How to Make Decisions

magic8ballEeny-meeny-miny-moe, using a pendulum, consulting a psychic, or a personal favorite, waiting until there weren’t any other options remaining. All of these are perfectly valid ways to help you make a decision or a choice. None of them are based on any science or valid, reasonable adult behaviors.

For anyone who has ever had lunch with me you were acutely aware of the fact that selecting an entree could be as painful for me as Sophie’s Choice. I never understood why it was so difficult for me to make decisions – it just always has been. For as long as I can remember I have done my best to wait until I was all out of options in order to make a choice. Decision by default. That was how I ran my life.

In my line of work, this is not healthy behavior. I had always known it was unhealthy but until I began working with other people on their issues surrounding choice and decisions, I wasn’t anywhere near ready to begin looking at my own issue. I did several exercises and I consulted other experts in my field. I still wasn’t getting anywhere with my issue. It wasn’t until I spent some time in quiet meditation that the answer came to me.

Making decisions makes me feel, regardless of what I choose, that I am ultimately missing out on something. Deprivation was the theme; I felt I was going to be deprived of something by choosing something else. It was easier for me to take something when there were no other options remaining because then I wasn’t missing out on anything. In retrospect, I understand these are really flawed beliefs that are managing my thinking. Ultimately I was missing out on a lot.

Over the years I have found the best way to actually make a decision comes in the next five simple tips:

1. Commit to thinking — This means you need to spend time thinking about thinking about what it is you’re trying to decide. Set aside specific time and that is all you focus on. This brings your rational brain into action.

2. Separate your emotions — Our conscious thoughts are only a minute fraction of what’s going on in our brains at any given time. Your brain is taking in thousands of bits of
information every second from monitoring your blood pressure and heart rate to how the
air temperature feels against your exposed skin. All this information creates a feeling
within you, and this feeling translates as your emotions. Make sure you’re in a good place
emotionally to be making a decision.

3. Don’t think under pressure — Pressure, whether external or internal, can create a false sense of crisis. Rarely are we truly in crisis. With adrenaline pumping and the pressure on, we start bringing emotions back into the mix. Take a breath and walk away if you can. Most times you can come back to make a decision.

4. Challenge your beliefs — I can’t tell you how many times in the corporate environment
I heard these words: “But we’ve always done it this way.” Just because something has
always been done a certain way doesn’t mean that’s the right way to continue doing it.
Circumstances change, people change, beliefs change and shouldn’t your decision-making evolve as well?

5. Let it go — Take a walk, read a book, take a nap or simply get your head out of the game. I know this sounds contrary to what I was discussing earlier. However, I am not suggesting you do this until there are no options left. Often, moments of insight arrive when your attention is taken off of the decision you’re trying to make.

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