A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with my client and he had a really interesting question regarding ‘decision making’ and how to ‘know’ when you’re making the ‘Right’ choices.
As a person who works with CEOs on a daily basis, I can tell you with great certainty all leaders are not created equal when it comes to the competency of their decision skills. Nothing will test your leadership mettle more than your ability to make decisions.
Life is full of hard choices and the bigger they are and the more options we have, the harder they get.
As it happens, our brains are fairly binary. They can react very quickly when presented with two options, especially when one’s clearly better. Stand here and drown in the rising waters or jump onto that big rock and be safe? Easy choice.
When presented with more options, though, we choke up. Jump onto the rock or climb the tree? We don’t know which is clearly better, and research shows that most people will not choose at all when presented with several equally good options.
Well, we still walk around with the same Stone Age brain our ancestors had – a mess of emotions, imperfect memories, and a short attention span. To top it off, it never has all the facts to make the “perfect” decision.
From here the story gets worse. We even make decisions without being conscious of having done so. When neuroscientists examined brain activity during a simple decision-making experiment, they noticed people had often decided on a course of action 10 seconds ( I was totally one of those) before they were consciously aware of having made any decision at all .
How can we be sure our decisions reflect our excitement? How can we avoid choosing something simply because we think we’re “supposed” to? Or because all our colleagues did? Or because we’re afraid we won’t succeed if we choose what actually inspires us the most? More likely than not, those decisions won’t lead us to that happy ending we crave. So how do we make decisions that reflect who we are and what we want?
Big or small, I found out five tips to consider if you find yourself on the fence with a choice:
1. If you’re in a position of choosing you’ve already made a right decision.
When you’re in a position of making a choice, congratulate yourself. You’re now in the driver’s seat! You get to choose if you want to go left, if you want to go right, or if you want to stay parked until your meter runs out. Not that we always have to be the one behind the steering wheel, but when it comes to the game of life, if you want to lead yours with passion, it’s important to, well, LEAD.
2. Be the cause, not the effect
If you don’t make a decision, guess what? That’s your decision. Whether or not you realise it, you’ve chosen to place yourself in limbo. Not making a choice was your choice.
And here’s where that choice usually takes you: Indecisiveness—> Stuck —> Inaction —> Complacency —> Settling = Lack of passion. See how that goes?
If you’re currently shifting through options, but not choosing a direction and going with it, then you’re in that inaction phase. And we all can see where that leads.
3. Know your Why.
What’s behind the choice you’re leaning toward? Are you making the decision because it’s something in your heart of hearts you really want to do? Or are you choosing what you think someone else your trust would choose?
When you get crystal clear on the reason behind your choice, or your why, you’ll be primed to make decisions that align with your values and desires.
4. Trust your gut
It sounds so cliché, but it’s a saying for a reason. If you’re in a time crunch and need to make a decision quickly, it’s easy to be pressured into a choice only to regret it later. Take a second to check in with you and ask, “What decision will be most satisfying to me?” What outcome do you immediately feel drawn to? Even if it’s the less appealing or the more labour-intensive choice, there’s a chance it’s the most worthwhile.
5. Remember that you know what’s best for you
The salesgirl selling you that dress or car doesn’t know what’s truly best for you. Neither does your best friend, mother, or your teenage daughter. At the end of the day, shopping spree, or lunch with your husband, you are still the one in charge of you. If you want to strengthen your ability to make decisions, it starts with you being the one to make ‘em.
So is there ever really a right choice?
The truth is we’re not fortune-tellers. We all make decisions based on the knowledge we have at the time.
The closest we can get to make a right choice is making an informed one. So choose to be informed. Make decisions from what you know and what you learn. If your educated choice leads to an undesirable outcome, maybe you’ll have an option to course-correct, to choose again.
What do you find most challenging about making a decision? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments.