Three Steps to Making Better Decisions
Updated: Sep 12, 2021
Fun Fact About Me: I’m Really Into Making Decisions!
I feel grateful that I actually really like decision making. I know from going around the Life Coaching block a few times that most people don’t like making decisions generally, and really don’t dig it when the decisions are complex, high stakes, emotionally charged, or that special combination of all of that (with a side of low key freaking out!).
Every damn day people make decisions about all kinds of things - career, family, what is going on with my body, friends, time management, cancelling gym memberships, whether or not to go for a walk, life, death, etc. Lots of stuff!
One Pro Tip I’ll share right off the bat is: If your emotional state is ‘If I don’t get this decision perfectly right, my whole life will crumble to dust and no one will ever love me again’ you are not doing yourself any decision-making favours with that attitude. Piling on the pressure is the opposite of helpful. We can’t think creatively or problem solve when we are stressed out. If the decision is already stressful, do everything you can not to add to that stress and you’ll be a better decider.
We have to make hundreds or thousands of decisions every day. Some are hard and some are easy, but all require mental effort (or “cognitive demand”). No wonder it’s so hard to decide what to have for lunch! When our brains are constantly engaged in decision making, it becomes fatiguing 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. Quickly, easily, without overthinking. Begin acting like a Satisficer (a person who takes action as soon as their criteria is met vs. wanting to make the most optimal decision possible) even if you don’t feel like one.
Now here is an essential part: whether or not you know the outcome of your decision (especially if you don’t yet know!), 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 (I stopped the madness)! Ahhh, self-satisfaction! (I did a thing!). Ahhh, this donut which I decided to buy and eat (I ate a donut!)
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? After celebrating, look for another opportunity to reflect and learn.
2. Reframe: Focus On Making The Decision, Not On The Outcome
Decisions can be scary because of the potential outcomes and related consequences. Outcomes are real and sometimes they sure do suck, and if something that truly 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 a good one, naturally!
If your decision results in a ‘good’ outcome, 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, it’s still all good - or, you can choose to think of it that way.
Here’s what went well even when the outcome was less than ideal: you made the decision and stopped torturing yourself with overthinking, you can now learn from your mistakes decisions, and now you know that decision wasn’t ideal. See, you’re further ahead than you were before. Progress!
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! You are the boss of you, and you get to decide what to do next (within reason, of course)!
Decisions are empowering, they help you clarify what’s important, and every decision made frees up precious mental energy that can be used for, like, actually doing things.
This blog came into existence because I made a decision, but I bet you already knew that (smart pants!). What you may not know is that I’ve been thinking about writing another blog post for weeks: ‘It’s been too long I should 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 (with varying degrees of enjoyment), 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. Boo! So I decided to stop torturing myself and decide to take action already.
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.
There’s SO much more I could say on the topic of making decisions, but - you guessed it! - I decided to stick to three main points because that was the thing that got me to stop waffling and start writing :)
Just for fun, here’s a list of some decisions I’ve made recently:
Make more vision boards
Rein in my coffee drinking (with varying degrees of success)
Let myself sleep in/sleep early without guilt
Say Yes to opportunities and figure out the details later
If I’m feeling low/sad, reach out to someone now, not later
How do you feel about decision making? Do you have any 'go to' tips for navigating the process? Let me know in the comments!