How to Make Better Choices



BY JEN OLENICZAK BROWN

I wish I would have done this.

I knew I should have done that.

Why didn’t I listen to my instinct and do that?

Sound familiar? Making choices isn’t a fun thing for many people: decisions generally involve a sacrifice or a loss, whether that is a loss of choice or the loss of the alternative. Of course, significant life choices – where to live, work, relationships – those are difficult because they have ripple effects on everything in your life (and even if it’s not EVERYTHING it sure feels like EVERYTHING!).

Something I’ve always noticed in my work as a coach: when you have too many options, decision-making can be just as hard as having no options. I consistently say, too much creativity is just as bad as not enough, and that is true when there is a seemingly endless supply of decisions. Other folks struggle with making decisions on their own – if a quorum could be reached in every decision, they would still find a reason to feel as though they made the wrong one.

I get it! But here’s the big question: how do we feel comfortable about our decision-making and make better choices? If you know you struggle, keep reading to develop a whole new plan for yourself and your choices.

Find the expiration date

Like dairy, decisions and choices usually have “best-by” dates. Before you even think about the decisions you are making, the options, how people will feel – anything! – set an expiration date. When do you need to make this decision? Is there a date someone needs something from you, or are you open to make the decision whenever you see fit?

Look at WHEN you’re making this decision – and make sure it doesn’t hit the procrastination thought of, “Oh, well I don’t have to make this decision right now.” Do you drink old milk? No – align your decisions with best-by dates and stick to them! If you need to write it down, set a Google alert, put a note in your phone – make it happen.

List out those choices

Ok, you have a bunch and you know it – they might not all be GOOD choices, but you have a lot of them, I promise. Get ready for the best advice you’ve ever been given – list them all out, even the bad ones.

Seriously.

Say I want to change jobs. My choices might be: start applying for new jobs and wait until I get hired, quit my job and pursue a passion immediately, stay in my current job and just dream, tell my boss they are a horrible person and I hate working here.

Yes, I want you to list those bad choices out, too.

Sometimes we get stuck and say, oh, I only have ONE choice! You never only have one choice – you often have a plethora of bad choices, and you might be suffering from what psychologists deem “decision paralysis” – being overly concerned about what others think. I’m not asking you to decide in a bubble! I am asking you to get them all out of your head so you can look at all of your options – even the ones you would never do.

Weigh them…yes, all of them

Look at your extensive list of decisions – even the bad ones! – and now write out a few pros and cons for each. Think about the reason it is a pro or a con – does it connect with you or someone else? It’s perfectly normal for your pros and cons to connect with you and those whom you care about. The problems come in when they only connect to you (you might be making decisions from an aggressive place, which is generally indicative of a self-focused mentality) or when they only connect to other people (and that gets you a passive place or a people-pleaser mentality).

After you’ve sorted through the pros and cons, make the choice and start the action. If you have time between this reflection and the expiration date, great! Sleep on it. But don’t let it expire.


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