5 Steps to Better Decision Making
Decision-making seems like it should be a simple process, but sometimes we can find ourselves vacillating back and forth between one or more choices, truly unable to make a solid decision.
One of the things that make decision-making so unnerving is the fear of making a wrong move. We may hesitate about making any kind of decision because we’re not sure of what the outcome will be. We get mired in “what ifs,” paralyzed by fears of what could go wrong. We worry that choosing wrong will cause an avalanche of bad luck to fall on our heads, or even worse, our decision will be wrong AND irreversible.
However, even worse than making the wrong decision is letting our fear prevent us from making any decision at all. This, in itself, is a choice, and not always one that serves our highest good. Rather than allowing ourselves to feel confused and paralyzed with fear, it can be useful to have a simple decision-making process to fall back on when we just can’t seem to make up our minds. Following are techniques that can help you gain the clarity to make wiser decisions for yourself:
- Clear your mind. First, take a few minutes to get into a relaxed state of mind and release all fears and worries. This will help you to think more logically, rather than getting stuck on emotional responses.
- Listen for signals. Bring each choice to mind individually, and pay attention to the responses from your body. Does one choice make your gut tighten up in apprehension? Does another choice make you feel a bit giddy or hopeful? Do you get a sense of dread from any options? Your intuition is a powerful tool that is always speaking to you. You just need to get quiet, tune in, and listen to what it says.
- Consider the pros and cons. This is an old trick that is still quite effective. Rather than relying on your emotional impulses, you can look logically at the benefits and downfalls of each choice. Writing them down on paper is even better because it can help you to see clearly which choice seems most beneficial. Sometimes this technique alone is enough to help you decide one way or another.
- Consider the consequences. Though few of us have the ability to see the future in great detail, we can imagine a likely outcome to any choice we make. By thinking about these potential consequences, we stand a better chance of understanding which choice would be better for us in the long run. Two good questions to ask during this process are: “What could possibly happen if I make this decision?” and “Is it likely to happen?” Sometimes you’ll discover that your fears are out of proportion to the likely consequences, and once you realize the likelihood is small, you will be more confident in finally making a decision.
- Choose. That’s the hardest part, I know. But again, even NOT making a decision is a choice in itself. Wouldn’t you rather have control of your choices, rather than letting your inaction bring about its own consequences?
After using the techniques above, you should have a pretty solid idea of which choice is best for you. Most importantly, remember that truly “wrong” decisions in life are rare. Rather, each choice has a corresponding consequence. Some of these consequences may seem positive, some may seem negative, but ultimately none of them are really “wrong” for us. (Except destructive choices that result in harm to yourself or another. Those I would consider definitely bad or wrong choices.) But in a general sense, every decision we make simply moves us down a particular path in life. If we later decide we don’t like that path, we do have the power to choose another direction. Even the paths we decide we don’t like have something positive to offer us. If you look at these situations the right way, you can learn and grow in wisdom with every decision.