And some of them are much smaller, but no less significant, when it comes to your overall quality of life, health and happiness, like: should I eat a hamburger or have salad for lunch? Go to the gym, or skip it today? Veg on the couch watching soap operas, or phone a friend? Go for the chai macchiato, or the super skinny latte?
Being able to make the right decision about things is probably the single most valuable skill you could learn, but here’s the crazy thing: most people actually have no idea how to make the right decisions – which can create a huge amount of stress, anxiety and difficult situations.
Over the last two decades of coaching people, I’ve identified the three biggest mistakes that they tend to make, when it comes to taking a decision:
Mistake 1: Act on impulse
When you don’t know how to make reasoned, realistic decisions, a few different problems can crop up. The first mistake is when you base your choices on gut reactions and impulses, which is also what I like to call ‘the gambler’s response’ to a decision.
The problem with this way of doing things is that sometimes it’ll work out OK, but sometimes it won’t. And because it’s based on subjective gut feelings or impulses instead of a reasoned analysis of the situation, you have no idea when the shoe is going to drop, or how, which can be a very stressful place to be.
Mistake 2: Outsource the decision to someone else
Another poor decision-making option is where you try to abdicate taking responsibility for making the call, and get someone else to do that job for you. This is what I call the ‘outside expert response’.
The main advantage of doing things this way is that you always have someone to blame if it goes wrong. The main disadvantage is that no-one else actually knows you and your life the way you yourself do, and that you can very easily end up living out some other person’s idea of how your life should be, which is rarely a recipe for feeling satisfied, content and fulfilled.
That’s the main drawback if the other person’s advice is sound and sensible.
Unfortunately, a lot of the self-proclaimed ‘experts’ out there actually also don’t know how to make the right decisions, but feel much happier gambling with someone else’s life and peace of mind. If you follow third party advice that goes sour, it’s cold comfort to think you’ve got someone else to blame for your life going down the toilet.
Mistake 3: Don’t do anything
The last unsuccessful strategy for making a decision (which is incredibly common today) is what I call the ‘paralysed with fear’ response. This is where the idea of making the wrong decision is actually so scary, that you end up completely stuck in your dead-end job, dead-end relationship or dead-end life, wishing so much that something could shift or improve but feel too confused or anxious to actually take the first step.
The irony is that people trapped in the ‘paralysed with fear’ response usually don’t appreciate just how much joy, vitality and opportunities for success they’re missing out on, by continuing to play it safe.
So much hangs on being able to make the right decisions, from the more mundane stuff about what to have for supper, right up to the huge things about who to marry, and what career to pursue.
People who know how to make the right decisions – and who can access their decision-making ability at the deeper levels of their subconscious - enjoy their lives so much more, because they know what really motivates them, what really makes them happy, and what’s really going to bring them true satisfaction and peace of mind.
I’ve had so many big decisions to make in life, from moving location multiple times, to starting and selling businesses, to switching over to a more holistic lifestyle, that I realized a long time ago that if I was going be making some radical changes to the status quo, I’d better make darned sure that my decisions were rock solid and not just based on impulse, or knee-jerk reactions.
By that, I mean that I could stand behind my decisions 100%, and have complete peace of mind that if they didn’t work out, it wasn’t because I hadn’t done my homework to figure out what was really the best choice to make.
So, I developed a system for making sound decisions, that I could apply across the board, and that would enable me to figure out all the pros and cons of the choices I was making, and deal with any implications, BEFORE I actually signed on the dotted line. The ability to make the right decisions is not something I came by naturally; it was a system I had to learn.
And in the next post, I’ll tell you a little more about how my system actually works, to take the guess work and stress out of making the right decisions.