How to Make a Decision

04/30/2017 03:13 pm ET

We’ve all done it. We do it every day, sometimes even more than once a day. We make decisions. Making a decision is tough. It takes time, it’s risky, it’s scary, and sometimes it means letting go of the comfortable and familiar.

My mentor once said: if you cannot make a decision between two things or people, then you’ve already made one. Because NOT making a decision is a decision.

There are the kinds of decisions that impact others around us, and the ones that seem to only concern ourselves. A decision itself is usually not the challenge. It’s the results, changes, and outcomes that follow a decision.

Now, how do you actually make a decision? I gave it a lot of thought lately and came up with the top five ways that work for me and might be helpful for you to try as well.

1. Know yourself

This is like the taste buds on your tongue. You can only know which flavor of food or drink to pick when you know which one you like. It’s the same with any other decision. You need to know yourself: your values, interests, and what makes you happy.

It also means that you have to be clear about the things you are willing to compromise and the things that are deal breakers for you. This is just as true for your private life as for your career.

Moreover, you have to ask yourself uncomfortable questions, like what are you willing to sacrifice? Will you be okay with being uncomfortable for a while or with a change in your living standards and everything else that accompanies a new start?

“It’s not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What’s hard is figuring out what you’re willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about.” Shauna Niequist

2. Trust your intuition

This is definitely one of the most powerful tools we have: our intuition, also called, our gut feeling.

I agree with Delphine Gay de Girardin who saw it as “the nose of the mind,” because sometimes I can “smell” that there is something wrong about certain things. However, interestingly enough, too many people, including me sometimes, underestimate and ignore their instincts, or don’t pay attention to them in their decision-making process.

Let’s trust yourself and think about the decisions you’ve made in the past. I don’t believe that there are wrong or right decisions. Anything we have done brought us exactly where we are now and made us who we are today.

The important thing is to stop overthinking and take a risk every now and then. There is no way of knowing exactly what is going to happen. I think the saddest thing in life is regret and the questions about what might have been. So buckle up and go. If we don’t try, how will we ever know?

Lisa Wingate once wrote:

“The hardest thing about the road not taken is that you never know where it might have led.”

So, not following our instinct and deciding against our intuition when making a change, can eventually haunt us like unfinished business.

3. Abandon fear

Making a decision requires courage and strength in almost every case. It usually involves risk and brings about big changes for you and/or others. Oftentimes, the comfortable, the familiar, is a big decisive factor that leaves us without taking action and staying in the same place.

The usual “I’ve always done it this way” argument allows you to stay in your comfort zone, which might be your happy place, but it’s certainly not your place to grow. You might not exactly know where a decision will lead you, but if you feel that this is what you really want to do, then your energy and curiosity will help you overcome your fear and get you there.

Also, we tend to stay in our situations, jobs, or relationships, because we’ve already put a lot of time and effort into it. The “I already spent so much money on my education” or “I cannot just throw away so many years” argument seems to be pretty convincing and powerful.

For this, I can give you an all-clear: in psychology, this is called the “sunk cost fallacy,” so don’t get too caught up in this thinking. Instead, get busy with the thought of how much time, sadness, and more money you will save by leaving this situation.

4. Consider others, but do not ..

.. make your decisions for them. Again, you cannot possibly please everyone. I’ve learned this the hard way, and believe me, it is okay.

Allow yourself to go for what you want and desire. This might sometimes mean hurting or disappointing others; however, you have only one life. Everyone around you has different expectations and ideas about happiness and there is no way to be in accordance with all of them, so don’t feel guilty for following your dreams.

As I mentioned before, you need to know your deal breakers. Those are usually things you simply cannot or will not compromise. When making a decision, knowing them will help you figure out what is right for you in the long run.

5. The Chair Game

My mentor showed me this when I faced the tough decision between going back home or staying in the USA. All you need is two chairs. One chair represents choice A and the other one choice B. Now sit on each chair and think of arguments that work for the respective decision. On which chair did you sit longer and felt more comfortable? Then, there is your answer.

Take heart, trust yourself, listen to your gut, buckle up, and make a decision. You already know what’s right for you.

How to Make a Decision
Karen Naumann
How to Make a Decision
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