Top Tip – Making Effective Decisions

Would you like to be more decisive?  Are you experiencing difficulty in making an important decision (e.g. the future path for your life and/or career,) or perhaps you are facing a dilemma and don’t know which option to choose?

If you’d like to improve your decision-making strategy – there are several things you can do to help…

1.   Step into alternative outcomes

Consider the options you are faced with, and then, one by one, imagine they are a reality so you can experience the emotional response you have to each.

For example, imagine there are three alternatives – A, B and C.  Now…

  • Put yourself into a future where ‘A’ has happened.  Imagine that you are now in that situation…
    • Where are you?
    • What are you doing?
    • Who else is there?
    • What are they saying to you?
    • What are you saying to yourself?
    • How are you feeling?

 Note: It’s important to ask yourself these questions in the present tense (as if it’s happening now) that will fool your senses into believing it’s real and will help you to get a really authentic feeling about what this outcome is doing for you (the brain cannot easily distinguish between real and imagined experiences).

  •  Now shake that off, coming back to the present moment, and leaving that outcome behind.
  •  Repeat the process with option B and then with option C, remembering to shake off each experience before starting the next one.
  •  In which of the options you’ve explored do you get the most positive emotional response?  That is likely to be the best decision for you to take.

2.   Understand how you make decisions

Decisions are driven by values, the things that are important to us.  When you are faced with a dilemma, here’s an exercise that will help you to decide which way to go…

  •  First, pick one option and assume this is what you have decided to do.
  • Now ask yourself…despite having decided to do ‘X’ what would be just enough for you to decide to do ‘Y’ instead. (The emphasis here is on the small thing that is just enough to tip the balance).
  • So now you have decided to do ‘Y’ – despite that, what would be just enough for you to decide to do ‘X’ instead?
  • Now you have decided to do ‘X’ – despite that, what would be just enough for you to decide to do ‘Y’ instead?
  • Carry on asking yourself these questions in turn until you get the answer ‘there’s nothing that would change my decision’.  This choice will be driven by a value, and once you know what’s truly important to you, the decision is much easier.

This technique can be used for any kind of decision, from “shall I accept this job offer” to “where shall I go on holiday” or even “shall we eat Chinese or Indian this evening”?

Here’s an example of how it might work with what is, on the face of it, quite a simple decision…

  • Dilemma – You know a group of friends are meeting at a local pub this evening, and you can’t decide whether to join them or to stay at home.
  • Make a choice one way or the other – let’s say you decide to go out.
  • Now, having made that decision, what would be just enough to decide to stay in anyway?
    • …perhaps the fact that it begins to rain very heavily and you know you’ll get wet walking to the pub and you’d rather stay warm and dry at home
  • So, you decide to stay home instead.  Despite that what would be just enough for you decide to go out despite the rain?
    • …perhaps the fact that a friend phones and offers to pick you up?
  • So you decide to go out.  Despite that, what would be just enough for you decide to stay in, even though you have a lift?
    • …perhaps the fact that your friend tells you someone you don’t get on with is also going to be at the pub
  • So, you decide to stay in.  Despite that, what would be just enough for you to decide to go out anyway, even though you know you’ll have to put up with this person?
    • …perhaps the fact the friend who’s offering you a lift says she’d particularly like you to go, as you haven’t seen each other for a while?
  • So you decide to go out.  Despite that, what would be just enough for you to decide to stay in?
  • At this point, you decide there is nothing that would change your mind.  You are going to the pub, and ultimately the value driving that decision is one of loyalty to your friend.

3.   Define your personal values

So far, we’ve looked at strategies for making a specific decision.  If you’d like a strategy that can be applied to any decision you are faced with, an exercise which identifies the values that are most important to you in your life (a so-called Values Hierarchy) can be very useful.

It will enable you to identify what has to be true for you to feel completely aligned with any decision you take (especially the big ones), and therefore making that decision will be much easier.

The process is quite simple, but a little too lengthy to describe here. However, you can email me for a free copy of a leaflet outlining the steps and I’ll be happy to talk it through with you if you have any queries.

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