How to make a decision
When faced with a big decision to make I’ve often wished I had a crystal ball to tell me how each potential option would work out for me. What will happen if I stay in the job? What will happen if I leave the job?
The truth of it is that actually you just don’t know, and you will never know, what would have happened if you’d opted for route A over route B but isn’t that part of the fun of life? Sometimes yes, but most of the time decision making can be downright stressful.
Get some distance
I don’t know about you but when I’m in the throws of ‘busy life’ I find it hard to connect to myself. It’s when I go on holiday or get out in nature, or have some quiet time during meditation that I really connect to myself again. When it comes to making decisions it’s important to get away from it all. Even just a couple of hours so you have a better chance of gaining clarity.
A few years back I had two potential job offers on the table and needed to decide which to pursue. I was feeling massively confused and conflicted and they both offered very different things so I knew that my day to day reality would be vastly different if I chose one over the other. I was trying to weigh up what would be the best choice short term and long term and my mind was getting in such a pickle.
I took myself off to a nearby park for the afternoon, walked around and let my mind wander. I was imagining my life if I took job A and then imagining my life if I took job B. I suppose it gave me the chance to “listen to my gut” which is common advice given when you’re in the midst of decision making but it’s advice that I often find hard to get my head around. That leads me nicely onto my next point…
“Go with your gut”….but how?
I’ve been told to “go with my gut” many times but I didn’t know what my gut was actually saying so that made this advice a little hard to get my head around.
A way in which I try to listen to my gut is by getting still and quiet and imagining each option playing out in my mind. Let’s say you are conflicted over whether to stay with your current partner. Imagine your life with that person. Imagine getting old with them. See the details in your mind and let your mind explore how that reality may look.
The key here is to notice how you feel whilst doing this. If you get physical sensations such as your heart racing or your chest feeling tight then it could be your body giving you signals that staying with that person may not be what you want deep down.
On the flip side, if you notice you feel lighter and clearer when you allow your mind to explore the reality of another option (perhaps being free and single) then that could be a good sign of that option being right for you.
Watch out for FEAR
It’s all very well following your gut and going with what feels right but there is something that could throw you off course and it’s your familiar friend, FEAR.
It’s important to distinguish whether the unease around making a particular decision is due to the fact that 1) It’s not right for you so your gut is saying ‘nooooo don’t do it’ or 2) You are fearful of the reality.
Perhaps you don’t feel qualified enough for that new job or you feel scared of leaving your partner and being alone. That’s when you need to dig really deep. In those instances imagine doing the job and totally smashing it or imagine yourself feeling secure and happy as a single person. Fear can scupper our plans and keep us playing small. We can even become as fearful of success as much as we can of failure. The important thing is to notice when this is happening.
A good book that explores this is Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.
Does your decision align with your vision?
This one is something I speak to Bridal Coaching clients about quite a lot. When brides are stewing for weeks over certain wedding related decisions I ask if the decision aligns with their vision of their big day. Weddings are a great analogy for life.
Just as I encourage all brides to have a clear vision of what their day looks like it’s important to have a rough idea of what you want from life too. I’m not saying you need your whole life planned out in front of you, just to have a sense of what’s important to you and what lights you up.
Life is unpredictable and can take many twists and turns but having an idea about what’s most important to us and what our ideal life looks like can provide a very effective road map. If taking a particular option goes against your values and your life vision, it could be the case that it’s not the path for you.
Seek guidance….but not too much!
It’s natural to want to get approval and validation from others when it comes to decision making but it’s important to remember that when we speak to those that are close to us it can be hard for those people to be objective. Let’s say you are seeking guidance for a big decision you have about moving abroad for a year. You speak to your mum or your best friend to get their thoughts. Without meaning to you may find them steer you into thoughts of not taking this big leap because they’d really miss you! I know we like to think everyone has our best interests at heart and I’m not saying this is a manipulative or even a conscious thing, but it’s something to consider when seeking advice from loved ones.
Also, getting opinions from lots of different people can be overwhelming and may confuse you even more. When it comes to my own decision making I tend to go to a couple of trusted people who know me well or on the flip side of that, to someone totally neutral like a coach. I’ve had one off sessions with coaches before when I’ve had decisions to make and it’s been really helpful as the only agenda is to help me come to a decision that’s right for me and their questions have really uncovered some key insights.
There is no such thing as a wrong decision
The worry about making the ‘wrong’ decision can induce lots of anxiety. Speaking as someone who has had lots of decisions to make over the last few years, such as re-locating to a new city and many career related decisions, I honestly feel that there is no such thing as a wrong decision.
Think back to a decision you’ve made that didn’t pan out as you’d hoped. I’m sure we can all think of one or two of these. What did you learn from it? Sometimes we need to take a ‘wrong’ turn and check the map again to get back on track. That’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up if this happens. It’s a normal part of life and will make you grow in the process so embrace that rather than getting caught up with the fact you’ve taken a ‘wrong’ turn.
I’m going to end using one of Marie Forleo’s taglines, “Everything is figureoutable.” She is so right! Decisions need consideration but know when you are entering the realms of unnecessary rumination. Be bold and make the decision. What’s the worst that could happen? You’re a strong, wise and adaptable human so whatever happens, you’ve got this.
Comment below if this has been helpful for you or if you have any of your own decision making tips. I’d love to hear from you.