Saturday, 28 February 2015

Decision making - 5 quick tips on how to navigate your choices and avoid traps!

(Credit: Shutterstock)
Decisions, decisions, decisions...

Some decisions are instantaneous, almost operating in a subconscious area of awareness. But others may be arduous decisions whose magnitudes seem to overwhelm our abilities to be confident in our final decision.

Here are 5 tips to help you through your next big decision:

1) Flip a coin:
No, I don't mean in the typical sense of leaving your life's path up to the randomness of a piece of metal, but to use it as a gauge to determine your real feelings on the decision you're facing. This is an especially helpful tip if you aren't sure what your opinion on your choices is yet.
Take a coin (any denomination) and assign one choice to the heads side, and the other choice to the tails side. (If you have more than two choices, work with the two most dissimilar choices first, or separate the choices into different groups and assign one group to a side of the coin). Flip the coin and let it land on your hand and cover it without looking. This next point is important: Focus very carefully on what your gut reaction to the result is; if you are looking for some direction in how you might really be feeling about a particular decision, this is a helpful trick. If your reaction to the side that shows is fairly negative, you can be a little more certain that it might not be the choice for you.

2) Pros and Cons list:
This method is more for evaluating the costs and benefits of a particular choice option. It is fairly basic, but can be really enlightening if you are needing a little clarity on where your priorities lie when it comes to the decision you're facing. On one side of a piece of paper, write out "Pros" as a heading, write "Cons" on the other side. Divide them with a line down the centre if you like. Fill in the "Pros" side with as many good or beneficial points regarding the choice in question. Your "Cons" side should be populated with as many bad or negative points. If your choice in question was regarding a decision to quit your job, you could evaluate the "Quit my job" option with a pros or cons list. If it was overall a good idea, some of the pros-points might include "more time to pursue my passions", "availability to my family", "go back to school", etc. Some cons-points might include "financial hardship", "resume gap", "society impression of me as unemployed", etc. What you write in as your points for each side is really up to you. This process will help you to understand the full consequences of your decisions.

3) Get some objectivity:
It is often difficult to pull back from your subjective experience of reality, and really examine your life in an objective way. When making a particularly daunting decision, it can get pretty emotionally confusing. Getting objectivity is a good way to get above the cloud of feelings on the matter and start looking at some facts. It is easiest to be objective if you have a friend or support-person to help you examine your situation. Ensure the person you share your decision making conundrums with has your best interest in mind. It doesn't help you to take advice from someone who doesn't care for your well-being.

4) Prototype matching*:
This is a really interesting way of basically "getting out of your own head" to make a decision. It takes your personal experience in the outcome out of the decision and allows you to basically compare yourself against the "type" of person who makes each decision choice. The process starts by imagining the typical person of each choice. You then compare yourself against this prototype person and determine how well you fit those characteristics. Because we are constantly comparing ourselves to others, it's a very intuitive process. The type of person who best matches you likely aligns with the decision which may suit you better. It also works to prototype match against qualities that best define your ideal self or where you may see yourself in the future. This will help you to make decisions more supportive of your future goals.

5) Think in black and white:
This sounds counter-intuitive to how to think on a daily basis about the world, but this technique can be a really helpful way to avoid 'analysis paralysis', where you are overwhelmed by all the variables of each option and you are essentially frozen in indecision (indecision is a choice, too, by the way!).
This is a really raw way to view your choices. Label them as either good or bad, and make your choices on their qualifier. This process will allow you to quickly weed out the poor choices, and focus in on the more appropriate choices for your decision. This is very helpful for those who tend to get stuck in the analysis paralysis trap!

There can be a lot of fear in decision making, usually due to change, but there can also be a lot of freedom. If you allow your decision-making processes to scare you into indecision, you run the risk of losing control over your life. If you face the fears, you manifest your independence and know that you shaped your course through time!

Conquer on!

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Other topics you may be interested in: 

 What motivates you?

Engine for Change - Motivation for self-relection and self-improvement. 

A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step

Overwhelmed? Carve a staircase out of a wall!

 One day at a time 


*Prototype matching: A strategy for social decision making. Niedenthal, Paula M.; Cantor, Nancy; Kihlstrom, John F.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 48(3), Mar 1985, 575-584.



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  2. Thanks for stopping by and I am glad you've found some helpful things on the site! It's good to know you are helping people :)