How To Decide: The Backstory

Why I’m embarking on a yearlong journey to better and more fulfilling decision-making.

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Image via Pinterest by Billy Kidd

In the last couple of years, I’ve become progressively fascinated with how we make decisions.

It might sound silly to admit, but at times, decision-making leaves me feeling paralyzed. My inability to quickly and confidently make decisions is something that causes my chest to tighten and my breath to catch.

I get kind of decision-obsessed. I find myself flipping back and forth between choices. Weighing out pros and cons. Sometimes deliberating until there is no decision left to be made (which of course, is in itself a kind of decision.)

My partner and I decided to adopt our dog based on the toss of a coin. When we find ourselves at a decision-making standstill we literally play games like, “okay, think of a number…” and “heads or tails.”

Yet outwardly, appearances might suggest that I am in fact, very decisive. My decision-making periods are often drawn out behind the scenes so that when a choice has been made, it arrives in the world as a surprise; a sharp punctuation mark:

I’m handing in my notice.
We’re moving to Germany in a month.
I’m closing my business.

And here’s the thing: I feel comfortable with the choices I’ve made in my life.

I’m not a regretful person. I don’t get FOMO once I’ve made my choice. I rarely look backwards.

Sometimes I make stupid decisions, but normally those just cause me to shrug and say, Well, better luck next time.

I mean, I’m not laying awake at night wishing I ordered the pizza instead of a salad (though let’s face it: pizza is always the right choice).

But I do wonder how I might navigate my life’s choices with less agonizing and more ease.

Let’s face it: making good decisions is a struggle for many of us, and our lives are overwhelmed by opportunities to make them.

We’re bombarded with options in the supermarket, online, and the ways in which we can live our lives. It’s a massive blessing — the world is our oyster — and it can also create feelings of anxiety, paralysis, FOMO and second-guessing.

So many of the choices I agonize over are meaningless. This brand of almond milk, or this one?

The outcome is likely irrelevant. Do I walk the dog before or after grocery shopping?

They involve champagne problems. Do we go hiking this weekend or enjoy our time in the city?

I mean, just writing these words reminds me of my immense privilege and the opportunities life affords me.

It’s all a bit ridiculous, isn’t it? Oh, poor me: I don’t know whether I should galavant around the beautiful city I live in, or go hiking in the Alps. Tough choices I’ve got.

And yet — some of the decisions I fixate on are large and life-changing. Do I have children? Should my partner and I tie the knot? Do I change careers?

After all, the choices we make ultimately determine the life we create. How’s that for pressure?

In digging deeper into decision-making and how we decide, I came across a book at the Munich Airport titled The Decision Book. The book presents 50 different models for strategic thinking, and upon discovering The Decision Book, I nearly jumped for joy to imagine the jewels it would contain.

Alas, what I found were complex diagrams, graphs and images like the below:

I have to admit that from this standpoint decision-making feels not just challenging, but nearly impossible.

Could this chart help me decide what kind of birthday gift to get my brother, or how to untangle my complex feelings about children and motherhood? Would it be a good tool to use when faced with too many menu options at my favourite brunch restaurant, or a massive to-do list for my business?

Naturally, the book contains some helpful ideas for thinking more strategically in our businesses and lives, and I don’t mean to discount the value it does offer. But I suppose the more my intrigue with decision-making deepened, the more I found myself asking, “But for reals now. How do we decide?!”

Is there a way to get faster, more proficient and confident in making decisions without needing to use a flow chart? Are there some simple practices I can implement in my own life, to get better at doing so?

And so, the idea was born: each month for one year, I will use a different decision-making tool or process and apply it to as many of my decisions as possible. These decision-making “challenges” will be created from my personal research on the topic: nearly a dozen books written by decision-making experts, hours of combing resources on the internet, and my own observations and experiences as a Clarity Coach.

Over the next 12 months, I will provide a personal account of my experience and the good, bad and the ugly outcomes. What happens if I make my choices by the flip of a coin? (After all, I do adore my dog.) Do most of the decisions we make, actually in fact matter? Can a person teach themselves to be a better decision-maker?

Follow along as the challenge unfolds, in my upcoming Medium series on the topic. And for the indecisive yet bold types among you, you can partake in the challenge yourself and come along for the ride:

Do you have a decision-making framework that works well for you? Leave a comment below and I might just put it to the test.

Written by

Clarity coach helping people get unstuck and take action in their businesses and lives:

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