Decisions. You face them all the time.
Which hot new restaurant should you try this weekend?
What’s the topic you should to focus on for your next blog post?
Should you watch a comedy or a drama on Netflix?
Decisions about restaurants, blog posts and Netflix aren’t exactly earth shattering, but there are times when the choices you make have the power to change your life… And the lives of the people you care about.
This is one of the key reasons why most of us freeze when we’re faced with making a tough decision.
Buying a house.
Quitting your job.
Moving to another state or country.
These are hard decisions to make and let’s face it, most of us have made some decisions that we really want to take back. This makes us want to avoid making decisions altogether rather than pick the wrong road.
But here’s what I think…
There are no bad decisions. Just bad decision makers. Whether things work out the way you want them to or not, a decision takes you down a path that creates experiences and connections that could potentially improve your life. But when you spend all your time worrying about making decisions, it gets you nowhere fast.
I’ve come to realise that there two types of bad decision makers. First, there’s the person who avoids making a decision and holds back until it’s too late to do anything. Then, there’s the person who dives into making a decision without thinking things through, only to feel the heat of the consequences later.
The secret is to strike a balance.
So, if you’re someone who’d rather have a colonoscopy than make a decision or if you who choose blindly because you just want to get it over with… It’s time for a change.
Why? Because if you want to be successful (and I know you do), you’re going to want to know how to make great decisions quickly and easily. The good news is, there are tools and strategies that you can use to become a better decision maker.
Here are 10 secrets that will help you develop, strengthen and flex your decision-making muscles.
Secret #1 – Know your goal
When you need to make the right decision, the first thing to do is to look inward. Begin by asking yourself these questions:
What do I want? What is my goal? How can I achieve it?
When you’ve answered these questions you will truly understand what you want and need. You will have awesome insight about the problem or challenge in front of you and when you do, making the right decision will be a breeze
Secret #2 – Give yourself a time out
Bad decisions are the direct result of being in the wrong frame of mind and the wrong emotional and physical state.
Here’s what I mean… If you’re angry, upset or stressed, the chances of you making a bad decision goes through the roof. This is true even if you have a physical issue like not getting enough sleep or if you’re hungry. Decision making is hard on the brain and absorbs a ton of energy. This pressure rises even more when there’s a complex decision looming over you.
So, when you’re faced with a difficult situation that requires a tough decision, show yourself some kindness. Give yourself a time out. There’s no need to go for a week-long vacation. Just take a stroll around the block or have a 10-minute nap. Do some deep breathing or yoga moves.
Do anything that will take your mind off the decision. When you do, your subconscious mind will take over and work on the problem. This way, when you come back to it, making a decision (even if it’s a tough one) will suddenly feel a whole lot easier.
Secret #3 – Understand your options
You can’t make a good decision if you don’t know exactly how many choices you really have. So, take some time to understand the options that are available to you.
The pros and cons list will never go out of style so make a pros and cons list for each of the options that you have. Then go through each option, be honest and think about what’s right for you and your unique situation.
When it comes to decisions, especially the important ones, turn on your imagination and tap into future visualization.
Here’s how you do it… First, close your eyes, clear your mind and think of how the decision that you make today could unfold in the future. See how it will affect your lifestyle, your relationships and if relevant, your finances.
When you’re done, pull out a sheet of paper or a journal and capture your thoughts and ideas. Writing creates clarity because the option that gives you the most long-term benefits will jump out and that’s the one you should choose.
Secret #5 – Eliminate the unwanted
Making a good decision isn’t always about focusing on what you want. Often, it’s about focusing on what you don’t want.
Imagine you need to buy a new car. Now, get clear on what it is you that you won’t settle for. You don’t want a sports car because you can’t take the family out on weekends and frankly, you’d rather spend the money on something else. You don’t want a truck because…well…you don’t like trucks.
As you can see you’ve ruled out two big possibilities — sports cars and trucks. As you keep striking types of cars off the list, you’re narrowing your options and making it a whole lot easier to pick the right car. This process works with any kind of decision you want to make — who to date, which job offer you should choose and even the kind of holiday you want to go on.
Secret #6 – Good enough is good enough
While aiming for the best every time isn’t a bad thing, remember that the best isn’t always your only option. Take the pressure off yourself by thinking about other possibilities.
Ask yourself, “If I don’t achieve ‘the best’, what’s good enough for me?”
Know that going for good enough doesn’t mean you’re settling for less. It just means you’re keeping your options open. This approach is also known as “satisficing”; a term coined by economist Herbert Simon back in 1956. It refers to an approach to decision-making that prioritises an adequate solution over an one that’s optimal.
Secret #7 – Don’t overthink
Overthinking a decision can throw you off making a good decision faster than just about anything else.
Some signs that you’re overthinking…
You’re living inside your head more than out in the world.
You are hardly aware of what’s going on around you because your thoughts have taken over.
Obsessing over worst case scenarios is also a bad sign.
So stop, take a break and do something physical. Go for a run or take your dog out for a walk. Becoming aware of your body takes you out of your mind space and into everyday awareness so you can relax and come back to the decision when you’re ready.
Secret #8 – Take your own advice
Pretend for a moment that you’re not talking to yourself, but a friend in need who is in the same predicament you’re in. What advice would you give him? How will you help him make up his mind?
By removing yourself from the situation, you can gain a clearer perspective from a third party perspective.
Sometimes, you just can’t do it on your own and that’s ok. When this happens, you need to get good advice and gain a different perspective. Check in with someone you trust, or someone who’s lived through similar circumstances.
You can learn a lot from the experiences of others. Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to admit that you’re in a bind and don’t hold back from asking for help.
Secret #10 – Trust your gut
Your instincts are the best weapon in your decision-making arsenal. Think of your instincts as a filter that’s made up of your experiences and emotions. Your gut can be the voice of reason and can cut through bias. To tap into the power of your intuition, try this simple exercise.
Jot down your options on tiny pieces of paper. Fold them up, put them into a bowl. Then, with your eyes closed, randomly pick one of the pieces of paper out of the bowl. When you look at your choice, how do you feel? Happy? Uncertain? Excited? Worried? Unsure?
Your gut reaction are the best clues for the best choice. With time, your instincts will become more refined and discerning.
When you’re good at making decisions that are right for you, making your dreams a reality becomes so much easier. You’ll be able to enjoy how your life unfolds, even when there are curve balls or unpleasant surprises.
So make the effort master the art of decision-making.
It’s something that will change your life.