5 Tips to Making Decisions

Have you noticed people don’t like to make decisions…even for something as simple as where to go to dinner? Are you one of them? I wish I could say this never happens to me. But the truth is, it happens more often than I’d like to admit. 

What is it about making a decision that strikes fear into our hearts? Is it about being wrong? Or, maybe it’s because we think once we decide, we can’t change our minds. Maybe it’s because we’re trying to move too fast. Perhaps, we think it’s better not to decide (which IS deciding). If other people are involved in the decision, maybe we don’t want to upset them with our choice or we don’t want to have to take responsibility if they don’t like the outcome.

As you can see there are lots of possibilities and emotions wrapped up in why we avoid making decisions. And the reality is, we do need to make decisions!

Here are 5 tips to making decisions:

Gather Information

Arming yourself with useful information can be helpful when you’re faced with a decision. This is one of my go-to tips when I must make a decision.

One of the drawbacks of this tip is you can easily move into ‘analysis paralysis‘ mode. This is where you think you must keep researching until you get ALL the information. In most cases, that’s almost impossible! Additionally, researching until you have left no stone unturned, can be a convenient excuse to not decide.

When gathering information, deciding when enough is enough is very important. For example, recently I was looking for a way to keep my 2 kitties safe and contained in a hotel room. They have individual hard sided travel crates, but I wanted something bigger, so they’d have room to really move around. I did some research. I found a wire cage that was about 6 ft tall with different perches, etc. “Cool!”, I thought! It didn’t fold up too small, but it could work. I kept reading reviews and looking at different types of these cages. I had concerns about the heartiness of the perches. Back to the research I went!

Then, I started looking at a bigger regular wire travel crate. That could work. I started thinking about my cats and how they’re not familiar with a wire cage. Again, more research.

Finally in my research I stumbled on a two room “tent”/”playpen”. One room can house the litter box and the other bigger room is the “hang-out” space. This could work well! My only concern is putting both of my kitties in here together. They’re kind of in the “terrible twos” where sometimes they like each other and sometimes they don’t.

At this point, I could’ve kept looking for a different solution…and I didn’t. Instead, I just bought a tent for each of them! It felt great to finally decide. Will this work? I’m not 100% sure and at this point, gathering more information didn’t feel like it would help…

Create a Pros and Cons List

As a teenager, I remember my mother telling me to write down the ‘pros and cons’, when I was struggling with a decision. 

What I like about this tip is it’s easy to create and can give you clarity, too.

All you need to do is take out a piece of blank paper and fold it down the middle. Label one column ‘Pros’ and the other column ‘Cons’. Then do a brain dump. Write the reasons you want to do this under the ‘Pros’ and the reasons you do NOT want to do it under the ‘Cons’. When you’re done, you have a good summary.

Again, keep an eye out for ‘analysis paralysis’. You could keep this list going for a long-time, if you wanted to!  It can help to set a time limit for this process.

Also, some people may think that the side with the most items “wins”. Be sure to consider the importance of the different items listed. For example, there may only be one item listed under the “Pros” column and five “Cons”. That one “Pro” may be much more important than the five “Cons” combined.

Figure Out the Impact: 10-10-10

In some cases, deciding can be easy but figuring out the impact of the decision can be more difficult. I first read about this tip in Oprah’s magazine many years ago. The author, Suzy Welch, described how she makes decisions by looking at the impact the decision will have in:

  • 10 minutes
  • 10 months 
  • 10 years 

So, if you’re deciding where to go to dinner – the impact within the next 10 minutes is important. But this one decision probably won’t be remembered in 10 months and even less likely to be remembered in 10 years! With that in mind, you probably don’t need to take a huge amount of time to make this decision. 

However, if you’re thinking about making a career change because you don’t like what you’re doing, your responses might be something like:

  • The 10-minute impact will be pure joy because you left a job you disliked.
  • The 10-month impact will be that you are making less money than 10-months ago.  
  • The 10-year impact will be that you are doing work that is important to you and you are making a comfortable living. 

A decision of this magnitude takes time to make, but this tip can help you to see the impact at different stages.

Reflect: What’s The Worst/Best Thing That Can Happen?

These can be very potent questions, when faced with a decision. Again, if it is a simple decision, hopefully, the worst and best things that can happen will not be life changing. However, the responses to these questions for big decisions can provide insights you may not have previously considered.

Trust Your Gut

This is a favorite tip of mine and one I like to do right before I make my final decision. (e.g., I use this after I’ve gone through one or more of the above tips). I find many people overlook the power of checking in with yourself. This can be useful, especially when you’re faced with a big decision. Checking in with your intuition is easy to do… 

  • Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for a few minutes.
  • Sit comfortably and take a few deep breaths.
  • Then, think about the decision that you are facing. Take notice of what you’re feeling, especially in your body. One of the most powerful examples of this was when I was considering changing careers. One possibility I considered was working as an internal coach for the company I worked for at the time. There was a person within the organization who was an executive coach. I planned to get in touch with him to learn more about what he did. I kept putting off contacting him. Finally, when I took some quiet time to consult my intuition, I was shocked by the clues my body gave me:
    • my palms started to sweat
    • my heart started to race
    • my gut tied up in a knot!

I decided not to contact this person and began to focus on starting my own coaching company.

Making a decision doesn’t have to be something you avoid. Armed with these 5 tips, you have some useful tools at your fingertips. Experiment with the various tips. You can even combine these tips to figure out which one(s) work best for your different situations.

I’ll leave you with one last thought. Making a decision can be frustrating, stressful, challenging, time consuming, etc.  Yet, you’re making this decision because you have a choice. Isn’t that something to celebrate, rather than complain about or avoid?

“Nothing is more difficult and therefore more precious,
than to be able to decide.”
~~ Napoleon Bonaparte

Helen Kosinski

I'm an ICF credentialed coach and a certified animal communicator. I partner with ever evolving intuitive businesspeople who are on a mission to create a big impact. Before opening my business in 2005, I spent close to 25 years in technology in the financial services industry. Because of my time in corporate, I understand the overwhelm and frustration that keeps businesspeople stuck. I offer my clients unique approaches to gain clarity. This results in dissolving their blocks, getting unstuck and forging ahead to bring their big impact into the world.

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