If you’re anything like me, having an unmade decision preying on your mind is incredibly stressful. We’ve all been there - from choosing lunch to choosing careers. Big or little, it makes the mind anxious. We then add extra stress by stressing about how to make the decision!
So, how to remove this stress and go about making the decision?
IDENTIFY YOUR ACTUAL DECISION
Very often, we see decisions as black and white. We consider there only to be a limited number of options. And that each option is limited to a certain set of circumstances. In reality, this is unlikely to be the case.
Think outside your immediate options. Identify all your options including not making a decision at all. You may find you have strong resistance to doing this. This is because it is much easier for your brain to choose between a limited number of options. It would prefer to think there is only Option A and Option B. Introducing Options C-Z overloads the brain. Try and do it anyway!
The number of options you wish to actively consider is up to you. Either way, being aware can help open up new options or make you feeler calmer about making the decision.
BREAK DOWN THESE OPTIONS FURTHER
You may think that you have to choose between Option A - the continental breakfast or Option B - the full English. Actually, you could ask for the continental breakfast with a side of bacon, or the full English without the eggs. You may find that it was these specific aspects that you were really after or resistant to. You can then adapt an option to suit your specific needs.
Another way of looking at your options is to consider their future impact. Option B may not be preferable in the short term, but in the long term will jump you straight to Options J and K. Conversely, Option A may be preferable in the short term, but will mean you take a lot longer to get to Options J and K.
If you like to write things down, you can present these options in a decision tree method. Even just thinking them through will help you.
DRAFT A PROS AND CONS LIST
This is a very simple, but very effective method.
Whilst you may think you know the pros and cons, chances are there are a number more of each that you have not thought of. Taking the time to really sit down and list all pros and all cons can be particularly helpful.
You may also find yourself resisting writing down more cons, or pushing to think of more pros, which is telling you the decision that your brain wants to make.
This can be used as the basis for making a very rational decision. Or as a way of showing you what you really want the outcome to be.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
I love this technique.
There is a reason we refer to “gut instincts” and “what does you heart tell you?”. Both our stomach and our heart are highly sensitive message centres that provide immediate feedback. By becoming aware of your physical reactions and sensations to making a decision, you can find out what “your heart truly desires”.
Give yourself time and space, if you can. Think about your decision and decide on an option. Really convince yourself that you are making that decision. See how your body reacts - do you tense up and feel wound up and uncomfortable? Do you get a thrill of excitement and an increased heart beat?
Listen to your body and it will tell you what you need to know.
Note that rarely are you asking others for their actual wisdom.
Instead, asking others is very powerful by looking at a) who you approached; and/or b) your reaction to their advice.
You have a variety of people you can go to for advice about any decision. You know, or think you know, roughly what advice they might give you (even if you are not consciously willing to accept this!). Therefore, the minute you decide which person you go to, you have an indication of the answer you want to receive. And therefore the answer to the decision you want to make.
People love to give you their opinion. It’s human nature. Regardless of whether they are right or wrong, you will likely find someone else talking brings your real feelings to the surface. We have all made decisions where everyone told us not to do it and we did it anyway right?
TOSS A COIN
This is my absolute favourite! It was the technique my dad always made us do growing up. It’s so powerful.
Tossing a coin gives you a number of opportunities for your real emotions to surface:
When the coin is in the air
Immediately when the coin has landed
When you choose to live with that decision
It’s partly the same principle as getting the opinion of others. Sometimes we have to be told definitely not to do something, to realise how much we do want to do it. This can happen in an instant. The moment it becomes out of your control (in the air). The moment it is made (coin landing). Or when you start having to live with that decision.
If your immediate reaction isn’t obvious, try living with the decision for as long as time permits (ideally at least overnight). Monitor how you feel. If you find that you’ve not thought about the decision again, this can be a strong indicator you’ve made the right decision. If you can’t stop questioning it, this may be a strong indicator it’s the wrong decision… Listening to your body will be powerful here too.
Sometimes we are just relieved to have made the decision. If it turns out you don’t feel any strong emotions either way, the coin has simply made the decision for you and allowed you to move on with your life!