How often have you dithered over a decision because you weren't sure which option was best? Life frequently places us at crossroads, and choosing one path over another by carefully weighing the pros and cons of each, listening to your gut instinct, and not allowing others to influence your decisions is critical if you want to be happy with your lot in life… Making decisions is an important skill that we all need to advance in our careers and in our lives.
But why is it so difficult to make decisions?
To be honest, on any given day, we frequently end up making hundreds of small, possibly insignificant decisions. When should I get up, should I exercise or not, what should I wear, what should I eat, where should I go, how should I go, and so much more? These decisions are made in a split second and are simple to understand, but they have no real impact on the outcome of anything – our breakfast choice, as long as it is healthy and filling enough, has no bearing on our or the world's future.
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This changes when the decision is complicated by outside factors. On a normal day, what you wear to work is unimportant, but when you have that all-important interview scheduled, your outfit becomes a critical decision-making factor. If you have trouble making decisions and agonize over them for days, wondering if you did the right thing, you need to stop.
While we would never recommend making split-second decisions and jumping in without weighing the pros and cons, you do need to make the decision quickly and concisely and remember these thoughts.
- More thought isn't always better thought.
- Learn to trust your instincts or gut feelings.
- Give decision-making a deadline.
- Accept that you cannot always have it all; you may have to make some sacrifices.
Finally, if a decision you made turns out to be incorrect – remember that life does sometimes hand you lemons.
How Can I Improve My Decision-Making Capabilities?
Recognizing that you have a decision-making problem is a good first step. Recognize the signs – if you can't even order dinner for yourself, it's time to sharpen your decision-making skills, stiffen your spine, and trust your gut…
The 10/10/10 Rule for Making Difficult But Necessary Decisions
Suzy Welch is a business writer for several respected publications, and she created a simple tool that can help us decide how to proceed. It is known as the 10/10/10 rule, and it is described by Welch in his book of the same name. It suggests that we consider the decision we are about to make on three different time frames: How will we feel about it in 10 minutes? What about in ten months? What about in ten years? This tool basically helps us see things from a new perspective and ensures that regret is not a part of our lives – if we can predict that a decision we make now will leave us with regret later, it means that we should take another path that leads to a happier future.
Face Your Fears, Then Take Action
Decision making paralyzes us a lot of the time because we are afraid of the outcome. We are afraid of the outcome of our decision, and we are so preoccupied with it that we are analyzing it to the nth degree, and we end up frozen in anguish. The key to breaking free from this deep freeze is to confront and name your fears. Write down the worst-case scenario for the decision you are about to make – for example, you have a major disagreement with your spouse and want to air your grievances. However, you are concerned that this will result in a major fight or even a divorce down the road.
The next step is to see if you can handle the worst-case scenario. Can you and your children cope with being single if you and your partner decide to separate or divorce? Think about it long and hard, and you might realize that while your fears and the worst-case scenario are difficult, they may also be manageable.
Stuck? Make a list of the advantages and disadvantages
Ruth Chang, a TED Talk speaker, has devised a simple method to improve decision-making skills. She advises you to write down the pros and cons of the decision you are about to make because there are no right or wrong answers. Even if we ruthlessly suppress our desires and needs, we are subliminally dictated by them. When we are faced with two options, both of which appear to be good, this solution is very effective. Choose between two marriage proposals, two jobs, or two schools for your children…
If you list the pros and cons of both options, you will notice that the pros of one are longer than the cons of the other – usually, your innate desire or gut will make the decision for you. Follow your instincts and leave the rest to the universe.
Be wary of wanting and making decisions based on it
According to experts, we end up making bad decisions because we confuse our likes with our wants. We are all affected by our emotions and feelings as humans. However, feelings do not really tell us where they come from – and because we frequently misinterpret their source, we end up not knowing what we liked about our situation in the first place.
Also, we may want something and end up confusing our yearning for it with genuine liking. So, we want to go to the Louvre, but do we like it? We have no idea. We might want a new look… What do we think of it? I'm not sure…
As a result, our decisions should sometimes be based on our likes rather than our wants. For example, we might want to visit an exotic location. But we know that we prefer the peaceful solitude of the hills to the hustle and bustle of a Caribbean island. The decision should then be made to go to the hills – because that is what we enjoy…
Get Out of the Choice Paradox
Decision making was much easier many years ago than it is today. Why? Because there weren't as many options. Purchasing a shirt was simple because all you had to do was select the size and color. If you go to buy a shirt, you must select the type, fit, buttons, fabric, cut, stitch, pattern, collar, color, size, and micro-size.
As Barry Schwartz so eloquently puts it in his TED Talk, we have so many choices today that each of our decisions, good or bad, comes with its own flavor of regret – because we end up thinking maybe A, B, C or X, Y, Z was a better choice than the D I chose. And it happens everywhere – in our jobs, the sandwiches we eat, the ice cream flavor we finally settle on, or even the car or the latest pieces of technology we adored but now wonder about…
The solution is to keep it simple – choose 2-3 alternatives, ignore the others, and follow your instincts. Let the rest of the world dither – you've made your decision, so be content with it. There will always be people who think you're a fool for making the decision you did. The point is, if you're happy, why should you care?
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