Do I have the skills to turn professional and drop out of school? Do I leave my current employer to explore new options? We all make lots of decisions, big and small, on a daily basis. And every decision path is as unique as the person walking it. However, there are aspects about decision making that are valid to all.
So the next time you are facing a crossroads in your life, maybe these five personal learnings will be of help:
Read the signs
Big decisions in life don’t just appear, they grow – in my case it was the urge to quit my job and start something new. Decisions align themselves with feelings that work their way into your conscience. In order to be able to start a decision-making process it is crucial to be aware of this very fact. This may sound trivial, but it isn’t.
Stress and the speed of modern-day life can sometimes distract us. So take the time and listen to the signs, categorize them and recognize that decisions are building inside you.
Scary decisions need time
Now look at the categories you’ve created and give them a weight or importance. It’s time to hit the scariest stack. A scary decision brings with it a spinning head full of thoughts and a colorful mixture of gut feelings…questions like ‘Am I good enough to found my own business?’ or ‘Can I keep up my standard of living?’
In order to create that time, I found it useful to build a plan and give myself a deadline when the decision has to be made. A plan might include a pros and cons list, collecting additional opinions or ensuring some extra time for research (in my case doing the math to visualize a flow of income really helped).
Your gut tells the truth
A positive side effect of the time you gave yourself in step 1 and 2 is that even though you are not consciously working on the decision, your gut is. The more boxes you tick in your decision-making plan, the clearer the rational aspects become and with it your gut feeling on the decision to come.
Your inner voice can now build and get louder so you can comfortably listen to what you need to do. It took eight months for my inner voice to become loud enough!
So by now your decision is made. But wait! Am I meeting the expectations of my parents, my wife, my children? A lot of people make decisions not because they think they are right, but they want others to think they are right too. This distraction needs to be managed in order to be able to fully stick to a decision. So define the key stakeholders and create an approach on how to confront people with your decision (if they weren’t already involved in the process).
In my experience putting myself in the other person’s shoes does the trick. I ask myself who am I dealing with and am I able to present the decision straightaway or do I need to serve it in smaller bites…be it via arguments or gestures.
You are now at the stage where your decision is consciously made, communicated and ready to roll. This process might have taken a day, a week or (in my case) a couple of months. As life goes on at its ordinary pace, I decided to include milestone days – days I use to reflect on past decisions and appreciate the progress. It serves as a justification on the one hand, but also gives me time to be grateful for what I have achieved and thankful for the chance to be able to make free decisions every day.