I am the most indecisive person you will ever meet.
Or not. Maybe you’re more indecisive.
Do you also spend 30 minutes trying to decide which product to get from Amazon? Or which flavor of ice cream would best satisfy your ice-cream craving? (That was a trick question. The desire for ice cream can never be quenched.)
Those are the little decisions. What about the major decisions?
Those could take days to weeks. Even after hours of diligent research, you’re as unsure as you were before you started studying the options.
I can’t see the future. How am I supposed to know which job offer will lead to a more satisfying life? Or whether this is the person I will live my happy-ever-after with? Or if dark chocolate peanut butter ice-cream will taste better than black raspberry thunder? They both look so good!
Wait a second…
Doesn’t that make me unqualified to tell you how to make decisions?
Nope, it makes me the perfect advisor.
I am not one of those inherently qualified decision-makers. I worked hard to earn my decision-making skills. I learned some tricks to make me a much better decision-maker. I’m going to share those tricks with you today.
How TO Make Better Decisions
1. Relax, It Doesn’t Matter Anyway
Are you deciding whether to cut the red or blue wire?
Will you develop anaphylaxis if you choose the wrong flavor?
Will the world collapse if you buy the purple toaster instead of the green one?
The fact is most of the decisions you make are insignificant.
You can choose whatever you want, and it will have zero impact on your quality of life.
The worst-case scenario is you’re a little annoyed for not choosing the other option. Don’t sweat it, though. You’ll get used to it in a few days.
Many of the choices you make don’t matter as much as you think they will.
In the moment, you feel like the decision is the most important thing in the world. It’s all you’re focused on.
Deluged with options, you want to choose the right one. So you waste your valuable time and priceless decision-making energy on a trivial choice.
It’s not worth it.
Next time you’re standing in a grocery store aisle contemplating whether you should get the hydrating shampoo or nourishing one, stop and ask yourself, “Does it need all this thought?”
Grab one and move on to the next grocery-list item.
“There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects of express volitional deliberation.” – William James
2. Psst… You Don’t Have to Be Right
Being wrong sucks.
It makes you feel like a good-for-nothing imbecile who can never do anything right.
You had the full capacity to make the right decision and you let the stupid little voice in your head steer you toward the wrong one.
What an idiot. (Reminder: Don’t believe the negative thoughts that come into your head. Live and learn.)
Lucky for you, nothing is permanent.
You can choose to suffer the consequences of your decision for the rest of your life, but that’s a choice.
Even the life-shaping decisions that feel permanent are not as permanent as you think.
Say, you chose a college major you hate. Now you’re telling yourself that your life will suck. You’ll be stuck for the rest of your life in a field so terrible that you’ll envy the janitor’s job.
Fact-check: You’re not stuck.
You can change your major. You can go back to college later in life.
Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual. At times that feels like an affliction. But it can also be perceived as a blessing as well.
There are no right or wrong decisions. You can’t choose incorrectly if there is no elucidation of what is right.
Stop trying to make the right decision. Decide, and if the outcome is unfavorable, you’ll find a way to overcome it.
3. Fake it ‘til you make it
Do you know what differentiates the people who decide quickly and those who don’t?
Decisive people don’t second guess themselves. They are sure of their knowledge and their life expertise, and if not that, then they are sure of their abilities to deal with the outcome, no matter what it is.
Indecisive people don’t have that same confidence. They ask others to decide for them, trusting an outsider’s judgment more than their own.
As a person who doesn’t have the confidence of a general who makes life-or-death decisions daily, how can you make difficult choices?
How can you attain the required self-assurance?
Fake it till you make it.
Even if you don’t have a clue what you’re doing, act like you do. No one will be able to tell the difference. And soon enough, you’ll start to believe the act, too.
By making a decision, you are committing to a path forward. So, walk that path with your head held high. Trust yourself and face what’s along that path with grace and courage.
4. Choose the Better Path
Deciding carves your path forward. It’s you telling the universe, “This is how things are going to be.”
But how do you want things to be, exactly?
All the previous tips guided you to just make the decision, but which option should you choose?
Countless techniques are available to help you with this.
I usually write a list of every pro and con I can think of, and judge based on that.
Do the pros outweigh the cons? Are there must-have criteria that one option doesn’t have? Are you willing to deal with the cons for the sake of the pros? Are you looking at all the options?
Still having trouble?
Try a weighted decision calculator like this one here.
Don’t be afraid to ask people who’ve been in similar situations for help.
If you’re considering what house to buy, speak to others who have recently purchased in that area. They were in your place before and will likely have some great tips or regrets to share.
If the question is what shirt you should wear to your ex’s party, go with your gut or flip a coin and refer back to points number 1 and 2.
5. Get It Over With
Overthinking does you no good.
Once you’ve looked at the pros and cons of each option, and researched thoroughly, it’s time to make a decision.
You will never know for sure which the better path is until after the decision is made.
Conquer the uncertainty with a decision deadline.
Say you are deciding whether you want to major in Engineering or Arts. Your heart shouts arts, but you want the stability a career in engineering would provide.
You are torn between pursuing your dream with the possibility of it not working out and going for the safer job where you’re guaranteed a place to live and food on the table. You’ve looked at the pros and cons of each and you still can’t decide.
Give yourself a day or two to solidify your decision.
Chances are you have already made a decision but are unwilling to admit it–not even to yourself.
Once your deadline has arrived, grab a paper and write your decision on a piece of paper. Don’t just think it—Record your decision, so there’s no second-guessing. Write down whatever feels like the best decision at that moment.
After, take the steps and face the consequences. Remember there are no right or wrong decisions.
If things don’t turn out the way you want them to, you can make another decision to set things right.
You make decisions every day. Some are bigger than others. Those decisions are what shape your life. If you are indecisive, you are leaving your ship without a captain and the wind could send you in any direction.
Don’t chicken out of making the decisions that shape your life.