Making the Right Choice (The Ultimate Guide + Image Quotes)

Here are some more methods for making big decisions. Not all of them will work for every person or every decision, but they all have something to offer in terms of helping you clarify your thinking and avoid “decision paralysis” as the water rises around you.

Analyze the results

Working through a major decision can cause us to experience tunnel vision, in which we become so focused on the immediate consequences of the decision at hand that we fail to consider the long-term outcomes we expect or desire.

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When making a decision, it's a good idea to think about the outcome you're hoping for. Think about each option and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the most likely outcome of this decision?
  • What outcomes are highly improbable?
  • What are the likely consequences of not selecting this one?
  • What would happen if you did the exact opposite?

Thinking about long-term outcomes – and broadening your thinking to include negative outcomes – can help you find clarity and direction when faced with a big decision.

Five times, ask why

The Five Whys are a problem-solving technique developed by Toyota founder Sakichi Toyoda. When something goes wrong, you ask five times, “why?” By repeatedly asking why something failed, you can eventually get to the root cause.

What caused my car to break down? A spark plug had blown. Why? It had become clogged. Why? I did not receive a tune-up. Why? I was too preoccupied with GTA4. Why? Because I'm unhappy and lonely, and the people in the game are the only ones who truly care about me.

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See? Because you're a sociopath, your car broke down.

Although designed as a problem-solving technique, the Five Whys can also help you determine whether a decision you're contemplating is consistent with your core values. As an example:

Why should I accept this position? It pays well and allows me to advance. What is the significance of this? Because I want to have a career rather than just a series of meaningless jobs. Why? Because I want to live a meaningful life. Why? So I can be content. Why? Because that is what matters in life.

It is worth noting that you may need to change the way you ask “why” from time to time in order to keep the questions focused inward rather than outward to irrelevant external factors. It would be pointless to ask, “Why does this job pay well and give me opportunities to grow?” because the important thing is that it does, not why it does.

Trust your instincts

According to research, people who make decisions quickly, even when they lack information, are more satisfied with their choices than people who research and carefully weigh their options. Some of this difference is due to the lower level of stress caused by the decision, but much of it is due to the way our brains work.

At any given time, the conscious mind can only hold between 5 and 9 distinct thoughts. That means that any complex problem with more than (on average) seven factors will overwhelm the conscious mind's ability to function effectively, resulting in poor decisions.

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Our unconscious, on the other hand, is much better at juggling and solving complex problems. People who “trust their gut” are trusting the work their unconscious mind has already done, rather than second-guessing it and relying on their conscious mind's much more limited ability to deal with complex situations.

You have a choice

Whatever process you use to make your decision, your satisfaction with it will be largely determined by whether you claim ownership of your choices. If you feel compelled to make a decision or if you lack control over the circumstances, even positive outcomes will be tainted. Taking full responsibility for your choices, on the other hand, can make even failure feel like a success – you'll know you did your best and you'll have gained valuable experience for nest time.

What methods do you employ? I know I've left out a lot of good techniques, so please share your own in the comments.

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