How to make a decision when you don't know what to do
Here's how to get yourself unstuck when you're faced with a big decision
“What is hard about making decisions:
Making decisions reduces opportunity in the short term. But decisions mean long term opportunity.”
(Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn)
Do you find it hard to make decisions? If so, welcome to the human race my friend.
I’ve struggled with everything from what to eat for dinner (and why is the answer always chicken?), to where to go on holiday (again, why is the answer always France?), to when to walk away from my full-time corporate role to coach new leaders who need my support.
It’s estimated that every day, we tend to make about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions every day. Mind. Blown.
And most of these aren’t even important. Which shampoo will I use today? Do I spread crunchy or smooth peanut butter? (only one answer to this btw and it’s smooth…don’t come at me with your crunchy vibes, you maniacs) Netflix or Amazon Prime?
So is it any wonder that we struggle with the really big ones? The ones that mean something. That could change the trajectory of our life or our career (or both).
In my lifetime, I’ve made some pretty big decisions and I bet you have too.
Moving to another country, having a child, taking time off, retraining, moving house a fair bit. But sometimes, I wonder how I did it. When in the everyday, I am exhausted with decision fatigue.
If you’re feeling a bit stuck at the moment - and it’s no wonder, because the world is crazy right now y’all - here are three coaching prompts to help you get out of the mud and back on the road.
I used these techniques yesterday when in all honesty, I was pretty exhausted, coming down with a sore throat and had to make some work decisions, as well as make some progress with my work.
This tip may seem controversial coming from a coach who advises clients to reflect, think and explore first! But sometimes, just taking that first baby step is enough to get some momentum flowing, and then one step or decision leads to the next, to the next, to the next.
I did this yesterday. I started with a small thing that was easy to commit to. Then I found myself engaged in my work again, enjoying it and wanting to do more. It flowed because I got myself into a state of flow by initiating a first step.
The reason I like this is because the stakes are usually very low. You’re not making the big or final decision this way. You’re just starting. So you can unwind if you need to, or change course if that’s what your inner voice is telling you.
Weigh up the opportunity cost of NOT making a decision
This is a big one and we don’t talk about it enough. Too often, we think about decisions costing us something, at least in the short term (see Reid Hoffman’s great quote that opened this article).
If I decide to save this money now for my 50th birthday trip of a lifetime, it means I can’t spend it this week and I really want to buy xx.
When in reality, they are an enabler to something we really want in the long term. And if you don’t make that decision, what’s the cost to you of remaining in stasis? Of sticking with the status quo? Is it worth it?
If I don’t save this money now, I will have money to spend this week on xx. But I won’t be able to go on my 50th birthday trip of a lifetime.
Can you see how it’s much easier to spot the opportunity cost of not making a decision? And to identify the long-term opportunity that making a decision could bring?
What is the decision you have been avoiding?
In all likelihood, this question will smack you in the face like a wet kipper. Deep down, you know there’s a decision to be made about something and avoidance is a lovely warm ocean to bob around in. Until the shark appears on the horizon… (why the fish metaphors today?)
Getting up close and personal with the decision you have been merrily avoiding, is a great way to unpack it, and start to explore it.
You don’t need to make the decision in that moment. No-one’s standing over you making you choose. But you will start to understand your feelings about it, explore why you may have been avoiding it, and what that might be telling you.
Listen to your insight. It’s trying to tell you something.
Decisions, decisions, decisions
I hope that’s given you some support and actionable advice if you’re feeling overwhelmed and a bit stuck at the moment. I know how you feel and there are ways to overcome your stuckness. Is that a word? I’m making it a word…
Please do let me know if these tips have helped you in any way? I love to hear from readers about what works for them and if you have any suggestions for future Lead with Intention posts. Just hit reply to email me.
And if you’re making a decision about your leadership career, and feel like you could do with some support, book a free coaching strategy call with me to discuss what that could look like for you. You can book here: Louise Thompson