I’m not one who often struggles to decide. At times, it can be a good thing, and other times, well, let’s just say, the biblical quote “fools rush in where angels fear to tread” was aptly suited.
Principle 1: Every Decision Is An Opportunity To Learn And Grow.
You learn more from making mistakes than you will from not experiencing the impact of bad decisions.
Suggested Video: Dumb Ways to Die
I’m going to digress here for a moment. Only today, my daughter reminded me that I’ve done at least a few things on the “dumb ways to die” list (think home removal of wasp nests, accidentally setting my hand on fire, and taking outdated medicine). I’ll stop here as I think the proof points for some poor decisions are obvious.
Principle 2: Learn the Skill of Decision-Making and Remember That There Is Always Room For Improvement.
As I thought more about decision-making, I considered when I actually “learned” how to make decisions. I realized that hadn't been formally introduced to the science of decision-making until I took psychology and leadership courses in university.
There is a way to address indecision. Really?
There is a process for making better decisions. Could it be so?
Suggested Reading: Decision-Making Process
The brain is wired to be efficient and problem solve and actually doesn’t like it when we are indecisive. Who knew?
Suggested Reading: What brain science reveals about uncertainty and 6 strategies to cope at work
Think back to when you were in grade school, middle school, or even high school. Do you remember learning the skill of decision-making? If you did and you applied it, well, you’re a rock star.
Similar to conflict resolution, knowing how to make decisions is an essential skill that even little kids find themselves facing whether in the playground, classroom, or at home.
As rules of probability apply and as children develop, they gradually begin to face more uncertain or challenging situations that force their decision-making abilities. Additional research is needed to gain insights about the type of choices children are able to make on their own.
Suggested Reading: What children can and cannot do in decision-making
If you learn the techniques and tips for overcoming indecisiveness, it will hold you in good stead throughout your life and no one will sing the “Dumb Ways to Die” song to you.
Have you ever had an experience where you go to a restaurant and the menu is massive which means the choices are endless and you wonder if there is anything on it that could be made well.
Suggested video: the menu scene in the pilot episode (only for those who are fans of Schitt’s Creek – caution for language content).
Tip: When you have too many choices, make a list of them and then go through an exercise of pros (e.g., benefits or positive impacts) and cons to narrow your options and set value-based parameters to identify alignment (or misalignment).
Caveat – This tip requires being able to step back and weigh the first, second, and third order consequences. It is a bit more complex in that this process is also interconnected with Point 3 regarding self-identity and confidence.
For some, decision-making is insular and doesn’t seem to have the potential for a significant ripple effect on others. For parents, community changemakers, health care professionals, people leaders and others, the potential consequences of their indecisiveness or poor decision-making can impact multiple relationships, morale, governance, ethics, finances, and more.
Each of us is unique and has individual lived experiences and beliefs. As such, anxiety around decision-making will vary too. For some, making any type of decision can feel highly stressful even if it simply involves what to order from a takeout menu.
Tip: Once you’ve made your pros and cons list, review it with a focus on the best possible outcomes based on the positives or benefits you foresee. Next, consider the scope of the decision – is it major or minor in your life and/or in the lives of others?
Hopefully by applying these tips you'll feel more confident about your decisions.
During the decision-making process, it is important to acknowledge your emotions and that “gut instinct”.
Tip: Consider how much of your indecision is based on a sense of obligation to others.
Use your emotions as a guidepost to your boundaries and core values.
Suggested Reading: Sherianna Boyle’s The Four Gifts of Anxiety.
I use this regularly and it works especially well with my clients. It is a simple way to decide between two options. One side of the coin is "no" and the other side represents a "yes". When the coin is flipped, trust your gut instinct and your immediate reaction to help you decide. In that split second, your feelings about the coin toss reflect your true decision.
According to Sherianna Boyle, “If it isn’t a definite yes, it’s a no”.
When your self-confidence is a bit wobbly, it may be more difficult to let go of previous bad decisions and the cringy moments you can recall.
It’s time to forgive yourself and go back to Principle 1:
Every Decision Is An Opportunity To Learn And Grow.
Overarchingly, if the decision is important and impacts others, take your time to decide. Seek help and input from people you trust (e.g., a mentor). Consider your options and go back to Points 1 and 2 in this list to help you gain clarity regarding the scope and implications of your decision.
We are going to make mistakes and if we become too afraid to fail, we will fail to succeed. As a somewhat reformed perfectionist, I feel safe to say that letting go of my perfectionist mindset has been freeing and even fun. Through mistakes you can learn to trust yourself and build resilience.
Similar to developing active listening skills, fostering trust in others, and building emotional intelligence, being equipped to make good decisions requires time, practice, and intentionality.
Suggested Reading: How to Engage Your Wise Mind
Your potential for positive change rests with you. Don’t let indecision be your default position.
When in doubt, keep this mantra in mind: “I am a decisive person.”
"We all make choices, but in the end, our choices make us." — Ken Levine.
Written by Susan Merli