Tools For Making Decisions With Ease
By Amanda Polster, LMSW
In life, we are naturally faced with very difficult decisions. As we grow up, challenging decisions can become part of our daily routine. When we come up against difficult choices, it is normal to experience apprehensions and concern about making the right choice OR not making the wrong choice.
It is common to struggle making decisions, especially when these choices have large impacts on our life (i.e. housing, financial investments, job transitions, relationships, etc.) While choosing between two options or amongst a variety of options, it can be comforting to know that learning how to make decisions is a skill that can be developed, learned, and improved with practice.
While is can be uncomfortable to experience, ambiguity is one of the most natural and common human experiences that we have all faced. The tension of not knowing which choice to pick, or not having a concrete idea of how a choice will play out can feel vulnerable and disturbing. Decisions can be hard to discern, but when we provide ourselves with the right tools, we can learn to make decisions with ease.
Tools for Making Confident Decisions
Meet Yourself Where You’re At
A tool that is often used in therapy is the wheel of change, also known as the transtheoretical stages of change model. The wheel of change helps us identify where we currently are at in relationship to our motivation to change any aspect of our life. It is normal and most common to be at different stages of change with various decisions we have to make. When we are consciously aware of areas in our life that we want to change and have thought about what this change requires - when we are in contemplation - we can begin to identify strengths we have that propel us forward, and barriers that might be holding us back.
Take this moment to affirm the fact that reading this blog means that you have at least moved beyond precontemplation and have identified an interest in either changing or improving your ability to make confident decisions.
Using Mindfulness-Based CBT to Reframe our View on Decisions
When we are faced with decisions, small and large, we can often become overwhelmed with having to make a choice. This especially can happen when we are presented with a number of options to choose from, making the decision all the more complex. The amount of overwhelm and dwell we may experience in these moments can trigger wishing we had less to choose from to resolve the complications of making a decision. A reframing perspective we can have when faced with decisions is meeting this decision with gratitude - acknowledging with compassion the options we have earned. These options often come from our hard work and desire to grow, providing ourselves with a menu of directions to go. While it might be hard to make a decision, acknowledging the path we took to get to this moment and the obstacles we overcame, can relieve some feelings of overwhelm and support us in feeling confident, empowered, and enthused about this next journey.
Identify an Accountability Partner
When we are faced with an impactful decision, we can often get into the pattern of procrastinating due to the fear of commitment. Procrastination can be avoided by setting a self proposed deadline. Having an accountability partner, which is typically someone in our support system that motivates us, can help push us to make decisions in a timely manner. This partner encourages us to direct our energy and stay focused on our desired goal. Having an accountability partner can also help us process the amount of time proportionate to the impact of the decision. For example, a decision that has a larger impact on our life (i.e. changing careers or relocating) will likely require more reflection and time than per say, deciding what to eat this evening. An accountability partner can keep us on track and help us decipher which decisions need more time, attention, and planning.
Take Decisions One Step at a Time
Decisions can feel overwhelming, especially when they have many factors and steps. When we try to decide all at once, it can feel too overwhelming and impossible to come up with a solution or concrete choice. Taking our decisions one step at a time can help break down our choices into manageable options. When we tackle these smaller goals, we improve our confidence and ability to tackle more challenging decisions in the future. To break this tip down, think about what it takes to decide on a new career. This might require going back to school or seeking a new certification. This life transition can feel very overwhelming and too difficult to jump into all at once. We can begin by asking ourselves reflective questions to get us ready for the next stage of our lives:
What is motivating me to want this change in my life?
What has helped me work through difficult transitions in the past?
What types of support do I need when faced with complicated choices?
How will this choice help me reach goals that are important to me?
Decisions are hard. When given the right tools, we can face them with more confidence and ease, coming out feeling more empowered and ready to face more obstacles each day.
Prochaska, J.O., Redding, C.A., & Evers, K. (2002). The Transtheoretical Model and Stages of Change. In K. Glanz, B.K. Rimer & F.M. Lewis, (Eds.) Health Behavior and Health Education: Theory, Research, and Practice (3rd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, Inc.