Most of the hundreds of decisions we make every day are almost automatic: what to wear, when to go to the grocery store or which route to take.
There are always times when we change our mind and discard one outfit for another or agonize about what to make for a special dinner. But mostly, decisions of little real consequence can be made quickly.
Snap decisions save energy for big ones that cost lots of money, change our future or impact other people’s lives. Sometimes it’s hard to make a decision because our feelings have a strong influence or we don’t have enough information.
What if we make the wrong decision? What are the consequences? The worry about making a right decision can be intimidating.
It’s Best to Look from Both Sides Now
Ben Franklin once said, “Divide half a sheet of paper by a line into two columns, writing over the one Pro, and the other Con.” This time-honored decision-making tool works because we step away from our emotions and take a look from a different perspective. We play devil’s advocate with ourselves.
If you’re done looking at the pros and cons and you’re still unclear, you might ask: Is there another option altogether? Is there different direction to take?
Say you’re looking to buy a seaside villa in the sunny south. Pros: Winters are warm and you can retire your snow shovel. Cons: You’ll miss the grandkids. You might not fit in with the people who live there. What if you have to sell and move back home? Will you still be okay financially?
Option: How about renting a place and still retiring that snow shovel? Then you’ll be able to talk with people who have already made that decision. You’ll be better informed.
Intuition Pairs Well with Decision
So often we know the right decision in our gut. It might not be the most popular way to go, but we feel it’s right.
Maybe your daughter is marrying a guy you’re not crazy about. You’ve set aside a nice chunk of change for a wedding gift. But your intuition says handing it over on the wedding day isn’t your best decision.
Intuition is one of our greatest gifts, and we’ve had decades to hone it. Trust it. You can always give the money (plus interest) to the happy couple on their tenth wedding anniversary.
Or, if they get divorced, you can help your daughter get back on her feet. Your intuition can tell you when to leave a back door open just in case.
Wait and See vs. Decision by Indecision
Sleeping on it almost always adds perspective to a decision. We make use of our powerful subconscious. We might wait and see to gather more information, to seek a trusted opinion or talk to people who have already made a similar decision.
But sometimes we say we’ll sleep on it when we’re really just putting off making a decision. You don’t wait and see about repairing the roof until it falls in. Best not put off getting a knee replacement until you can’t walk at all.
Decision by indecision limits our choices and often costs more or has bigger life consequences than being decisive in the first place. Typically, when we go ahead and decide, we feel so much better right away and save ourselves a lot of unhealthy stress.
What’s the Worst That Can Happen?
25 years ago, my husband and I contemplated buying six vacation apartments from a retiring couple. The seller promised his wife he’d sell at age 70. I remember like it was yesterday, standing out front and asking, “What’s the worst that can happen?”
“We might still own it when I’m 70,” my husband said to me. He’s 77 now. We still own it, and it’s turned out to be a very good thing.
Addressing the worst that can happen is a legitimate approach to decisions because, very often, that is exactly what does happen. Most often, an outcome is easier to deal with if we anticipate it, good or bad.
Asking the right questions always helps with decision-making. Will it make my life better? Can this improve my relationship with another person? Am I doing it to please myself or someone else? Will this push me toward something I really want, or am I putting too much pressure on myself?
Decisions, decisions. The choices are endless.
How do you go about making big decisions about a large purchase? If you were forced to move, how would you go about deciding where it would be? What works best for you – intuition or sleeping on it? Please share your wisdom and tips below!