6 Essential Decision-Making Tips

Go to college or get a job. Buy a new car with payments or save for an older one. Buy the house or rent. Date the bad boy or the good guy? These choices seem like kid stuff, but are they? Did the bad boy leave you after one night? Do you mourn not having gone to college? Is that new car payment crushing your budget? The bigger questions are were you conscious of the choice being made, and are you regretting it or celebrating it?

We need to be conscious of our choices when we are making them. If we don't consciously make choices, "fate" makes them for us. We may not like the selections she makes though. At least if we are in charge we can go the direction we really want and take charge of our own lives. Talk about empowerment and really being in control of our lives.

When my kids were little, I learned how to teach them to make decisions. It's called self reliance. We started small and age appropriate. Asking a toddler which toothbrush he wants from a selection of 10 different colors is overwhelming for him. Ask him which one he wants from a selection of 2, the red or the blue. Thus, he begins to learn to make choices. The older he gets, the larger the selection and the increasingly difficult options. The other part of that equation is that once the red toothbrush was chosen, that's the one you got.

Most of us never learned these skills. I know I didn't. I learned them along with my kids and still struggle to this day sometimes. Just like a muscle, your choice muscle needs exercise and strengthening to make it flexible and strong. And just like any muscle, it atrophies without use leaving it to fate to make your choices for you. Thus, learning to make choices begins with small exercises and then increases with more practice and strengthening. Here are some suggestions for strengthening that muscle. See which ones work and which ones don't. You can always take a look here to see which decision making style works best for you to help you get stronger. 

  1. Be Conscious: Be aware of when there is a moment of choice. For instance, do you stop at the coffee shop and buy your latte or do you make it at home? Are you showing up to work and doing the best you can (hating the job or not) or are you making time until you are off for the day and waiting for Friday?
  2. Consequences: What are they and can you see them? That coffee, for instance, costs you about $5 a day and up to $1300 a year. Is that a lot of money for you? Does your budget allow for it? What about your health. How does coffee make you feel? Are you revved up and not feeling well by the time you're done? Do they pack on too many calories for comfort? Those are all consequences.
  3. Feelings: This may seem like an odd one, but we make most of our choices based on our feelings. Studies have "found that people who lack an emotional reaction to a situation struggle to make a good decision in that situation." How does what you want to do make you feel? You have to slow down for this one a bit. Quiet your head down and look deep at your feelings. If nothing comes up, look for body reactions, does your stomach tighten up, your heart speed up, or does it calm you down?
  4. Imagine/Visualize: Use your imagination and look at what can happen with each direction. Play with it and make it fun. What is your best outcome any way you go? What is the worst? How will you feel? What will your friends say?
  5. Be Logical: Make a list of pros and cons. Look at it from every angle and list it out. Seriously, write it down. Don't make a list in your head. This needs to be written down so you can compare what each does for you. Use the other tools and think about how it makes you feel, imagine it, then look at the consequences. Do it for both pro and con.
  6. Be Honest: Look, that guy over there is a bad boy to the core, and yes, you want him. Be clear with yourself about it. Know that you are thinking with your girly parts and not with your head or your heart. If you want it or don't want it, admit it. Especially to yourself. 

The thing with making choices is that there are no right or wrong ones. Keep it simple; it really is a choice between the red or blue toothbrush. How is either one of those wrong? Living with the choice is the bigger aspect. It's your life and you must own it. If you want that bad boy, go get him, but do it consciously knowing what you are in for. Stop making up dreams of what could be. Stop hoping to change it. Live now and accept what you are doing in the now. Make the choice and do everything you can to make it the best choice you have made. If you don't like it, make a new one, better informed and with a little more knowledge built into your tool belt.

Let me know how it goes. I would love to hear some stories about your conscious choices and how it's working for you.

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