Have you ever found yourself faced with a decision but feeling unable to make it?
Decision-making is about choosing among available options. It is a process of selecting or rejecting.
In his book The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, author Barry Schwartz makes the argument that having more choices render us less able to make a decision and, if and when we manage to make a decision, we feel less sure that we've made the right decision.
Take, for instance, buying a car. There are so many different options to consider. What variables are important to me? Will I base my decision on safety ratings, performance ratings, price, size, colour, my neighbour's opinion? Do I want keyless entry, heated seats, cruise control, a spoiler, a blue or purple paint job or aluminum-alloy wheels?
I don't even know what aluminum-alloy wheels are. How am I supposed to make an informed decision about them?
You can see where after a while your head might be spinning and you wish for a simpler time when your choices were limited to Model T and black.
Part of the reason for the difficulty in making a decision is that we feel that if we choose an option, we're rejecting all the other options.
Tips for Making a Good Decision
1. Get clear on the number of alternatives you have. Is this a yes/no decision or are there multiple outcomes (like buying a new car or choosing a place to live)?
2. How long will this decision affect your life? Buying a new car is a decision that you may need to live with for the next 10 years or so. You should take more time to make a good decision than you would if the decision won't affect you for as long. There is a stunning array of choices when renting a movie for the evening but the outcome only lasts as long as the show.
3. Narrow your options. In our area we have an ice cream store that boasts three display coolers full of ice cream from which to choose. There are over 100 different flavours. You could be there all day. One trick our family uses is to look at only one of the coolers and choose from that. It doesn't matter which cooler. We know we're going to get something good (it's ice cream, after all!) but we've narrowed our options by two-thirds. We still have 33 flavours from which to choose.
4. Gather information about each alternative. What do you need to know in order to make an informed decision? Narrow down the variables that are important to you and devote your decision-making time to those. In choosing a new car, price, service and safety features are my most important variables and those are the things I need to know the most about.
5. Know when to stop gathering information. No decision is ever the perfect one. Analysis paralysis is that phenomenon where there's a decision to be made or a project to be done but we get caught up in the process of meeting, discussing, brainstorming, and tweaking. There are always more studies to be conducted, more reports to be written and read and more statistics to be collected and reviewed. At some point you have to stop.
6. Make a list of pros and cons. What are the reasons for and against each alternative?
7. Assign a value to the pros and cons. Certain variables will be more important than others. Going back to the new car example, the pro of having rear side air bags as a safety feature has more value for me than the con of not being able to get the car in the colour I want.
8. Set deadlines. Assign a timeline to making the decision. This way you have a framework for the amount of time a decision should take and you reduce the chances that days, weeks and months will pass without some action.
9. What does your intuition say? Are you leaning towards or away from one option even though you can't quite put your finger on why? Pay attention to that feeling.
10. Discuss the decision with a neutral party. Someone who doesn't have a stake in the decision. Ask a friend, your neighbor or anyone who may have information about the decision that you might not have.
11. Make your decision and act on it.
Lisa Sutton, M. A. is The De-Cluttering Diva. Lisa offers coaching, seminars and workshops to busy, stressed-out moms. She encourages and supports women to take care of themselves around issues such as assertiveness, time management, relationships, procrastination, anxiety, and creating work-life balance.
Lisa offers a complimentary e-newsletter and a 45-minute coaching consultation. To receive yours visit http://www.declutterdiva.ca or call 204.231.4251.