How to take the Stress out of Your Decision
Why it isn’t a Right versus Wrong choice
Recently, I’ve made a big decision — a life-changing decision. I’m leaving my employer of 20 years. I now have to decide which job I want next. One of my colleagues gave me some advice that changed how I think about decision making. It reframed my decision, took away the stress, and I know it can help you too.
Their advice helped me make a decision with far less stress. This is because, with their advice, I did not have to make a decision between a right and wrong option.
It seems like we make more decisions now than people have ever had to before. It is predicted that the number of decisions we will have to make daily will continue to rise.
Some studies have estimates that you make about 35,000 decision daily, I think this is a fallacy, but we do make a lot. So how does our brain prioritise the important ones?
It is all down to the importance you place upon it, at that exact moment in the environment you are in, with the information you have.
For this reason, in hindsight, there is often bad decisions and good decisions. Your hindsight tells you, with the information I know have, that was a bad decision. Or, “now that I am out of that environment, I can see that was the wrong call”. Even more regularly, you say to yourself, “I rushed that decision, I didn’t realise how important it was”.
I’ve realised that when it comes to the ones that you can easily identify as important, like changing jobs, it helps to realise something.
Right and Wrong
For the important decisions, it is easy to settle on the fact that there is only one correct decision. Right?
Choosing which car to buy? Making a decision about which colour to paint your house? Working out whether you should move in with your partner? Should I get travel insurance? The steak or the fish?
These are decisions that only have one correct answer. In each of these moments, there is only one good choice, if you get it wrong you made a bad choice. As you are reading this, you are probably saying — it depends.
The Decision I had to Make
I was having a conversation with a friend about my decision between employers for my job change. I was fortunate enough to have two very good offers. My questions to them was;
How do you decide between jobs when they are both aligned with what I want to do, both paying around the same, and both really good options?
Their answer gave me one of those ‘ah-ha’ moments you are told about. It just made so much sense. It is the only reason I am writing this article, it helped me immensely.
I’ll write a little more about my decision-making process in the near future, but this piece of advice was pivotal to what I did. Like the best types of advice, it did not prescribe the answer, it just provoked a different way of thinking about my problem.
Here is the advice they gave me.
I am reminded of a topic I did during my MBA. It was a course on Ethics and we had an interesting conversation about what ethics are. I think it could help you in this situation. The lecturer told us;
“Everyone thinks ethics is about choosing between good and bad, or right and wrong. That is easy to identify. Most of the population can do that reliably. Ethics is actually about the frameworks you use to choose between right and more right, or good and better. Or, perhaps, more importantly, wrong and more wrong or bad and worse. These changes may seem small, but are incredibly important. Humanity relies on these differentiations”.
🧨 Boom 🧨
This piece of advice and the conversation that followed changed how I thought about my decision. I realised I was not making a decision between a good job and a bad job. I was making a decision between a good job and a better job.
I had reframed my decision. I had used the framing effect to change how I thought about the decision I was making.
The framing effect is used like this. Which consent form would you sign?
These are the same odds. The doctor is requesting your consent for a procedure that has a 90% success rate and a 10% risk of complications. With the procedure framed in the negative, you are more likely to consider it a bad choice.
I was in the same situation. I was worried that I was making a bad choice with one of the employment options. I was worried that I would regret my choice, I would be remorseful about what I ended up doing.
Instead, using my friend's advice, I chose to think about it as two very good options.
I was choosing to consider my options in the positive. I was choosing to put both of them in the ‘90% chance of success’ group.
This frame of reference, realising that I was choosing between two good choices, removed all the stress from the decision-making process. I was confident that I could focus on working through the information I had to make the best decision for me at this point in time.
I knew I was making a good decision, time will tell if it was the best decision, but it was still a good decision.
This realisation is super-powerful!
So many of the decisions we make induce some stress. I intend to use this point of reference to realise that in most situations, there is not a bad decision, but perhaps just a decision that isn’t as good as possible. I’m okay with that.
You should be too.
Stay safe and keep smiling, Leon.
I am a writer with a passion for leadership, growth and personal development. I try and create a spark, a little idea that nests inside and kindles your aspirations.