I usually tell the clients I work with that I’m a recovering bad decision maker. I have made many poor choices in my life, and because of this I have become more determined to learn how to make better ones. What I have learned from my mistakes is that when we lack clarity about who we are, where we want to go, and the person we want to become, we will make many misguided choices. Fortunately decision making is a skill and we can learn how to make better decisions. Often, making smarter and healthier choices comes out of our past mistakes. When we learn from past mistakes we can gain more clarity about who we are and what we want, and the more clarity we have the more fitting our choices will be. So if you’re making bad decisions or are simply struggling to decide what to do, answer these four questions to gain clarity and help guide you in the choices you make on a daily basis.
Who am I?
Socrates said “Know thyself.” First and foremost, when we are aware of our values, the person we want to be, and the beliefs we hold about ourselves and others, decision making is easier. Self-knowledge is a primary part of making decisions with integrity and confidence. Here are three ways to learn more about who you are. “I AM” statement – What would pop into your head if I ask you to describe who you are? The ideas that come to mind are a major part of how you define yourself, and your self-concept is a major player in the decisions you make. So, if you are defining yourself based on past mistakes and failures it will be difficult to make different decisions in the future. To remedy this create an “I AM” statement that reflects the traits and attributes you want to cultivate. For instance, if you want to make more courageous decisions, think more creatively, and treat others with more compassion, tell yourself, “I am a creative, courageous, and compassionate person.” Use this statement as a guiding source for the actions you take. Core Values – Make a list of what is most important to you. When we take action based on our values we will experience greater congruence and feel better. When we jeopardize our values we will eventually feel inner-conflict. Whenever you have an important decision to make, ask yourself whether it aligns with your core values or not. Core Beliefs – What do you believe about yourself, others, and the world around you? Our beliefs directly influence the actions we take. If I believe that I’m not smart enough to graduate from college I will never decide to go back to school. If I believe I am not attractive enough to find love, I will never ask that person out on a date. Recognize the limiting core beliefs that are leading you to make unhealthy decisions and begin to realign these beliefs with what you want.
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared with what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Where do I want to go?
Without a clear destination anywhere will work. Unfortunately we may not like where “anywhere” leads us. If you have been down a road you didn’t want to travel it was probably because you didn’t have a clear idea of what you wanted and what was most important to you. You probably couldn’t see a clear image of how things could be, but instead were still focused on how things are. Determine what type of lifestyle you want to live and paint a mental picture of this ideal future. Allow yourself to dream and create of vision for the life you desire. When we stop dreaming we stop living. Image it’s five years in the future and you have accomplished all your goals. What decisions and choices did you have to make to get there?
“Many people die at twenty five and aren’t buried until they are seventy five.” ― Benjamin Franklin
How do I want to be remembered?
Making healthy and productive decisions becomes easier when we connect with a bigger purpose. This bigger purpose is about how we can contribute to the world around us. Contribution is a part of what we’re here to do. How can you make a positive impact on others? How do you want to be remembered? How can you leave a lasting impact on the world? Make decisions that help you build this legacy.
The greatest use of a life is to spend it on something that will outlast it. – William James
Will this decision help me become a better person?
A great perspective to keep us focused on making positive decisions is to consider if the choice we’re making helps us be the best version of ourselves. Often we make choices that we know are bad for us, but we do it anyway. Next time you are making an important choice, ask yourself, “Which choice will help me become a better person?” Be honest with yourself and the right decision will become apparent. Our day to day choices can either help us become the best person we can be, or they can keep us stuck and floundering. Nobody wants to make bad decisions, but keep in mind that we will all make mistakes from time to time. The key is to avoid those catastrophic one’s. Continue to sharpen your answers to the questions above. Once you know who you want to become and where you want your path to lead, you can make decisions accordingly.