We all have many choices to make in our lives, many of which seem inconsequential at the time but in hindsight are pretty significant.  I notice that in many cases we experience significant, and sometimes debilitating emotions surrounding choices, which results in us getting stuck in indecision.  If we focus on the past following a decision, we can be overwhelmed by guilt, resentment, regret, and sadness.  On the other hand, if we focus on the future, we become anxious and fearful, which often results in us either procrastinating or coming up with reasons why we shouldn't make the decision.

We need to somehow overcome these overwhelming emotions to enable us to make the decision we need to make.  How do we do this?

  1. Simplify the decision: In many cases we combine a whole number of decisions into one decision, which then becomes overwhelming whichever way we focus our attention. We need to break the decision down into its simplest form, and then the next simplest form. In other words, create a decision tree.  Then make one decision at a time.
  1. Challenge the logic: When decisions are difficult, the decision usually also carries a significant amount of emotion with the decision.  We allow the emotion to cloud the logic of the decision, and in some cases focus on just one single argument or position.  We need to keep challenging the logic of the decision by asking ourselves, "what is the evidence?".
  1. Focus on the reason: Probably most importantly, we need to focus on the final goal and primary reason underpinning the decision.  In many cases we lose sight of the ultimate goal and reason, which then allows us to become distracted by emotions or illogical arguments. Get clarity on what is most important and the end goal, which will not only increase motivation to make the decision, but also reduce the negative emotional response.
  1. Accept that there is risk: I observe people over and over again getting stuck in decision -making because they are waiting for a point in time where there is little or no risk.  The bottom-line is that there is always a risk, and every decision brings with it the scenarios of either good decision or a bad decision. The key is to do a scenario planning exercise where you map out the upsides and downsides of each option, and then make a decision based on the option with the best possible outcome and least manageable risk.  We need to get comfortable with a level of anxiety about the decision.
  1. Speak to others: When we talk through what is in our head we become clearer on what we are thinking and we are able to articulate not only the thinking behind the decision but the reason, the logic etc. It is critically important that we talk to others about what we are considering. Furthermore, we need to talk to people with differing levels of personal connection and experience.  The more we speak to others about our decisions the more likely we are to not only make a better decision, but also move toward making the choice.

We make hundreds of decisions every day.  Most are inconsequential at the time, but decisions nonetheless. But sometimes we are faced with decisions that are significant life changing decisions.  If you find yourself procrastinating and justifying not making the decision or find yourself immobilised with anxiety and worry, then it would be highly beneficial to consider the above five strategies to shift your decision making.

How will we know when we are on the right path?  Great question. The best way to assess whether we are making the right decision is the level of hope that we experience.  Ideally, we need to feel hope, but with some level of anxiety.  Hope is the foundation of resilience and the ability to get back up again. Seek hope.

About the author

Gregory Bayne is one of the Directors of Total Leader and Coach Solutions Australia.  Greg works with senior and executive leaders assisting them to make shifts in the way they work, the way they think and the way they live their lives to become better leaders, colleagues and team members. Greg has a particular focus on assisting leaders create a culture or accountability and high performance. His expertise and knowledge is around building and developing a culture of accountability, leading high performing teams, and getting the most out of people to deliver the highest standards of work. We cultivate sustainable behavioural change in individuals, teams and organisations to drive a performance culture.

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