Decisions, decisions, decisions – making life decisions- or any decisions – are tough.
It’s also something which typically overwhelms people, as here’s an element of risk involved, and we prefer to stick with the easy, and routine option.
But what if I told you I had cracked the formula for how to make decisions? Well, what would you do?
I’ll make that decision for you: you read on and then apply it to your own life.
Welcome to –
Sweet Clean Living’s ‘How To Make Good Decisions’ – A Beginner’s Guide
Here’s a little bit of background about the way I learned how to make decisions.
As I grew up and was faced with big life decisions, I noticed a pattern forming pretty quickly: An amazing opportunity would present itself, and I’d do one of two things:
- I’d get highly anxious over the possibility, and think about it non-stop, or –
- I’d be so overwhelmed with thinking about what could happen, and become completely apathetic towards everything in my life
…all of which resulted in, you’ve guessed it, those opportunities not being taken.
And so I continued as I was, taking the road more traveled. And you know what? I was miserable.
Eventually, I became so miserable that something had to give, and I was forced to finally say yes.
While I had some initial regrets, after 5 minutes I realized I had done the best thing for myself, and for my future. And I never once looked back.
Then, the next time I was faced with another opportunity, I weighed up the situation and acted accordingly. Each time it became a little easier.
Now, I feel I have the decision making process down to an art – and have gone on to move country, get married, switch career (!), start an online business and even work everyday in a language which I couldn’t communicate in 3 years ago,
So now it’s your turn to learn how to make a decision too!
Step One: Decide Your End Goal & What You Want
As your decision is ultimately going to be about what is best for you, you need to think about what it is you want – in general, from this decision and in life.
If you know exactly what that is, then that’s amazing (and I applaud you for knowing yourself so well!). If, like most of us, you have less of an idea, you need to think hard about what you want your end goal to be.
For example, if your decision is whether to accept a new job (or start looking for one), one of end goal,s might be something specific, like ‘to be a manager’, something more general like ‘to advance in my career’. Whatever works better for you – just decide what those goals should be and keep them in mind for the second step.
Step Two: Set Your Standards & Non-Negotiables
The next step is to decide what you will and will not compromise on.
Here, you have to ask yourself what it is which is so important to you that if they are affected by your decision – for good or for bad – it would decide something for you.
For example: Let’s say you’re trying to decide whether you should move to a new city. One of your non-negotiables is that the city has to have a beach, or be 1 hour from a beach. You find the perfect city to move to, except for there is no beach. If this would stop you from moving there, it’s a non-negotiable and you have to keep looking; if you would be able to live without it, then great – your decision is made!
Step Three: Write Down The Options
Here’s an important step: sometimes, when we’re so busy with trying to think through every aspect of our decisions, we need to look at stuff much more clearly. Even if you can’t see the point in writing or typing something down – it’s a very important part of the process. It helps you see everything laid out clearly, and maybe even in a different light.
Write down each of the options related to your decision (if there are any options which aren’t important or you’d never consider, then you don’t need to write them down – this is just for the important parts of the decision), alongside any other important or relevant information – even better if these relate to your non-negotiables and goals!
Step Four: Match Options To Your Goals/Standards
Now that you’ve explored your options, it’s time to match them to each of your goals and standards.
This is slightly more tricky than it seems in theory.
- First, you need to find the goals and standards which match your options exactly or completely.
- Then you need to match your goals/standards with option which partially satisfy them – e.g. if one of your options is a certain job, but one of your goals is to be a manager, but that job is for a lower position, if you think there’s potential to grow into a manager role then this would be a ‘partial’ match of your goal.
- Lastly, any options which don’t align with your goals – you can choose to get rid of. If you’re sad at the idea of getting rid of it, think why. If you’re actually relieved to get rid of the option – then good job, you’re almost there.
Step Five: Take The Emotion Out
Once you’ve gone through all the above steps, you might be left with your last few options.
If you’ve already made your decision by this point, then congratulations! Way to go!
If not, then there’s one last thing to do – and that’s taking the emotion out.
This is much less easy than it sounds, because all of this is an emotional test. The decision you are trying to make might have big consequences for you, which it’s really hard not to get emotional (or freaked out!) about.
But here’s what you do:
- Look at the options you’ve written down. Recognize and feel your gut instinct telling you which is the best.
- Think about which of the options match your goals more completely.
- Try to avoid thinking about which option will make you the most happy/rich/excited etc – because situations change, as do happiness levels, income and attitude after a time. Look at the option which has the most potential for you, and will take you further – in life, in your career etc.
If you’ve done all of the above, and still can’t reach a decision – here’s a trick.
Imagine that you’ve taken each option, and it’s 6 months for now. Try to visualize where you are, how you feel and if you made the right choice.
If you feel regret for not having made the other choice, and also visualized this version of the future – then you’ve made your decision.
Good luck – and if you have any other key tips or process for making your tough life decisions, I’d love to hear them!
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Also published on Medium.