Making Better Decisions

Do you have a big decision to make?

A pro & con list is a good place to start, but...

The best decision makers have something in common: They deliberately look at the decision from different lenses.

Here are a few "lenses" to make better decisions

Lens 1: Prime Yourself to What's Most Important to You

This seems like an easy question, but a lot of things influence us. When you recognize all the influences we come into contact with every day, it's astonishing.

A passing comment from a colleague.

A news article you skim.

A phrase your grandmother used.

A marketer 5000 miles away.

A political consultant you'll never meet.

Whether we like it or not, being human means we're affected by others.

We can take more control by being more deliberate and figuring out what's most important. Then priming ourselves when the stakes are high.

An insightful and effective way to explore and prime ourselves is through a journaling exercise.

How? Give yourself 15 minutes and a quiet place to write.

  1. Who are the most important people in your life? Why are they important?

  2. What activities give you the most energy and a sense of fulfillment?

  3. When you are old, what will you want people to think and feel when the remember you? How will you want to remember yourself?

See an example.

Now, you are primed to what's most important.

Lens 2: Flip It

The next piece of low-hanging fruit is to figure out what you don't want. It's amazing how often we can pursue things that we don't want.

Time for another writing exercise:

  1. What are the things that deplete you? What feels like a waste of time? Keep in mind that some activities can challenge you and help you grow--those are helpful.

  2. What do you see in the world, or in your community, that worries you?

  3. What is doing damage?

  4. Review this list--these are the things you don't want to bring into your life.

See an example.

Alright, this is obvious, but deliberately make sure you don't do those things.

Lens 3: Make an If-Then Decision Tree

Now that you're primed for (1) what's important and (2) what you don't want, explore the options in front of you.

For each option you're considering:

  1. Write down the option. If you were to choose that option. What would happen next? How would it impact the things most important to you?

  2. Then, what would happen? You'll probably find that a few different things could happen, so explore those.

  3. Follow the "then what might happen" path for a bit, but don't overdo it. You can't predict the future, but you can spend some time thinking about realistic outcomes.

  4. Do this again for each option you're considering.

See an example​.

Which option is most aligned to what's most important to you? And reduces what you don't want?

If you're comfortable with asking for outside thoughts, this is a good time to consult with someone trustworthy. Here are some things to consider:

  1. Can this person objectively and realistically think about the "then what might happen" questions?

  2. Can they speak uncomfortable or awkward truths clearly and non-judgmentally?

  3. Can they step back and look at the long-term picture?

  4. Can they put themselves in your shoes and focus on what's most important to you?

Lens 4: Use the 5-5-5

Predict the short-term and long-term outcomes of the options using the 5-5-5.

Ask yourself "If I chose this option, what does this mean...":

  1. Five weeks from now?

  2. Five months from now?

  3. Five years from now?

See example.

You're balancing short-term and long-term outcomes. Things that seem good or bad right now often change in the long term. And don't forget that people, including you, are resilient. Whatever happens, you can adapt to life's inevitable highs and lows.

Lens 5: Make Space: Take a Break

If you need more time to make the decision, explore ways to get more time. Make it deliberate.

If you're thinking about the decision and you feel your body tense and you need to distract yourself ("I've been meaning to organize my sock drawer... for the last four years, why not now?" or "oh, a text!"), then deliberately take a break from the decision making process.

It might be hard. The idea of "letting it go" is easier said than done. It takes practice for most of us. If you're carrying the weight of the decision around and you need a break from it. Here are a few ways to take a break and clear your mind:

  1. Move your body. Movement is one of the healthiest, and fastest paths to quieting your mind and (ironically) giving yourself a break.

  2. Change the scenery. Get outside. Or go to a different room. Literally step away.

  3. Distract yourself, intentionally. Watching a show, listening to music, playing a game--these are great distractions. But keep your intention in mind from the beginning, something like I'll play video games for an hour, then I'll get to dinner prep. Remember, you're not looking for a binge, you're looking for a break.

  4. More tips to clear your mind are here.

Lens 6: Grace and Compassion

Whatever decision you choose, expect that some things will not go as planned. Some things will be disappointing. Some will be even better than imagined.

Of course! Life is unpredictable.

All part of the human experience. Give yourself grace and compassion.

Resources and Citations

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