Developing Confidence in Making Tough Decisions

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How often do you find yourself stuck between two options (or more) wavering for days, weeks, or months to determine the ideal choice? If so, you are not alone as research has shown that there are many people in today’s society struggling with this on a daily basis. It is important to note that it is healthy to try and make good choices based on careful consideration. However, this becomes a problem when you find yourself procrastinating on making decisions, end up feeling stuck and not moving forward.

Give some consideration to what the underlying problem may be. Sometimes, the lack of ability to make a choice can be the result of fear for what will come of a less than ideal choice. Furthermore, it could reflect a lack of confidence in one’s ability to navigate the results of a less than desirable outcome. What happens if things don’t work out as planned? What if I discover this was not a good choice? What if I suffer from this choice? These are just a few of the many questions that keep people up at night as they toil over decisions. But, consider a positive “What if…?” Could it be possible that if it is the wrong decision, you will discover a way to get through it? Will you learn from the experience? Will it be an adventure as you navigate through the challenges created? Too often we underestimate our strength and ability for resilience. Of course one should consider the ramifications of decisions in advance, but when there is no clear answer, and no crystal ball in sight, make a decision and remind yourself that you are strong and resilient. You can and will get through this, and quite possibly learn and grow along the way. As research done by the Columbia Business School professor Sheena Iyengar indicated in her paper, Eternal Quest for the Best, “Enjoying the most satisfaction from one’s choice might require being willing to give up the eternal quest for the best”

[1] and consider that instead of focusing on what could have been, to focus on your decision and make the best of it.

As you make those tough decisions, here are some things you can do to help make a choice about which you can feel good:

  1. Make a list of pros and cons for each option. Writing them down can help your brain to process through the decision in a more concrete way, facilitating the decision making process.
  2. Consider past experiences. What have you learned before in these situations? Were there things that worked well, or not well, for you in the past?
  3. Is there any “ripple effect” of which you are aware? Will your decision impact anyone besides you? If so, how?
  4. Consider both your emotions and your logic. Think about what you feel emotionally about the options. Write down the words to describe those feelings. Then, consider the logic of each of the options. As mentioned in #2, above, what has worked for you in the past? Now factor both your emotions and your logic into your deliberation.
  5. What are the strengths that have helped you through challenges in the past? By identifying those strengths, you are more likely to feel confident making a decision knowing that even if it turns out to be a problem, you can navigate through the process of solving it.
  6. Mistakes are learning opportunities and without them we would rarely learn and grow. Consider all of the ways in which you have grown and learned from decisions gone awry. Have you ever touched a hot stove? Most likely it was not more than once or twice and the reason is that you learned from the pain. Think about the volumes you have learned since your youth from the heartache, conflict, hardship and struggles that go into years of living. Even if you make a decision you regret, you will have the opportunity to learn and to prove your strength to yourself.
  7. Talk with a trusted friend for their perspective. They may have some insights to offer, or even a new perspective.

Most importantly, give yourself permission to make a mistake. There is no guarantee that even the most planned decisions will work out the way you hope. Making a decision and using your adaptability, strength, compassion and wisdom to navigate through the results of that decision, will help you to ensure that your decision becomes a success—even if it isn’t the outcome you had expected.

[1] Groth, A. (2013) Our eternal quest for the best is making us miserable. Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/sheena-iyengar-research-on-decision-making-2013-1.