This past week, I had to make a number of decisions in a very short space of time. Part of that had to do with the fact that I’m about to start a major renovation of my master bathroom (which light fixture? which tile? which grout? which sink? which faucet? which edge on the countertop?), and part of it had to do with a professional opportunity that came somewhat out of the blue. I’m pretty good at making short-term decisions, such as what to order in a restaurant or whether or not to buy that sweater. I am also excellent at making decisions for my friends about their lives, although I’ve learned over the years to sometimes keep that gift to myself. But making decisions about things that will impact my life for years to come is typically very stressful for me. I suppose that’s true for many people, but it seems like there are some folks out there who can take risks and dive boldly into decisions without needing medication or large amounts of sugary foods. I’d like to be one of them (or at least a little closer to them on the spectrum), and so I’ve made a conscious effort in the last year or two to either figure out some decision-making strategies or learn them from someone savvier than I am.
For those of you who struggle like I do, here are a few things I’ve found to be helpful:
1. Think about your death. Now this might sound morbid, but I’ve often found it very clarifying to consider whether I’ll give a damn about doing or not doing something on my deathbed (or wherever I am when that time comes).
2. On the opposite end of the spectrum, think about only the here and now. Do I want this thing and get excited about it right now or is this something I’m choosing because I think it will be good for me (or please someone else) someday down the road (maybe)? My wise friend Jani once suggested that I imagine saying yes to something and then live in that reality for a full 24 hours and see how it felt.
3. Resist the all-or-nothing mentality. This is a hard one for me, but I am starting to learn that few decisions in my life (if any) have options that are all good on one side and all bad on the other. And that once I start down a path, it is still possible for me to make changes and go a different direction in the future vs. having that one option/reality FOREVER.
4. Ask for input from friends and family. Everyone already knows this one but I’m saying it anyway. In my experience, hearing other people’s opinions confirms my own decision whether I agree with them or not. If their opinion agrees with what I’m leaning towards, it will usually give me the encouragement and boldness to take the step to actually say yes. And if their opinion doesn’t agree with what I’m leaning towards, it will often make my opposition even stronger. I don’t know that my family and friends particularly enjoy that latter process, but it works.
I managed to make my decisions this week with far less stress than I’ve typically experienced in the past, but I’m still learning. What are your techniques/tricks/strategies for making big and/or difficult decisions? Do tell.