“Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you.” – John C. Maxwell
How many decisions you make on a daily basis?
In a span of a few hours this morning you already had to decide when to get out of bed, what to eat, what to wear, whether or not to brush your teeth, and hundreds of other small choices before even leaving your house.
Some sources report that adults make around 35,000 remotely conscious choices each day.
Many choices we make don’t require much mental energy and ultimately aren’t that important, but when it comes to the significant and potentially life altering decisions, it can help to have some guidance and a model to work from.
Information overload and analysis paralysis
You’d think it would be easy to make positive life choices since we have information at our finger tips.
Unfortunately, just because we have a plethora of accessible information doesn’t mean it’s always helpful or that we use it effectively.
We’re often overloaded with too much information, which can lead to confusion, self-doubt, and distraction.
It can be anything from looking for moving companies, or what food to feed your dog, to more long-term choices like what career path to pursue or who to marry.
With countless choices and a torrent of information, it makes sense that many people are uncertain about what they want or what to do with their lives.
This is why today I want to share with you 5 ways to improve your decision-making.
1. Write things down
If you have a difficult decision to make, write down your thoughts, feelings, fears, and desires. The process of writing things down allows you to make ideas visible so you can better organize and prioritize your choices.
A useful exercise is to do a brain dump and write down every option you have.
From here you can start to narrow down certain features that appeal to you and remove the options that don’t meet your desires and needs.
This ultimately turns into a pros and cons list, and can help you identify the payoffs and drawbacks of a decision.
“The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.” – Norman Schwarzkopf
2. Clarify your values
When it comes to making decisions we want to develop clarity about our values.
Values are the qualities and attributes that are important to us. Values are the aspects of life we care about and that align with how we want to live, and who we want to be.
When we know our values it becomes easier to make decisions. For instance, if I value my family, I want to consider how each decision I make impacts those relationships.
Download the Uncover Your Calling workbook for an exercise to help you clarify your personal, professional, and relationship core values.
After you have your top values in each domain, ask yourself, “how does this decision align with my values?”
Make your decision accordingly and do your best to stay congruent with what is important to you.
3. Get a second opinion
If you have taken the time to write everything down, assessed your values, but still feel uncertain, it can be a good idea to talk it over with a trusted confidant.
Develop a ‘think tank’ of trusted-truth-tellers, subject-matter-experts and people who have a proven track record of decision making quality so that you can run key decisions by them.
By talking things through and explaining your thinking to another person, you may well find that the decision becomes more clear to you.
They might also have valuable personal experience you can learn from or direct recommendations to consider.
This doesn’t mean that you are relying on others to make a decision for you, but they you have a sounding board and fresh perspective to help you to reach a decision that is right for you.
4. Accept there is no perfect choice
The more options we have, the more we can over-think and create unnecessary confusion.
There isn’t always a best decision. Sometimes we have to accept that a given choice is ‘good enough’ and move forward.
Avoid indecisiveness by practicing being satisfied with an imperfect option.
In psychology they call this being a satisficer. A satisfier is able to accept ‘good enough,’ and can feel content about the decision.
The satisficer is able to find more happiness in the different domains of life. They will be more appreciative for what they have and will more likely notice the positive aspects of things as opposed to all the imperfections.
Being satisfied with good enough doesn’t mean that we never strive for more. It actually allows us room for growth and development while still being content in the moment.
It is about progress, not perfection. We can make strides to improve our life while not letting life pass us by in the process.
“It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes. What matters most is getting off. You cannot make progress without making decisions.” – Jim Rohn
5. Set yourself a deadline
If you’re procrastinating about an important decision, it can help to create external accountability by giving yourself a deadline.
There’s a certain point where it becomes futile to keep mulling over a decision. If you’ve weighed the options and considered all the outcomes, it’s time to create a deadline to help you take action.
Many situations will dictate their own deadline, so you need to step back and recognize when this is the case. If there is no deadline and it’s up to you however, practice using a calendar and schedule when this decision needs to be made.
Treat the decision like any other important activity or project, and prioritize this decision when the deadline emerges.
The reality is, we’re all going to face decision making dilemmas and have to make hard choices.
Decision making is a skill we can practice and cultivate, so don’t be afraid to make hard choices and learn as you go.
Sometimes the right decision is the hard decision, but hopefully these ideas give you a little more guidance and awareness the next time you feel uncertain.