I hate making decisions. I always envy those who say, “I just knew this was the house for us,” or “to me that was a sign, so I just broke up with him.” They make it seem so easy. They don’t spend sleepless nights poring over the pros and cons list, scrutinizing it one more time just in case something new pops out. It’s almost like a life force is propelling them towards the right decision.
I want that.
I never get up in the morning knowing exactly which direction to take in life. And my life has never been peppered with signs providing me guidance.
Nope, like most people, I am stuck with the very exhausting task of actually making decisions by myself for myself, all alone, relying just on my inner strength and the slim pickings of my inner wisdom. And let’s face it – that’s no fun. It’s exhausting and it’s terrifying because we have limited knowledge of the situation, we can’t predict the future, we sometimes don’t know what we want or what the right thing is to do AND we are scared of screwing up.
So we put off making a decision. Sometimes that’s okay and it works and sometimes it doesn’t – we wait for things to get clearer but then we start over thinking the situation … and over thinking … and we end up not taking any action. We become stuck and paralyzed. So how do you break out of this? How do you seize control of the situation and made a call when there is so much of fear and uncertainty?
Not all of us are born decisive just like not all of us are born gym fanatics. I should know, I’m neither. But I know being active is good for my health so I’ve created a system that forces me to be active during my everyday life e.g. walking part-way to work or taking the stairs as opposed to the lift wherever possible. The same way, you can create a system that allows you to be more decisive in life. Here are 4 things you can do:
- Don’t sweat the small stuff
Making decisions is exhausting and draws from a finite reserve. The more you draw from it, the less you have. So when you have to make a BIG LIFE DECISION, keep everything else simple.
In his interview with Vanity Fair, Barack Obama says ““You’ll see I wear only grey or blue suits,” he said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”
You need to save your decision-making ability as well. When something big is occupying your thoughts, don’t waste hours pondering on which cushions to get for the flat or which of the 10 strawberry jams you should get. Eliminate choice for the small stuff, get into a routine or simply limit yourself to 5 minutes to make a decision on these items.
Simplify, simplify, simplify.
- What is the life you want for yourself?
“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” ― Roy Disney (Walt Disney Company)
Knowing what you want is the single biggest factor which will help you become more decisive. When I work with several stakeholders on a project, the best thing to do when we face an obstacle and a decision needs to be made is to revisit the initial objective.
In the same way, you need to figure out what life you want for yourself. You need to sit down with a pen and paper and write and write and write until the answer starts becoming clearer. That’s the way I do it. At first, its really vague statements that come out (e.g. I want to draw but then keep digging, draw what? Write what, for whom). Set aside a time everyday for 3 days. If it’s still not clear, give yourself a break and spend another 3 days the following week at it.
This question is not limited to general life. You can ask this question in relation to who you want around you, the job you are looking for and the relationship you want to have.
3. Address your fears
Oftentimes we are indecisive because we fear the various negative outcomes that could or could not materialise if we make a decision. Some fears are irrational, some fears are justified but the fact of the matter is, you get nowhere if you ignore them. Manage your fear. Instead write down your fears, assess them, see if they are justified and then MAKE A PLAN to address them or factor them into your decision.
But remember, you don’t make a decision based on your fears or the probability of what may happen. Decisions are positive. You plan for the fears and probabilities but you make a decision based on the life you want for yourself. See here for helpful diagram.
4. Learn to tune-in to your gut
In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell cites experiments that show “on straight-forward choices, deliberate analysis is the best. When questions of analysis and personal choice gets complicated … our unconscious thought process maybe superior.” Of course, this is an over-simplification. I think good decisions usually take both into account and also varies with individuals but I do believe that sometimes when the question is about profession or the choice of a life partner, you need to pay more attention to what your gut is telling you.
The problem with the gut is that sometimes, it’s hard to read. But taking care of your fears and values like the second and third steps, will help this situation.
Personally, I think what your gut feels always manifests as physical symptoms so I always pay attention to my body when I’m thinking through the various options I have in a situation.
Shoba Haridas is a independent Brand & Marketing consultant and her specialty is setting campaign goals, strategies and measuring results. Realizing that many of the techniques used in the corporate world can also be beneficial in real-life, she is experimenting with these techniques. If you are having trouble making a decision or getting out of a rut, she is happy to offer a FREE consultation based on these techniques.
She blogs regularly on shobaharidas.wordpress.com