Decision making is part of every-day life. From the outfit we’re going to wear, to the career we want to take, from that donut we will or will not decide to eat (I know what I’m choosing!) to the time in which we decide to ‘settle down.’ There are literally thousands of choices we have to make in our lifetime. Some that are more important than others. So how do we go about deciding? When it comes to the things that really matter, how do we know what is and isn’t for the best? If you want to know how to make difficult decisions, I personally believe it comes down to one main thing and can be simplified with that. So let’s explore it a little further…
How We Go About Making Decisions
Decisions come in all shapes and sizes. Some we make without even realising. Like the time that you set your alarm for in the morning or the route you decide to drive to work. These happen almost subconsciously, often because the decision has already been made in the past so we kind of put it on repeat. It becomes a habit.
Easy decisions are not really difficult to comprehend either. There are limited options and one clearly stands out amongst the rest. You’ll also have those decisions where you know what the right answer is really, so it’s then just the deliberation as to whether you’ll do it. Like deciding whether or not you’ll go on that weekend run – when you really don’t feel like it, but you know you need to stick to it. In this situation, whether you do or don’t go depends on how much pain and pleasure you have linked to each option.
On the one side: you don’t enjoy running, it’s tiring, and it’s cold outside, so triggers the emotion of pain. On the flip side, it’s also painful for you if you don’t go on the run because then you have to deal with the guilt of feeling lazy for the rest of the day, and if one of the reasons for running is because you need to hit your weight-loss goals, this will also eat away at you if you skip it. There’s then the pleasure you get when you’ve finished the run – this is a driving force. But at the same time, the pleasure you get in that very moment if you stay in bed, warm and cosy.
So you see, you’ll make a decision based on which side of pain or pleasure is a biggest driven for you. Typically we’ll do more to avoid pain, than we will to gain pleasure. It’s why people tend to play things safe. Regardless of this, we’re still able to weigh up all our options and have a good idea of what we think is best.
What Makes Difficult Decisions So Difficult?
When it comes to difficult decisions however, you’ll still have pain and pleasure which influences you, and the pro’s and con’s to each option. Only at the end of it, there’s no overall clear winner. Each option offers different things – which may be different in outcome, but at this point they probably both have the same level of value. Because that’s what it ultimately comes down to. When you make difficult decisions, you’re looking at what what choice will give you the best outcome, with the most benefits – the one that’s most worthwhile.
In an ideal world we’d just have a sneak peak into the future to decide which decision to make. Am I right? A quick fast-forward through to all the outcomes, then re-wind back so you can make an informed decision. If only! Although we may dream about this, but if it was actually our reality… think how bored we would get! Just like how dull life would be if we didn’t have any challenges and every decision we made was easy.
People who don’t like making difficult decisions, tend to avoid them. They bury their head in the sand, don’t make a clear decision and then end up drifting. But what kind of life is that? You have no power or control, nor really much passion!
So How Do We Make Difficult Decisions?
Well let’s go back a step for a moment and put things into perspective here, because we’re forgetting another factor that comes into it. Every decision we make, every action we take, shapes our life. All of our past decisions have therefore taken us to where we are today and made us who we are. And I mean all of them! The difficult decisions, the more life-changing ones are those which have had the biggest impact of course, but every decision takes us another step forward in the path we’re digging out for ourselves. So if you want to be able to more confidently make difficult decisions, a great starting point is to ask yourself…
Who am I?
And where do I want to go?
Because sure, you’ll have all the considerations, weighing up the key options to any decision. But these are just statements. You need to have the reminder and the meaning which comes from reflecting on yourself, the way in which you live, and where you ultimately see yourself going.
- What’s most important to you?
- What’s most consistent with who you are as a person?
- Which outcome is most likely to guide me in the right direction?
And if you’re still unsure, then okay, look at which option excites you the most, drives you the most, which are you leaning towards. Dig deeper. After weighing up all the logic, what are your instincts pushing you towards? What feels right? Or what feels wrong? Are there any alternatives to these options that you may not have yet thought about – but yet come to mind when you remember why it’s so important that you make a decision on this?
When you have to make difficult decisions and you don’t know what to do, don’t beat your head against a brick wall over and over again. There’s not necessarily only one way to get to where you want to be. Nor is there one path of development for becoming the person you see yourself as. If there’s no clear right or wrong decision for you, then this is actually something to get excited about. It means you have a blank canvas and can decide where you go next! Take risks, be bold. There will always be uncertainty in life which is why it’s no different when it comes to making difficult decisions – both before you’ve made them and after. The important thing is to just make sure you make them, no matter what, then follow that decision with confidence.
You’re writing the story of your life here so if you follow your heart, you can’t go too far wrong.
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