11 Brilliant Strategies for Becoming A Decision Maker, Improving Your Decision Making and Crushing Annoying Indecision Forever
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Are you facing a decision today that no matter what you do or how much you think, you just can't seem to find the answer?
Maybe you struggle with decision making in general or maybe this is a baffling first time experience.
Either way, the frustration of indecision can be the cause for countless sleepless nights, on-purpose distractions and desperate advice-seeking.
If you're pursuing your ideal life, one thing is for sure. You must become a decision-maker.
Sometimes we're the cause of our own indecision, either from lack of self-confidence, fear of the unknown or memories of bad decisions made in the past.
But, sometimes the cause comes from external sources - sudden changes in circumstances such as divorce, death or job loss can precipitate huge emotional strain that causes our usually clear judgment to become muddled.
Or, we simply become fearful of making a wrong decision, and so abandon the role of decision maker over all but the smallest things.
Indecision can even be caused by something good, like multiple job offers, where suddenly having many options at once becomes overwhelming.
Whatever the reason, whether it's you, your circumstances or otherwise, you can only sit in indecision for so long. Eventually you will have to make a choice.
And when you choose, it's very important that you don't make a choice that is uninformed, in haste, or out of desperation to just choose 'something'.
This is particularly true if you are faced with a major life decision such as a move or a new job.
Something than can affect you long term needs to be decided thoughtfully and carefully, not by merely flipping a coin because you just can't stand another night thinking about it.
The truth of it is though, that we're all decision makers. We all make decisions every day.
Many, many decisions daily.
A majority of those decisions are routine and familiar, so we don't think very much about them.
But decisions that carry more risk or higher consequences require more thought and consideration.
So, the problem is not that you cannot make decisions.
You do it all the time. You are a decision maker.
It is making more challenging or difficult decisions that is the problem.
And guess what?
You're totally normal for being that way.
Any level of risk or uncertainty naturally causes us to slow down, step back and rethink (and sometimes rethink and rethink and rethink) our next step.
So, how do we make these important decisions?
Fortunately, there are ways to systematically approach decision-making that can help you reach an answer, even if you're not completely sure what to do.
The following 11 strategies can help to refine your decision making skills so that you will be an engaged decision maker, and able to confidently come to a conclusion of what to do when you need to.
11 Strategies for Becoming A Decision-Maker
1. Clarify the Situation
Before you even begin to make any important decision, it is imperative that you are fully aware of the situation surrounding it.
This includes knowing everyone involved in the process, who and what will be affected by your decision and the potential outcomes of the various ways that you can decide.
Perhaps there are facts that you are unaware of that could make a difference in how you decide.
Check with those involved to uncover all the relevant facts pertaining to the situation being considered to make sure that you are fully informed.
There's nothing worse than discovering something after you've made a decision that would have changed your mind, had you known earlier.
It may seem a time-consuming process, but better to verify your information and be aware of everything now, than to have an unpleasant surprise later.
2. Create More Options
"The wider the options you explore, the better your final decision is likely to be." (from the MindTools article, How to Make Decisions).
This may seem counter-intuitive at first, but giving yourself more options to choose from can help to ensure that you haven't left out a possibility that might work.
This can be accomplished by looking at the problem from different perspectives or simply considering alternatives.
If your decision is to stay at a job or leave it, for example, consider the possibility of working only part time or working from home (if possible).
Would one of these decisions create a compromise that would work for you?
Sometimes the answer isn't just yes or no - there can be other viable alternatives that can work, even temporarily, until you are more certain of making another decision.
3. Research These Options
Once you have all possible options identified, it's time to do your homework.
If a new option has arisen, find out all you can about the results of making this choice.
You may have new things that you hadn't considered before, so it is to your benefit to make sure that these options will, indeed, work for you.
If the decision is job-related, find out the long-term effects of making this decision - how will this affect your salary, benefits or job duties?
If it's a personal decision - who or what else will be affected by this choice?
Find out as much information as possible so that you don't inadvertently create a situation down the road that you hadn't planned on.
4. Enlist the Help of Friends
Often, we like to think that we can handle problems and make tough decisions all on our own.
And, while the final decision may be ultimately up to you, get as much feedback as you possibly can from others whose insight you value, especially those who have the most knowledge of the situation or will be the most affected by your decision.
They may have perspectives or information that you had not considered.
A fresh point of view and a listening ear can be especially helpful.
Sometimes, it's possible to work through your options and come to a decision just by talking it over with someone else.
Verbalizing the situation can help to clarify it and solidify the facts in your mind.
Go to someone in your trusted circle of friends and family.
You may find answers that you didn't even know existed.
5. Create a Pro and Con List
It may seem kind of old-school, but it can be very helpful to have a visual list of your options and the outcomes right in front of you.
It's easy to overlook possibilities or facts when you have a hundred things swirling around in your mind at the same time.
Having it all in one place where you can easily compare and contrast your options can help.
In this way, you to know that you haven't left out anything, and you create a smoother decision making process, especially if you are a more visual person.
6. Clarify Your Goals
It is important for you to understand and identify your long term goals and how they relate to the decision you have to make.
If you have never clearly identified these goals, now would be a great time to do so.
Put some thought into and make a list of your most important goals that you want to accomplish.
You can divide these into categories if you want, like personal, professional, financial, etc. and list details for each one, or you can just make a long "bucket list", if you prefer - whatever works best for you.
The point is to understand what you want to accomplish the most in life.
Gary Lynn Harr states in his book, Career Guide: Road Maps to Meaning in the World of Work, that "Decisions should be put within a larger context. If you do not have clear goals, you will find it difficult to make wise choices."
Once you've established them, look at your decision through these goals.
Will your decision help or hinder them?
This new perspective may help make that decision much easier.
7. Imagine You are Helping Someone Else
It's easy to get completely bogged down in our own emotions and situations so that looking at the problem objectively becomes nearly impossible.
It may help to imagine the situation belongs to someone else.
How would you react if a friend came to you with this problem and wanted your advice?
What would you say to them?
How would you advise them to proceed?
According to Jayson De Mers in his article - 7 Strategies for Making Effective Decisions - "Because you're in the middle of a situation, your views are distorted, but on the outside, you might see things differently."
Use this reverse perspective to separate yourself from the situation, at least somewhat, and it may give you a very helpful insight.
8. Narrow Down Your Options
Now that you've done your research, explored every possibility and gotten sound advice, it's time to narrow down your choices.
You may have done so already, but if not, now is the time to eliminate all but two of your options.
Then from these remaining choices, make your final decision.
You should be able to do this with all the information you've gathered, and it's necessary to keep you from being overwhelmed by too many choices when making your ultimate decision.
Use the decision making activities above to help eliminate less beneficial options so that you are left with the two best possibilities available.
9. Call on a Higher Authority
Whether or not you consider yourself to be a spiritual person, there can be a tremendous benefit in prayer and/or meditation.
After listening to all the outside input you can, it is time to silence the voices of others and look inward (or upward).
If you are a person of faith, then by all means, pray (because we know that “prayer changes things”).
But if you're not a spiritual person, it can still be helpful to have some quiet time in a peaceful place where you can think without interruption or distraction.
Do this in whatever way helps you most - go for a walk, sit on the beach or spend the evening at home, wherever you can feel free to think in peace.
If anything, this can be a time of much-needed refreshment in the middle of the stress.
10. Just Do It
The time has come for you to be the decision maker.
If you are on a deadline, you will have to make a decision.
If not, there will eventually come a time when your decision will have to be made.
Gathering all your facts, research, advice and so on, choose the option you truly believe will bring the biggest benefit to you, your family, your company, etc.
Sometimes you may not know until after you've decided, but that doesn't get you out of making a decision anyway.
You've done all you can possibly do to make the right choice, so even if things aren't perfect, it will not be from lack of effort on your part.
There is often a huge relief that comes with finally making a decision - let that motivate you to make one.
11. Stick with Your Decision
Once you have made your decision, go forward with it with all you have.
This is not a time to second-guess yourself or to keep wondering if you did the right thing.
Put away the rear view mirror.
Is it possible you made the wrong decision?
Sure, it's possible.
It's also very possible that you made the right decision.
You may not even know for a while.
But the point is that you decided.
You became the decision maker, which is certainly better than hovering in indefinite indecision.
If things don't turn out as you anticipate, then you can work that out when the time comes, but in the meantime you've gained some valuable experience along the way.
Believe in yourself enough to carry out the decision you've made and communicate it to others with optimism and enthusiasm.
Getting others on board will help you to move forward and likely provide any needed support to help you stick with the choice you made.
In the end, there's just no getting around it. You have to be a decision maker. Life is full of decisions that must be made and some of them are very, very difficult.
And while it may seem awkward or inconvenient in the middle of things, taking time to research the situation, talk with trusted friends or stakeholders in the decision, and carefully considering your options will help you to make a far better choice than just going on a whim or choosing out of desperation.
Having a decision making process can be extremely beneficial in helping you to make a fully-informed decision that will be in your best interest and the best interest of all those involved.
Your life is too important to not do this.
We each have one chance to live life the best we can.
Make sure you have the tools and information you need to live it the very best.
It's worth it for you, for those you love and all that life holds for you.
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Kimberly Clay is the founder and creative force behind What She Say. She’s a business professional, writer and editor who’s been creating and managing digital content for nearly twenty years. Her work is now focused in the areas of self-improvement and personal development, and she is passionate about helping other individuals, especially women, to find a path for living their best life.