How many decisions do you think you make every day? One hundred? Two thousand? Ten thousand? Believe it or not, there is research online that says the average adult makes thirty-five thousand decisions in one day! That’s everything from deciding to get up when the alarm goes off and choosing what to wear to deciding how to move forward on a project or whether or not to take a new job and move across the country. Even if we assume that the majority of these thirty-five thousand daily decisions are easy, fairly unconscious, and don’t take a lot of our effort, that’s still an exhausting amount of time we spend “picking” between options. No wonder we’re so tired!
For most of us the easy decisions aren’t so hard “yes, I’ll have a second cup of coffee” or “I prefer the layout of slide two over slide four”. The real challenge comes from the decisions that have a bigger impact. Should I take this job offer and leave what I know? Should I pursue this opportunity and risk failing? Should I agree to a new commitment even though I already feel over extended? These are the ones that seem so important that we can often get stuck, paralyzed by the thought of making the wrong call and therefore messing up or missing out. So how do we make important decisions without completely stressing, overthinking, and second guessing our every move? Let me offer you three guidelines that have gotten me through some pretty important choices in my life and can help get you started with yours.
Which option best aligns with your personal values?
Do you know your core values? They are those things that are such a part of you that they guide how you live your life. When they are being honored you probably feel good, but when they are dishonored you may be easily triggered to react or feel in a negative way. If you don’t already know your values please take some time to identify and define them. Knowing will give you new insights and can help in so many areas of life (try this exercise to get started).
Freedom (with my time) is one of my values and I define it as the ability to be in the drivers seat of my own schedule. Yes, I know, many things are out of our control and I am ok with some of that, but in circumstances (and there are MANY) where I can choose my path, I want to be the one to do so. I know that when I feel like I don’t have choices or like someone else is calling all the shots I am triggered. If I decide to work in an environment where meetings are constantly put on my calendar last minute, deadlines are imposed, not discussed, or others dictate my opportunities, I’m very likely to often feel frustrated and stressed. When making decision, I want to know how much time and control I’ll have and how much I’ll need to relinquish. From there I can decide whether or not I’m ok and prepared to deal with that so I don’t become impatient or resentful of the commitment.
What values do you need to consider when making decisions?
Which option best supports your goals?
My goals are based on my values and reflect the person I am striving to become. So when I’m in the process of making a decision I need to know that it will move me toward my goals and not away from them. Notice that I said towards, meaning it doesn’t have to be 100% and the EXACT right step in order to be the right decision. It needs to be directionally correct, will I be at least a little closer? My goal is to start a coaching practice that supports others in achieving their own life goals. I want to build it in a way that honors my value of time freedom. But if I decide to fill my days pursuing opportunities that don’t support building that business, I’m moving in the wrong direction. If I decide to fill my day just to be busy, I’ve dishonored my own values and moved away from my goal. When faced with a decision about a business opportunity, I filter it through criteria like:
- Will the opportunity allow me to work within my areas of expertise so that I can fully contribute to others?
- Is the audience or individual interested in my area of expertise and hoping to grow from it?
- Does the opportunity and the effort needed to prepare bring me energy?
What criteria could you create to align your decisions to your goals?
Have you sought the wisdom of those you trust?
Wise counsel is priceless. It helps shed light on things about ourselves that we don’t see (or don’t want to admit), it presents options from a different perspective, and provides support and encouragement as we start to move forward with a decision. Wise counsel is found in those that have been through similar experiences and learned the lessons along the way. It’s those people you trust to provide honest, caring feedback that helps you grow rather than just telling you what you want to hear. It could be a family member, a mentor at work, or a friend who has consistently supported you through the good and bad. But be selective with the counsel you seek – just about anyone will give you their two cents, but wise counsel will give you thoughtful guidance.
Deciding to leave my stable part time job with a consistent income to work full time on my coaching practice was hard. I talked myself in and out of it several times and spent many hours in prayer. I knew the decision aligned to my values (all of them, not just the one around freedom) and moved me toward my goal of having a full time coaching practice. But the decision was confirmed when my group of very wise friend said “Yes! You should do this!” They know me, they know I can get ahead of myself sometimes and have (many times) made emotional decisions that ended up being painful to fix. They also watched me grow into the decision and the time and intention that I put into learning and developing. They listened to my plans and heard the excitement in my voice – they even let me practice on them! They helped me walk through and recognize where I might struggle and where I’ll easily excel. They are behind me, cheering me on, praying, and supporting me through the ups and downs. Yes, I could have made this decision without them, but their counsel gives me peace and I’m so grateful for that!
Who is your wise counsel and what decisions can they help you with?
Our decisions are important whether big or small. What we decide to do today usually determines the options available to us tomorrow. But, as a woman who has made plenty of good and bad decisions, I know that even the wrong ones can still be ok and that sometimes the right ones don’t end up like we thought they would. But when that happens, we can choose to be resilient. We can choose to recover and redirect and still go on to live happy and successful lives. Please don’t allow yourself to be so fearful of making the wrong decision that you end up stuck with no decision. Make the wisest decision you can based on the information, guidelines, and resources you have today. And when you do, you can then move forward with the confidence that you’ll not only be okay, you’ll be amazing!