One of my least favorite things in the world is decision making. It’s the reason I hate driving. It’s the reason I can’t have too many options. There’s something about making decisions that drives my brain into chaos. Every decision becomes a battle and I’ve always been scared to win the war.
But I figure if anyone is making any life decisions (lots of decisions happen during this time of year–engagements, home renovations, even home decor), this would be maybe a helpful blog post to reference when it comes to that crucial but painful time.
What decisions do you have to make? What are your options? Maybe you’re trying to figure out where to apply to grad school. Or perhaps you’re wondering what home decor you want to buy for the Christmas season. Maybe you’re wondering if you should reach out to that old friend. Whatever it is, get it out on paper!
The thing I hate most about decisions (is this a rant LOL) is the lack of clarity and the cloud of confusion that springs up around them. Get what you do know down on paper on a concrete surface. You filter out the lies by getting clear on the truth. Get all the details out on paper where you can see them.
Assess your values. When making a decision, you can easily get wrapped up in what has more obvious benefits or trying to do a cost-benefit analysis. But in order to accurately assess those benefits, you’ve got to decide early on what actually matters to you. In the case of decorating for Christmas, you might value decorations that will last years and that can be well-preserved. In applying to grad school, you are looking for a specific degree program or a certain research emphasis. For home renovations, you might want something quick in order to get it out of the way before the new year.
Your values are your trajectory for decision making. If you solely think in terms of benefits or costs, you will not make the best decision aligned to you.
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Get clear on your benefits and costs. Look at them through the lens of your values. Grad school might be really costly, but it might offer you that dream opportunity to work with a professor you’ve admired for years.
The number of costs or benefits is not what matters. What matters is whether or not you feel that one decision is aligned to your values or not. You may write everything down and find that you’re not necessarily pulled in either direction. You may have to wait on more information. Make sure your decision is filtered through the lens of what you actually believe is best for you.
After you’ve processed your decision logically, get closer to your emotions. How are you feeling? Are you being pulled to a decision despite your evidence? Look at that. Ask yourself questions. I remember when I was trying to decide where I wanted to go to college and even though the evidence pointed to one school, I felt really drawn to UVA. And so I went where I felt led to go.
Pay attention to those feelings. Sometimes those promptings are leading you in the right direction—it just may be different than you thought.
Ask around. I honestly can say if I do nothing else when it comes to decision making, I do this. Do I always take the advice given to me? No, but I always listen. There is a danger in always asking for advice. You can end up drowning out the promptings you’re feeling. But asking for advice from wise people in your life is always a good idea. If they have your best interest in mind, know your desires, and want to see you flourish, asking for help can be key to making a decision.
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Sit with your decision.
Before you sign any papers or spend any money, just sit with your decision. My old boss Fitz (I had like 3 different bosses at my last job and they were all wonderful!!!) offered me this piece of advice: make a decision and then sit with it for a few days. Go live your life like you’ve already chosen something and see what feelings come up. Do you feel peace? Do you feel stressed? Pay careful attention to that.
I love this advice because decision making can be difficult when you feel like your future is a big dark hole (just me?!) and so this allows you to begin to imagine your life post-decision. Imagine yourself with the newly furnished bedroom. Or a decorated living room with Christmas decor. Or in that grad program.
If you can’t make the decision because all doors are currently open to you and that’s overwhelming, try making it in your mind and seeing what clarity it gives your body. Because your body will tell you what your mind already knows.
Without shame. Or guilt. Or fear. Just make a decision and deal with the results. You can make the right decision and still feel uncertain. That’s my life story. But make a decision not to dwell or call yourself bad names if things don’t go the way you want. Be graceful to yourself and know that you’ve been given wisdom to make the next decision.
Tips for wise decision making:
- Don’t tell everybody. It clouds your judgment.
- If you’re a believer, fast and pray. You will gain clarity. But it may not be in the way you want or in the timeline you want.
- Be wary of counterfeit peace, where your decision looks good on paper but doesn’t sit right with you internally.
As someone who hates making decisions because the stress is too painful, I hope this guide gave some practical steps and tips to help reduce anxiety when it comes to decision making, big or small.
Let me know below, friends!
2 thoughts on “A Helpful Guide to Decision Making”
This is a well-thought-out, useful program for making decisions.
I think the most helpful tips were asking wise counsel, and praying and fasting.
Thanks, Kathy! I’m at that age where making decisions is a big part of life, so I figured making this guide would be useful.