Are you struggling with a decision?
We make decisions all the time. The majority are inconsequential, what clothes to wear, or what to have for lunch. These decisions are habitual and involve little conscious thought. Then there are the big decisions, those relating to relationships, career and finances.
These consequential decisions, that impact on others, require a commitment of resources or represent life milestones, require greater consideration. But too much consideration leads to indecisiveness, as we get overwhelmed by options and dependencies, whilst the fear of making the wrong decision looms large.
Logical decision-making goes something like this. Identify the issue or problem. Gather the facts, including external input as required. Analyse the information, assess the options including the risks of each, then select the optimum choice based on a success criteria.
But of course, we are not solely logical creatures. Emotions play a part and the more significant the decision, the more emotional it will be.
At the root of procrastination and indecisiveness is the fear of making a mistake. These questions help to combat this.
When I pose these questions, some clients respond, ‘I won’t know,’ meaning they don’t have a reference point or criteria for success. Others will say ‘I’ll feel it,’ or it will be ‘gut instinct,’ which of course brings us into the territory of emotions.
Another trap we can fall into is attempting to make decisions ahead of time. Planning ahead is logical, but too much of anything is not so good. Excessive planning is a futile attempt to control the uncontrollable.
We play the tennis match of predicting variables and preplanning our response way out into the future. What we don’t realise is that by trying to pre-empt decisions ahead of time, we are diminishing our levels of self-confidence as we don’t trust ourselves enough to make the best decision when the time comes to make it.
Never forget you make the best decisions you can at every moment. You have never purposely set out to make a poor decision. We do our best based on our levels of self-awareness, our knowledge and the resources at our disposal.
That doesn’t mean with hindsight we could have made a different decision, it simply means more information is available to us now, that wasn’t available back then.
We know we don’t make good decisions when we are stressed or frustrated, so it makes sense to be clear headed, centred and to make the time to contemplate important decisions. Instinctively we know this.
It’s why we can find ourselves going for a walk to clear our heads, or deciding to ‘sleep on it.’
‘What should I do?’ is the question we run on loop when we are struggling with a decision.
Initially, a better question to ponder is ‘Who do I want to be in the process of making the decision?’ In other words, what qualities do I want to bring to the fore? For example, calm, logical, focused.
Good decision makers are collaboratively independent, in that they take in information from others, but ultimately make the decision themselves.
For example, when I was deciding on the cover of my last book I sought input from others. I placed more weight on the views of booksellers and target readers, but ultimately the decision was mine.
It is rare in any situation that we will know all the variables. We cannot predict the future and time is always a factor when it comes to decision making.
Instead of trying to control the impossible, effective decision makers will know when they have done sufficient contemplation and will make the decision and jump, trusting that they’ll be able to flex and strengthen their wings (of flexibility, responsiveness, resourcefulness) on the way down.
Some decision we can approach in a logical way. For example, weighing up the pros and cons of selecting a vendor for a project at work.
But we are not Mr Spock from planet Vulcan. Not all wisdom is in the head. As I see it, the wisdom of the heart is our emotions, and the wisdom of the gut is instinct.
Therefore a simple triad of questions to ask when facing a decision is;
What does my head say?
What does my heart say?
What does my gut say?
By running the decision through these three locations of wisdom we will at minimum get a 2-1 decision. Though usually when I apply it myself or ask a client it’s a 3-0 majority.
Like everything in nature, we are hot-wired to grow. Some decisions can feel like regression or maintaining the status quo.
Therefore the question – ‘what decision feels like progress?’ is a useful one to ponder. Often the decision we are facing is an invitation to growth, it is the gateway for a change that is trying to take place.
Sometimes it is not about progress, but relieving a situation.
One of the biggest (and best!) decisions I’ve ever made was deciding to leave the corporate world. I resisted for over two years because of fear of the unknown and fear of making a big mistake. Ultimately, the only evidence I had that I was making the right decision for me was that I simply felt much lighter having made it.
A powerful coaching question that acts like a laser when it comes to decision-making is – ‘What decision would make me feel most proud about myself?’
Proud is the opposite of self-betrayal, that gut-gnawing feeling of having let ourselves down. This question may not present us with the easiest answer, but it will shine a light on what might be the wisest answer.
We can forget that many decisions are reversible, we have the freedom to change our minds and make more decisions down the line. Of course sometimes when we think we are struggling with a decision, when in fact we know what we want to do, and we are really seeking the courage to act.
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