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The four rules for decision-making
Sometimes, the methods we use to make decisions create additional challenges for us. However, if we decide to follow a specific path to better our decision-making, we can overcome obstacles more quickly and achieve our end goal faster. By following these four simple rules for making decisions, you’ll set yourself up to win by discovering the clarity, purpose and decisiveness you need to make your next important decision.
Rule 1: Write it down
All important or difficult decisions must be made on paper. If you try to make tough decisions in your head, you’re going to start doing what’s called “looping.” Here’s what that means: When you first arrive at a decision, you’ll think, “That’s a good idea, but what if this happens?” By writing things down, you’ll have a physical list that helps you see the problem or opportunity clearly in front of you. This relieves pressure from the situation and allows your mind to focus on the task at hand, rather than spiraling into self-doubt.
According to emotional triad psychology, your physiology, focus and language are interconnected. When you alter one of those pieces, the others will change as well to fit the new circumstances. As you bring your focus to the issue at hand, your physiology and your language will also become attuned to the situation. Pay careful attention as you are writing out the decision you are trying to make. When you weigh the potential costs and benefits, pay attention to how your body is responding. Do you have an intuitive reaction? Your body will likely be sending you signals, so be ready to interpret them.
In addition, pay attention to your own language as you write out the decision. The words you choose will reveal your disposition on the matter. If you are using positive language to describe the decision, chances are you are potentially excited about this decision. Conversely, if you are using negative language, it’s a good indication of fear. Examine what’s behind this language to understand what’s driving your emotions. For example, if you are making an important decision and your language is negative, it could be driven by fear. Ask yourself if the decision is “a must” for you in order to reach another goal. By acknowledging the emotion, you can take some of the power out of that emotional response and uncover how to make an important decision calmly.
Rule 2: Get clear about your feelings
Once you have decided that a decision is “a must” for you, it’s time to be transparent with yourself about your motivations. When it comes to making tough decisions, be clear about what you really want – and why you want it. You’ve got to get absolutely crystal clear about your outcome and your purpose. If you forget the reasons behind your decision, you won’t follow through. Why are you pursuing this path? Will this decision benefit you mentally, physically or professionally?
The more clearly you can define your own motivation, the more likely you are to feel satisfied that you have made the right decision – regardless of the outcome. Empirically, you might know that a decision might be the right one, but you are tempted to choose the easier path or the path of inaction. Don’t do this. When you know a decision is the right one for you, remind yourself of your motivation and repeat this reasoning until you believe you can do it.
Rule 3: Let go of fear
One of the key things to note when learning how to make difficult decisions is that we’re fearful that things won’t work out. Don’t let fear motivate your process or wait for absolute certainty because you’ll almost never get it. Fear can be an excuse to stay in a situation that isn’t working for you anymore. Fear can feel comfortable because it keeps you in a pattern of inaction. Chances are that the path of inaction is less frightening because it feels more familiar.
You have to take a chance on yourself. One of the ways to do this is to have a consistent process for making decisions. Having a go-to process will give you some of the certainty you need to take action in the midst of the doubt that almost always accompanies large decisions. This process will help you focus on how to make an important decision.
Rule 4: Recognize your values
Recognize that decision-making is value clarification. Many times it’s hard to make a decision because you don’t just have one outcome; often, there are many. You’re going to have to ask yourself, “Of all these things I want, what’s really number one for me? What’s number two? What’s number three?” You may not get all of the things you’re working toward, but chances are you’ll be better off than you are now. If you’re clear on your priorities, it will be that much easier for you to design the best outcome for your life.
On a roll? Now that you’ve mastered these four rules, you’re ready to tackle difficult decisions. Learn more about how to make an important decision with Tony.