In many ways we have more choices than any generation before. Yet few of us are ever taught how to make good decisions.
So if you are facing one of those Decisions with a capital ‘D’ – a choice about work, relationships, marriage, children, home, health, even your principles – how can you increase the chances of making the right one?
On the horns of a dilemma: be creative in coming up with as many possible options or solutions as you can. If you’ve only got two options, you’re facing a dilemma. Three and more, and suddenly you’ve got a choice.
Focus: the more we worry about a decision, the more variables and ‘what ifs’ we seem to load onto it until we lose sight of what the real decision is. In amongst all the to-ing and fro-ing, there’s usually one factor that’s the most important. Concentrate on that: everything else is details.
A stomach for decision-making? according to estate agents, most of us spend ten times longer searching out a new outfit as we do choosing a new home (10 minutes is the average viewing time). One of the reasons is because we’re acting on our feeling about a place. Intuition, gut feeling, whatever you call it, is a wonderful guide so long as you don’t disengage your brain entirely.
Inside story: it can be hard to connect with our intuition when the chatter going on in our heads is so incessant. When it gets to 3am and you realise your thoughts are chasing their tails, try meditation: sit on your bed and use a simple technique like counting your breaths to put your mind in idle. Left to itself, your inner wisdom may eventually tell you exactly what you need to know – important decisions can be discovered as well as made.
Make believe: if you’re really stuck pretend to yourself you’ve made the decision and act as if it’s really happening. Over the next 24 hours monitor your feelings. Relief, peace..if it feels good, even if it’s still scary, go ahead. Edginess,defensiveness, unease, are signals you need to test out another of your choices in the same way.
Sober reflection:apparently the Persians dealt with difficult decisions by discussing them while they were drunk and then reviewing them in the cold light of the next day’s hangover. Only if last night’s ‘brilliant idea’ still looked good did they go ahead. The moral of the story is don’t make serious decisions while under the influence – especially the influence of strong emotions such as anger, hurt, fear, depression or desperation.
When is a problem a possibility: no matter how huge the decision seems, it is also an opportunity, a chance to shape your life and future. Often we come at the really difficult decisions with a mind set on damage limitation: what’s going to hurt the least or is least likely to end in disaster? Remind yourself that every big decision is a chance to change direction on your journey through life. What are you trying to achieve through this choice: a better career, better relationship, better life? Think positive.
Finally, if you’re really stuck, you can always flick a coin and remind yourself that, like celebrity marriages, decisions don’t have to be for ever. It may not be easy to undo a wrong decision but, in the long run, it’s easier and less painful than trying to live with one.