Irish Independent, May 29th 2018
Decisions, decisions, decisions. From the mundane to the important, they’re part of daily life and some of us are better than others when it comes to making choices. What will I wear today? Where will I go for lunch? Will I change job? Will I move home?
Not making a decision is a decision, according to self-help author Napoleon Hill, who observed five hundred of the world’s most successful people for twenty years. His research concluded that, “successful people are in the habit of making decisions quickly and go back on them slowly, if at all. Others reach decisions slowly and go back on them quickly, and often.”
Procrastination is the opposite to decision-making. Dithering and delaying with “should I do this or that” is not only tiring, time consuming and frustrating, but it blocks our progress. Being able to make confident and quick decisions reduces anxiety, increases happiness and paves the path for personal progress and productivity. Ambivalence is known to be one of the most uncomfortable psychological states for the human mind.
Self-esteem, confidence and self-trust are underlying factors that greatly influence our ability to decide. How we make choices is actually a ‘habit’ developed from childhood and like all habits, it can be changed with effort and perseverance.
If you find yourself procrastinating or panicking over personal or professional decisions, the following tips will help you to hone your skills and become proficient and confident at making great choices, effectively and efficiently.
You may have a very big decision to make, but in order to develop your decision-making skills it’s best to start small. By taking small steps you can improve your decision making habit. The first step is to make a decision today that you are willing to work daily at improving your decision-making skills.
The next step is to identify everyday decisions that take up your time. If for example, you take ages to decide what to pick from restaurant menus, then choose this as a starting exercise. Set yourself a time limit of five minutes, using a timer if necessary, and make your decision in this time frame. Apply this timed approach to other small daily choices and observe your decision muscle toning up.
No Right or Wrong
We often get so caught up in trying to make the perfect choice that we become trapped in a state of ambivalence for a long period of time. This can be frustrating and send us into a state of confusion, which becomes stressful on a daily basis. Reflect on previous decisions you’ve made in your life. They may not have been the best choice at that time, but observe how you actually learned from each situation and moved on.
Most of the time there’s no decision that will threaten our life or cause us to end up in a situation that we can’t change further down the line. There are actually no right or wrong decisions and once we understand this, making a choice becomes less of a big deal.
Pros and Cons
Mulling over options in our head can be time consuming and draining. Putting thoughts on paper is a great way to unclog the mind and increase clarity when making choices.
Take a decision that you are considering at the moment, which could be a big one like moving home, a lesser one like changing car or dramatically changing your hairstyle. With a notepad and pen, draw a line down the centre and write out the pros and cons of the outcome if you proceed with your selection. It will quickly become apparent which side of the page is filling up faster, providing you with a well thought-out answer. This is the first step to gaining clarity and moving forward with your decision-making.
Get Expert Advice
Before making big decisions such as career changing or business investment it is wise to seek expert advise. For example, if you are thinking of changing career, it is wise to talk to someone already working in your new field of interest, to make sure it is a fit for you. Friends and family are great for advice, but unless they are qualified in the specialist area you are considering moving into they are not the ones with the expertise.
Follow your gut
Experts and people you respect can point you in the right direction, but filtering this advice through your own internal compass is a powerful way to make decisions.
Gut instinct, inner voice or intuition is actually a remarkable mental faculty that serves as an internal guide, always showing the right way. Sit down quietly, close your eyes and ask yourself, what do I feel is right for me? The first answer is normally right. Gut instinct may not have rationale to back it up, but it is your inner voice, telling you what’s right for you. Listen carefully.
Analyse your Fears
When your gut guides you in the direction of the right choice, you may find yourself in a scary place. This is natural, so it’s necessary to rationalise fears in order to progress.
Perhaps you are planning to start the business that you have always dreamed of, but are worried that it may not succeed. Write out all your fears around the decision you are faced with. Now, analyse the list of fears using the following questions: What will it cost me emotionally and financially if I don’t move forward and start the business? What would I do if my worst fear did materialise? What steps could I take to reduce the likelihood of this fear materialising? Will I survive? You’ll notice in most cases that your fear factor can be overcome and that you won’t end up losing all your possessions or dying. Fear is just an illusion that gets in the way of progress. By analysing and understanding the fear you can proceed confidently to making the best decision.
I’ve learned from my mentor Bob Proctor (The Secret), that daily repetition of an idea eventually sinks into our mind. By repeating a positive affirmation around decision-making every day for 30 days, we can improve considerably. Believing that you are good at making decisions, is key.
Start by speaking out loud and with genuine intention, say: ‘I make decisions easily and brilliantly. I am proud and confident of my ability to make excellent choices’. Repeat this affirmation at least 10 times per day for 30 consecutive days and feel the magic working. Instead of your autopilot telling you that you can’t make a decision, you are reprogramming it to tell you that you are brilliant at making decisions.
Pat on the back
Creating a new habit around decision-making may not come naturally or comfortably at first. It’s important to reward yourself each time you make a step to improve your skill.
For example, if you were slow to select dishes from menus and undertake to reduce your choice time to five minutes, congratulate yourself each time you achieve this. Pat yourself on the back and tell yourself that you are delighted with your fast progress. Remember there are no bad decisions, what is important is that you are training a mental muscle. If you make a mistake, learn from it and move forward.
Observe Decision Makers
A great way to learn anything is to surround yourself with role models. Either in work, family or socially you may know people who are excellent decision makers. Observe their behaviour, spend more time with them and you will learn a lot from them. It is believed that the five people closest to us influence our personality and habits, so by keeping close to a great decision maker, you will pick up their behaviour very quickly.
Self-belief and confidence with our choices is the foundation of good decision-making. A person who has grown-up with praise and approval will make decisions quicker and easier than someone who has grown up with criticism and correction. It is never too late to work on your self-confidence. There are numerous self-help books, videos, and mentors who can work with individuals to develop self-esteem and become proficient at making powerful choices.