that can serve you.