Decision making can be stressful…
Especially when the matter worth deciding over entails making major lifestyle alterations. The spectrum of decisions range from simple choices, such as, “Where should we go to dinner?” to challenging big steps such as, “Should we start a family?”, “Should I take this job far away?”, “Should we stay together or go our separate ways?” etc. At some point in your life (if you haven’t done so already), you will be faced with making a difficult decision. For some of us, the fear of “choosing the wrong answer” may be so stressful that it paralyzes our decision making process. This indecisiveness can actually end up eliminating one of your (potentially better) options altogether. While some may use this as a strategy to evade having to make a challenging decision, I encourage you to take control of your decision making process. I’ve developed 5 tools to make you a powerful decision maker that will leave you less stressed, less anxious, and with the decision you truly want!
Being decisive is a learned skill
The first key tool of decision making is:
1) Practice Making Decisions
If you tend to be the “I don’t care” person- take small opportunities to practice making decisions. Here are some examples where you can practice implementing small decision making:
- Pick where to go for dinner
- Organize an activity at your next friends’/ family outing
- Voice your opinion on a round-table brainstorm meeting at work
- Order appetizers or food options for the group next time you’re out to eat
With practice, you’ll realize that making (small) decisions isn’t so scary.
Now, some of you may be thinking- what if others don’t like what I decide? I’ll feel judged, embarrassed, insecure….(x, y, z).
This leads to Key #2:
2) Learn to Problem Solve
Nothing is more powerful than being surrounded by confident, decision making leaders.
Successful leaders are those who listen to the needs of others, respect their voices and opinions, yet are still able to come to a consensus and commit on a decision.
Let’s work through a small, common example.
Let’s say you’re out to dinner with friends:
“What should we order for appetizers?”
As you practice making decisions, you offer;
“How about calamari and bruschetta?”
One of your friends says;
“Ew, I hate seafood. How can you like that and even consider ordering that for the group?”
Perhaps you may feel hurt, judged, or embarrassed at this comment.
Now, rather than shrinking away from the act of deciding on the appetizer, you now implement Key #2- problem solving.
“Okay, so calamari doesn’t seem to be the right option for tonight. Let’s do a flatbread instead.”
Notice how I transitioned away from an open ended question into a statement on this last point. In this manner, those who have a strong opinion against flatbread (or bruschetta) can still speak up if they really don’t want either option. However, you have otherwise listened to the needs of others, respected them, yet were still able to commit on a decision.
By implementing these tools into your daily life now, you will begin building confidence in your skill when the more challenging decisions come your way.
Now for the more stressful decision(s) in your life.
3) Keep Perspective and Zoom Out
Take a moment to Zoom Out on your current decision at hand. As an example, let’s say your difficult decision is deciding on an international job opportunity that your boss thinks you’re the best candidate for. You love to travel and you’d love to accept the position, but certain variables in your life are making it more challenging for you to commit to a decision right away. All of a sudden you feel internal pressure, anxiety, and stress around the fact that you now have to make a decision that could potentially make a dramatic change in your life (and possibly others).
Take a second…. and Zoom Out.
Look how fortunate you are! You not only have a career, but are being recognized as a great fit for this new niche position on an international scale. Whether or not you take the position is an afterthought to the fact that you’re currently employed and have job security! On top of it, you now are being offered an opportunity to fine-tune your job into one that could be a unique niche that would burgeon your career.
Hooray for options!
This should give you appropriate perspective to level your anxiety and stress around the act of making this important decision.
4) Your Decision is Information Dependent: Have an Exit Strategy
This is another great way to significantly shrink away the fear of committing to a decision.
Decisions aren’t always permanent!
When you are faced with making a decision, you are making the decision based on information that you’ve accumulated up until this point in time.
As time moves forward, new information may give you evidence to justify making changes to your original decision.
Talk about taking the pressure off your back!
Let’s go back to our international work example:
You weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the position and the effects on different variables on your life. Perhaps your boss tells you it will only be a temporary position for 5 years. The company will pay for any travel back and forth when you’d like to visit friends/ family, and will offer you a higher salary if you decide to accept the position. The information you are basing your decision on at this point in time includes:
- Temporary position
- Travel compensation
- Increased salary
Acknowledge that when you are making your decision, you are solely committing to an answer based on the information that you have been privy to up until that specific point in time.
Develop an Exit Strategy:
Be sure to have an Exit Strategy if in 6 months – 1 year, new information is added or modified.
Tip: If your decision is work /contract related, it is never a bad idea to add a clause in your new contract to “re-group” (for lack of a better term) after 3-6 months for re-evaluation and role responsibility modifications.
Okay, so you’re feeling a little less pressure over committing to a decision because you know that most decisions can be modifiable if certain variables unexpectedly change. You’ve established your Exit Strategy. Now what?
5) Go With Your Gut Instinct
Do not underestimate the power of your intuition. What is your gut telling you? Do you lean 51% to one direction and 49% toward the other? Acknowledge that small difference! Because…
It’s time to commit.
You’ve learned the skills on how to problem solve and make decisions. You’ve kept perspective on your options and have made a decision based on the information you know up until that moment in time. You have an Exit Strategy if information changes. You’re feeling less stressed and anxious about what you’re about to choose.
Now…here’s my last, bonus key tool for you:
Make the best of your decision
You may think your work is done now that you’ve committed to your decision. However, it is now time to commit to your commitment!
See the positive in the decision you’ve committed to and avoid retrospection. Invest your energy in making the best of the decision you’ve made. You should be proud of yourself for being a strong decision maker and for demonstrating skills like a great leader. Continue to work on these five key tools of decision making and don’t forget to congratulate yourself on work well done!
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