Decision Making When It's Complicated

Some decisions are easy for us to make while others can be much harder.  Think about a time when you had to make a decision and it felt difficult.  What was it that made it feel difficult?  Maybe you felt anxious, overwhelmed, confused, or worried that you would regret it.  People will generally intuitively aim towards a decision and then they try to back it up logically.  In that process, doubt can creep in and cloud our thinking.  Ideally it’s helpful to be in touch with both your intuition and your clear thinking logical side, so that you make decisions more holistically, with greater satisfaction.

There are 3 things that can really help when you face a challenging decision:  Clarity, Confidence and Courage.  Think about it:  how hard is it to make a decision if you have clarity, confidence and courage?  Not so hard, right?  So let’s look at each of those 3 things and some strategies to get there.

Clarity – The first real goal is clarity; once you have clarity, you can move towards making the decision much more easily.  The next time you struggle with a decision, write down 2 column headings: Clear, and Not Yet Clear.  Start with what is Clear.  There’s a gift in connecting to what is known, or what is clear – it helps us move forward rather than ruminating about what we don’t know.  Make a list of whatever is clear to you.  In this process, just observe what comes up for you without dismissing anything as impossible.

  • Ask yourself, “What are my options?”
  • What’s clear about how each option fits your strengths, values, and passions?
  • What priorities stand out for you? Circle and rank their order of priority.
  • Challenge yourself not to catastrophize the situation.  Ask yourself realistically, what's the worst thing that can happen?  How likely is it?

Next, list anything you need to know for the decision that is Not Yet Clear.

  • What’s getting in the way of the decision this time?  What feels complicated?  What underlying values are in conflict?  Whose support/buy-in do you need?
  • What are the unknown items that stand out as priorities?  Prioritize the items on your Not Yet Clear list.  What do you need to know to get clear?
  • Develop sub-goals around those items so that you can get clear on them.  

As you move through the exercise, let your intuition to guide you. It's amazing how clear you can become through this process.

Confidence – How do we reconnect with our own confidence?  One way is to remind ourselves of past successes, which helps us realize that we do in fact have it within us to figure out our current challenge.  Confidence comes from connecting with our true potential, acknowledging past successes and trusting ourselves to bring our best, knowing that it will be good enough.

  • Think about a time in the past where you felt uncertain about a decision but it worked out fabulously in the end.
  • How did you get past it?
  • What strengths and strategies did you use in that situation?  Take time to write them down and really reflect on what it was that allowed you to be successful in that situation.
  • Challenge yourself to see “how can I leverage those strengths and strategies in this new situation?”  

Courage – Once the decision is made, courage comes from trusting yourself to be able to handle the outcome. 

  • Acknowledge that you are making the best decision for what you know at the time.  Circumstances can change, leading to new decisions in the future, but for now accept that you made the best decision you could with what you currently know.
  • Accept responsibility for the decision.  The greatest freedom we have is the freedom of choice.  Sometimes we want to assign blame to someone else if things don’t work out the way we wanted, but the truth is that we do have choice.
  • Recognize that every “outcome” is just a learning opportunity.

Our capacity to make powerful decisions builds on our past experiences.  Your knowledge grows and makes the next situation easier with each challenge you face.  The next time you’re feeling stuck in a decision making process, remember the 3 C’s of Powerful Decision Making:  Clarity, Confidence and Courage.  Map out what is clear and what is not yet clear.  Remind yourself of strengths and strategies you have used in the past that have given you confidence.  Trust yourself to be able to handle the outcome, acknowledging that you are making the best decision based on what you know currently and move forward courageously.  With practice and experience, you’ll keep getting better and better!

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