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How To Make (Smart) Decisions
Without All The Stress

person with difficulty and questions in studies
What to do? How to do it?

Oh this is going to be a goodie. 

Typically I send a new year message out to clients, but this year I have decided to write a post which has reflected the calls, emails and enquiries that I have responded to over the last 4 weeks.

They go a bit like this… 

Should I start my own business this year? 

How do I grow my business?

Should I find another job? 

Is this a good time to re-train and change careers?

What is a good strategy for my next 1-3 years considering… (insert life/business event)? 

What subjects should I study at university to get me the job of my dreams?  

Heavy. 

So many possibilities. So many answers. So many results depending on the decision. 

How do You make big decisions? How do You decide what is the best course of action? 

Here are some of the factors I’ve found contribute to ‘sound’ decision making. Because, we all know that you can’t objectively really know if you are making a smart decision at the time. 

What I mean is, time needs to pass to experience the outcome of the decision to evaluate how ‘smart’ it really was. And even that is subjective – right!?

We all know this, yet why do we toil, lose sleep and stress about these decisions? Yes they are life altering, yes they are ‘big’ and have the possibility to change everything, and yet, it is all in our heads. 

Here are some things I’ve found that contributed to a more pleasant and less stressful decision making process (if that is indeed possible!)

  1. Be Brave

Sounds a bit too simple yet, by cultivating this quality, bravery is the number one factor I’ve noticed aids us make decisions. 

Notice I didn’t say ‘good’, ‘sound’ or ‘smart’ decisions, just ‘make decisions’. 

Sometimes stress comes from not making any decision at all. Too many options, too many choices, too many possibilities yet having the guts/balls (whatever you need to be brave) pushes you to action. Bravery pushes you to make a choice because the alternative is …. Nothing. 

Yes, doing nothing is also a decision. A passive one. Yet someone who is brave, willing to just see where things take them (good or bad) are willing to take the steps needed to get them to their goal. It may take a bit longer, they make take some side steps but they are moving, trying, experimenting and above all else – learning.

I recently talked to a client who was just out of school and struggling to work out which university to go to. Due to poor grades, he just missed out on their first preference, and the 2 other options were so wildly different it just left him with a big decision headache. 

What jobs could he get if he completed either degree? How could he get back onto the path of the initial career he wished to pursue? He came to me exhausted, “What should I do?”(pulling hair out emoji). 

Reminding yourself of times when you have been brave and things have turned out okay, pushing yourself to be a little more brave in smaller things everyday was one of the ways this individual made a decision. And I can tell you, that moment of insight and clarity was the beginning of a journey.

Can being a little more brave help you take the leap and make a choice?

  1. The Pro-Con list dilemma

Faced with a decision point or a fork in the road, most people will suggest you try making a pro/con list.

Not a fan. I have to stop myself from rolling my eyes every time someone suggests this to me.

Pro’s of the pro/con listCon’s of the pro/con list
1. Highlights the pro’s and the con’s of the situation/opportunity1. Highlights the pro’s and the con’s of the situation/opportunity
The pro’s and con’s of pro/con lists

Unless there is  a glaringly obviously ‘con’,  I’ve found this a pretty useless tool.

Don’t get me wrong – they have their place. They’re great for having a discussion or talking to someone about why you have made the decision but in actually making one – sorry*. 

*Apologies to all those ‘pro/con list advocates.

A better way I’ve found is to do an ecological check on your decision. 

Ask yourself some of these questions instead. 

  • Is this decision outcome going to adversely effect my Team, Family, those important around me?
  • Is this decision outcome aligned to my values as a person?
  • Is this decision outcome something I’m willing to live with?

If you answer ‘Yes’, to the first question and ‘No’ to the last two perhaps you need to re-frame your decision.

Alternately, if you answered ‘No’ to the first question and ‘Yes’ to the final two, uncovering what is actually stopping you from taking that leap is your next obstacle.

Keep in mind there may be reasons as to why it may not be the right time to make a decision. Timing may be a legitimate factor.

  1. Research – but like Goldilocks

That’s right. Not too much, and not too little. 

We’ve all been there. Researched something to the end degree. 

You’ve looked at what your competitors are going, did all the training, did some more, read some books on the subject, Googled it, talked to people, asked people for other people to talk to that may shed some insight you need to make a decision. And then, you may even do a pro/con list!

Meanwhile 6 – 12 months have passed and you are no where nearer making a clear decision.  

Paralysed by information you can’t seem to take actionable steps forward.  You have however,  become a subject matter expert on the topic and can confidently talk to others about the process or subject without actually making any sort of decision! This is a skill unto itself!

Sound familiar? I liken this to knowing you need to start/finish a really important piece of work, yet unpacking the dishwasher seems more appealing. 

The big question – How to get around this?

Firstly ask yourself what is your comfort level in making a decision today? (Scale your answer objectively  from 1-10?)

If you answer less than 5 – follow up with, “Why wasn’t it lower?”

If you answer higher than 5 – follow up with, “What information do I need to get me up just one point?”

Work through these questions to work out a point in time when you just need to stop, be a little brave, and make a decision. 

So, there you have it. My top 3 tips, if you can call them that, in making decisions this year.

I congratulate you in advance, for making an important decision this year because sometimes just making it is the hardest step of all. 

I would love to hear below in the comments your decision making process and what factors you use to make informed ‘smart’ big decisions in your business, careers and lives. 

If you want some help in working through some big decisions this year, don’t hesitate to reach out and have a chat. I have a bailiwick full of tools and processes to interactively grow, stretch and flex you into the space you wish to fill. 

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