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The four rules for decision-making

What is decision-making?

We make decisions every single day. These decisions range from the small and seemingly insignificant – what should I have for breakfast? – to potentially life-changing – should I stay and work on my relationship or should we break up? How to make a decision may not seem that important when it comes to the little stuff, but when it comes to how to make a big decision, the consequences are much more impactful.

When it comes to making tough decisions, not making a decision at all is the worst option. When you see life as happening for you instead of to you, you’ll realize that even when you think you’ve made the wrong decision, you’ve learned a valuable lesson that will help you move forward armed with more information. Even if you’re not struggling to learn how to make a life-changing decision, you can still waste valuable time procrastinating on the little choices in life.

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 rules for how to make a decision, 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 learn how to make a decision in life using only 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 obstacle 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. Remember, where focus goes, energy flows. If you can’t focus on the choice and instead get wrapped up in your own thoughts, your energy will diffuse.

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 it. 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 this particular decision. For example, if you are making an important decision and your language is negative, it could be driven by fear.

Once you realize this, you can use fear before it uses you. Ask yourself if the decision is “a must” for you in order to reach another goal. If it is, then realize that nothing will stand in your way to achieving that goal, and turn fear into a driver instead of an obstacle. 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.

how to make tough decisions person writing in journal

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 the meaning behind that decision. When it comes to how to make a big decision, 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 and be able to visualize it as if it has already transpired. 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 reasoning, 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 isn’t 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 reasoning and repeat it until you believe you can do it.

Rule 3: Let go of fear

When it comes to how to make a big decision, don’t let fear ruin your life. One of the key things to note when learning how to make a life-changing decision is that we’re fearful that things won’t work out. Don’t 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 but this inaction will keep you from making a breakthrough in any party of your life.

You have to take a chance on yourself. One of the ways to do this is to have a consistent process for how to make a decision. 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 a big decision.

how to make tough decisions person on balcony

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. When strategizing how to make a decision in life, 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?” For example, are you more focused on developing a healthy relationship or are you more concerned with creating a fulfilling career? Would you rather achieve your goals or build more trust in the workplace? 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.

Team Tony

Team Tony cultivates, curates and shares Tony Robbins’ stories and core principles, to help others achieve an extraordinary life.

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