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How do you know you have taken the right decision?

>> 20 October 2010

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Our life, our days are full of them.

To get up or not to get up?

Cross the road now or wait until the car passes?
Get gas or wait until later?
Give my child an apple or a pear for recess?

And then there are the more important ones.

Those that we don't usually take on the spot.
Those that need a few good nights' sleep.
Or those that keep us awake.
Those that need talking to friends about.
Or those that we need to take all by ourselves.

And the difficulty with all of them is this:

How do we know that we have taken the right decision?

Because once we have made a decision to go for A or B, that's it right?
What if after some time we find out it was wrong?
We can't go back can we?

When I was living abroad, an older colleague introduced me to the PRO and CON system to help me make decisions. She said "Take a piece of paper and draw two columns. Put a plus on the left and a minus sign on the right. Then just start filling it in with everything that comes to mind. On the left write down all the positive results of taking the action. On the right all the negative effects. And give them points for importance and relevance."

I still do this occasionally but I have since learned a few more things:

  1. Procrastination:
    Are you pushing the decision from one day to the next? If so, ask yourself why. What are you afraid of? How can you mend this? Maybe the decision is too big to take and you need to do step 2 first.
  2. From big to small:
    If your decision is big (or even huge), try to slice it into smaller, doable, less scary parts. Parts that you can achieve and complete easily and celebrate a certain achievement.

    The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.
    -- Mark Twain 

  3. Intention:
    Decision is intention with legs. Whatever it is you put out there (I want another job, I want a partner, I want a music career), it won't start walking anywhere until you give it legs and make some decisions. Once you have taken a decision, you can still steer it, you can still stop it and turn it around. However, the next step is very important from the start.
  4. Clarity:
    Intention is all very nice, but if they are formulated like above, they are not very clear or precise. Your intention will have no idea where to walk to.
    What kind of job? Where? When? Why? To do what? What will that bring you? How will you grow? Visualize it. Write an elevator pitch for it. Does it sound clear? Credible?
  5. Support:
    Before, during and after decision making: get a support system in place. Whether it's a friend who listens to your doubts, a mentor who steers you in the right direction, a mother who cooks your favorite meal when you had a setback, some money in the bank just in case. This can be as simple or as big as you need it to be. It will help you feel safe to take decisions. And after a while you will learn how to use it better. And maybe you might not need it as much. Although the favorite meal is something that always gives you a boost.
  6. No half things:
    We often take a decision but don't really mean it.
    It's like saying I'm going ice-skating and forgetting your skates (on purpose).
    Decide like you mean it! To help you with that, go to step 7.
  7. Accountability:
    So you have taken a decision. You mean business. But do you?
    To make sure you do, get accountability. Talk about your decision to people (maybe the same people from your support step). Put yourself out there so that you have to report on your progress.
Once you have completed these steps there is of course no guarantee that the decision you have taken is the right one.
But if you are really clear on your intention, then no decision is really wrong in the end.

And sometimes you have to adapt your intention because you change, situations change, life changes.

And that is ok.

It's okay to change direction.

It's also okay to fail and admit it was the wrong decision.

Any failure is really just an opportunity in disguise.

What decisions are you taking today? How clear are you about them? What is your intention?

Take a little test:
How good are your decision making skills?


Molly 21 October 2010 at 21:35  

I think the support is SO important in making big decisions. If I feel I've made a bad decision, my family or my best friends have always helped me see the positive. And it feels so great knowing I have that kind of support no matter what I decide!

Mindful Mimi 22 October 2010 at 09:12  

@ Molly: you are totally right. Support is as important as accountability. The support makes you feel good, tells you the truth, picks you up when you have screwed up. Sometimes they are the same as the accountability people. The latter has the extra value of making sure you keep going :-)
Thanks for visiting.

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