Deciding About Decisions

Deciding About Decisions

Clients often ask how they might make better decisions.

Answering that question I realized that many don’t really understand what making a good decision is all about…in some cases, even what a decision really is.

What is a Decision?

A decision is simply creating an intention to move in a particular direction. It doesn’t mean you have to go in that direction—even if your initial decision turns out to be wrong, you are still in control of your life. The mammalian brain works much better when it has some control over the world than when it doesn’t. Indecision enhances your feeling of being out of control. Conversely, increasing how in control of your life you feel (making decisions) reduces your stress level accordingly. Understanding decisions and how they are made will help you make better ones with less stress.

What’s Important to You? Keeping in mind your personal or business values, write down one or two specific goals or decisions you need to make. A specific goal or decision will have a clear benchmark for success, so at some point in the future you will know for sure whether or not you have achieved it.

Simplify Your Focus. Once you figure out what’s really important, you can reduce irrelevant details in your life and focus on what is left. Focusing on your values reduces your stress. Think of times in your life when you were happiest. What were you doing and what contributed to your happiness? What kinds of actions made you feel the most fulfilled? What achievements are you most proud of?

Decide for something you want, not against something you don’t want. Focusing on potential negative outcomes makes decisions more difficult. Actively choosing a particular goal you want to pursue—rather than basing your decision on avoiding something that you don’t want—forces you to focus on the positive, at least briefly. For example, instead of “I don’t want to miss this sale”, say “I want to make a great sale today!” This type of positive thinking is very effective in changing your actions. Do you believe that you can achieve it? If no, break them down into smaller goals that you believe are achievable.

Perfectly Imperfect Decisions. Remember; make a good decision not necessarily the perfect decision is OK. When trying to make a decision, we tend to focus on the relative drawbacks of each option, often making every choice less appealing—negative. You usually don’t have enough information to feel really good about every decision—the world is just too complex. Worry and anxiety are most often triggered by possibility, not certainty. When you decide on one path, you reduce the number of variables your mind must consider. Remember, its better to do something partially right than to do nothing. Trying for the absolute best, instead of good enough, usually brings too much emotion into the decision making process. On the other hand, recognizing that good enough is—usually good enough—helps make you feel more in control.

Frank Hopkins is a certified Professional Coach (CPC) and certified by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). He is a certified Master Practitioner (ELI-MP) of the iPEC proprietary assessment tool, the Energy Leadership Index and offers seminars on Energy Leadership. He maintains memberships in the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and the Institute of Coaching (ICPA).