Three Steps to Making Better Decisions
I’m really into making decisions right now.
I didn’t decide to be into decisions, it’s just that my life circumstances are the kind that require a series of decisions and hella information noodling around in the ol’ noggin.
Luckily for me, I actually really like decision making.
I know I’m lucky because I spend a lot of my time in my coaching practice helping my clients work through decisions of all kinds - about careers, family stuff, personal things, passions and hobbies, travel, time management, cancelling gym memberships, etc.
Generally people find themselves struggling with decisions. Especially the big ones. The ones that feel like ‘If I don’t get this right, my whole like will crumble to dust and no one will ever love me again.’ (Helpful Hint: that is never true, but the feeling is real).
No wonder it’s so hard to order lunch - our brains are constantly engaged in decision making, and eventually even the smallest choices start to feel difficult.
Here are Three Tips for Making Better Decisions
1: PRACTICE - Strengthen Your Decision Making Muscles
If you feel you are not a decisive person - maybe you are a Maximizer or a Libra - you need to start practicing being decisive. Very few people get really good at something by never practicing. So unless you are some kind of sorcerer or a legit genius, you’ll need to practice.
Start with low stakes decisions - which socks to wear, what to order for lunch, which birthday card to buy - and just make a choice. Begin acting like a Satisficer even if you don’t feel like one. It’s like wearing a Hallowe’en costume - it’s more fun if you really take on the character. Say “I am a Satisficer!” (even though that word is actually really hard to say) and go forth and prosper!
Now this is the crucial part: before you know whether your decision was ‘good’ or ‘bad’ celebrate making the decision. Take a moment to notice what it feels like for that internal debate to be gone. Ahhh, sweet relief! - no more noodling (about this particular thing)! Ahhh, self-satisfaction! (I did a thing!).
Reflecting at this point in time is very important. Ask yourself how you managed to ‘just decide already’? Could that strategy be used in other situations? Celebrate that you did the thing, and then wait for the outcome and another opportunity to reflect and learn.
2. REFRAME: Focus on Making the Decision, not on the Outcome
Decisions can be scary because of the outcomes. Outcomes are real and sometimes they sure do suck, and if something that sucks arose directly from a choice you made, that can really sting.
You may be torturing yourself over a decision (big or small) right now because you feel responsible for the outcome, and you want it to be good, naturally!
If your decision results in a ‘good’ outcome - you got mad socks compliements, your lunch was delicious, your Mom cried tears of joy when she read her birthday card - it’s easy to look back and pat yourself on the back for being such a smarty pants (and please, if that’s the case, go ahead and pat away).
However, if your decision resulted in a ‘bad’ outcome - you were socks bullied, your lunch was gross, and your Mom told you your brother was her favourite child (wow, tough day!) - it’s still all good.
That’s right, you made the decision, you stopped torturing yourself with overthinking and if when you can learn from your mistakes decisions, then you’re further ahead then you were before. Progress!
Now, the next round of decisions you make will be even better - buy new socks or get new friends, find a new lunch spot or pack your lunch, hire a life coach and talk about your family shit or cry into your pillow because of your jerk brother being the favourite.
You are the boss of you, and you get to to decide what to do next!
3. EMBRACE IT - You are a Lean, Mean Deciding Machine!
God / Goddess, aliens, The Big Bang or whatever played the role of Creator in your Creation Story didn’t give us these amazingly complex brains chalk full of conscious thought and other cool science so we could waffle about all day whining about having to make choices. We get to decide through the power of conscious thought (which I know can be a tiring sort of power sometimes, but it’s still cool AF).
Decisions are amazing!
They are empowering, they help you clarify what’s important and every decision made frees up precious mental energy that can be used for other thigns (sure, other decisions, but also maybe writing a blog post or knitting me a lovely throw blanket as a thank you for this blog post… you know, whatever).
I decided to write this blog by making a decision, but I bet you already knew that ;) What you may not know is that I’ve been thinking abour writing another blog post for weeks: ‘It’s been too long I shoudl write a blog’... ‘I need to write a blog soon’... ‘I need to figure out what to blog about’... etc.
As someone who has to listen to my own brain all day, I have to say this inner monologue was very annoying. And it resulted in nothing but driving myself crazy and feeling guilty for being stuck. Gross!
Last night I realized, ‘I’m really into decisions right now’, and then this morning I was like, ‘Yes that’s good, do it!’ Phew!
Instead of wondering, ‘If only it could be that easy’ decide that it can be easy, and then make your decision (so meta, right?). It’s simple and it works - a win win for your brain and your life.
You are the fanciest kind of mammal. That you have the ability to make decisions is amazing - so embrace it!
Here are a few big decisions I’ve made about my life lately:
There’s SO much more I could say on the topic of making decisions, but - you guessed it! - I decided to stick to 3 :)