How good are you at decision making?
Some people can quickly consider all of the information available to them, make a judgement call, and then immediately move forward with their plan. Others take a little more time.
Okay… most of us take a lot more time.
We like to procrastinate on making decisions because we’re afraid to make the wrong one and be stuck. Or we don’t feel like we’re in a position to fully commit to a decision. Or we don’t trust that our decision-making skills will lead us to the results we’re hoping to get.
A lot of people end up making a decision by omission – we don’t decide at all, and eventually our circumstances decide for us.
But decision making is an important skill.
And if you’re taking an active role in your life, it’s a crucial one to have.
The next time you find yourself paralyzed by indecision, try these questions to get through the process.
Question 1: What’s Most In-Line With My Goals?
If you’re not setting long-term goals for yourself, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
What do you want for yourself in five years? In ten years? What do you want your life to look like, long-term?
If you’re not sure, it can be incredibly helpful to write a Dream Life Manifesto. This exercise can help you both figure out what you want out of life, and act as a rudder to help steer you toward it when you’re not sure what to do.
Know what you want but you’re not sure how to get there? Reverse engineering your goals can help you figure out what steps you need to take to build that life of your dreams.
Anytime you need to make a big change in your life, anytime you enter your decision making process, ask yourself: Does this propel me toward what I want? Will this help get me to where I’m trying to go?
Question 2: What’s the Worst That Could Happen?
Then, let’s get this one out of the way. Say you committed right now to the decision that you’re mulling over. What’s the most realistic worst-case scenario?
Not the one where everything you’ve ever loved goes up in flames and the world erupts into chaos.
But the realistic worst case scenario. What are you afraid will happen?
Your boss will be mad? Your parents will be disappointed in you? Your partner won’t be supportive? You’ll fail miserably and be a laughingstock?
Or is it that it will just be the wrong decision and you’ll have wasted your time?
Really get clear on what could go wrong – and then come up with ideas to overcome those possibilities.
It doesn’t need to be a concrete plan, and you don’t need to plan for every possible bad outcome. But take a second to go over it with yourself and come up with some solutions ahead of time.
The point of this exercise is to get you to a place where you realize no matter what comes up, you’ll be able to handle it – because that’s the truth, and sometimes we like to panic and forget that.
Question 3: What’s the Best Thing That Could Happen?
This one is a little more fun. If you make the decision you’re thinking of making, what’s the best possible outcome of that?
For one, it will solve the problem you’re facing – otherwise you wouldn’t be considering it.
What else will this do for you? Does it have reverberating positive effects? Is it good for your health, your family, your bank account? Will it lead you in a direction you want to go?
Is this something that could change your life?
Because sometimes, we’re not procrastinating making a decision because we’re afraid of the bad things that could happen – sometimes we’re afraid of the good things that could happen.
Fear of success is just as common as fear of failure, it’s just not as talked about.
Maybe you need to stop tearing yourself down in your own head.
Either way, take a second to consider all of the great things that could happen if you make this decision.
Question 4: What’s the Most Realistic Thing That Could Happen?
Our brains have a tendency to fixate on things that fall on either end of the scale of extremes.
But, be honest… how often is the actual outcome something extreme?
I’m not saying that the most boring possible outcome is the most likely – but it’s probably more likely than either of the extremes, good or bad. And often, the most boring outcome still skews negative or positive – which should give you a good idea of what you’re getting yourself into.
Don’t let pessimism get in the way here, either – monitor your mindset while you think this one over. Be honest with yourself. What’s truly the most likely thing to happen when you make this change?
Chances are, you already know the basic roadmap of the decision you’re thinking about. A lot of the time, it comes down to basic cause and effect with little room for chance.
You know if you eat smarter and sleep better, you’ll have more energy. You know if you ask for a raise, you’ll either get it or not. While the worst case scenario may be “Your boss says no and also fires you in front of all your coworkers”, you know for a fact that’s not at all the likely outcome.
Getting an idea of the worst case scenario, best case scenario and most realistic scenario can help you form a big-picture idea of your likely outcomes and help you gain confidence in your decision making.
Question 5: How Committed Am I To My Desired Outcome?
If the decision you’re making is closer to “what should I have for breakfast?”, then this one may not seem like such a big deal.
But when we’re making big, life-changing changes, something to keep in mind is how dedicated you’re going to be to keeping it up.
Something like starting a business, starting the home-buying process, or embarking on a health or financial journey isn’t something you do once and move on. It requires ongoing, long-term action.
If the amount of work that is required to see your choice to the end, and the amount of work you’re willing to put in, are at odds with each other… well, it’s better to realize that now than when you’re in the middle of it and realizing maybe you’re not as committed as you thought.
Be honest with yourself about how much energy, time and effort you’re willing to pour into something, and then do some research to see if that’s in line with other people’s experiences.
Fully lay out your priorities and decide on your boundaries now. What are you willing to put towards it? Are you ok with giving up weekends, evenings, losing some sleep or family time? Do you have a realistic idea of what your choice will require of you, and is that in line with what you’re willing to give?
One thing I see a lot of online is the emphasis on easy. Businesses are very eager to impress how easy it is to make money online, to lose a ton of weight, etc., if you just buy their product. While a well-organized system can make these things easier, there’s no magic pill – not in weight loss and not in the rest of the world.
BIG results require BIG action. But the reverse is also true – big action can yield big results.
The next time you’re stuck in the decision making process, ask yourself these 5 questions and see if that helps.