Did you have a Magic 8 Ball as a kid? I did. I loved asking it questions and shaking it until it gave me the answer I was looking for. My 11 year old daughter got her very own Magic 8 Ball (affiliate) for Christmas this year and I was reminded of its charm! Just like I had done (and without me telling her), she found herself re-shaking it until it gave her the answer she wanted to hear. Wouldn’t it be super if making decisions really was that easy? If only we could bring all of our troubles to the all knowing black orb and then shake it again when we didn’t like its answer.
This will come as no great surprise to you, but that’s not really the best tip for making good decisions. There are TONS of methods for making decisions – knee-jerk responses, flipping a coin, eenie meenie miney mo, one potato/two potato, and so on. But what we really need are methods for making GOOD decisions. The following tips are by no means a fool proof and complete list, but a nice jumping off place.
First and foremost, before any decisions are made, you need to set goals – personal and professional ones. What do you want your life to look like in 5 or 10 years. Do you want a career change, to move somewhere different, to get married, to have children, to write a novel? Figuring out what you want out of life will help you determine how your options fit in.
Here’s How to Make Better Decisions:
“How will this decision help me reach my goal?” Sometimes, decisions are made impulsively with the only consideration being what seems good/right/fun now with little thought to the big picture. For example, your spouse and you are saving for a down payment on your very first home. You’ve agreed that every extra dollar is going toward this dream. An email appears in your inbox from a cruise line advertising rock bottom prices on the vacation of your dreams. You must respond quickly. These rates will NEVER be this low again. Even if this deal is from a reputable company and is completely legit, you have to ask yourself if it fits in with the big goals you and your partner have set. Sometimes it’s ok to alter goals, but with major life goals, you have to be very careful not to be haphazard with them. If your goals are changing often, then they’re not really goals.
Can you help me work through this? Many of the most successful people around have advisory panels or at the very least, a mentor. Someone who has the kind of skills/talents/life you’re looking for is a GREAT place to start when you’re trying to make a decision. We’ve been fooled into believing that we have to know how to do everything on our own and asking for help is a weakness. The next time you or a loved one require a surgery, are you going to Google the instructions or are you going to let a qualified surgeon perform the task?
Weigh your options
It’s very hard to predict outcomes, but when you’re making decisions, it’s important to give your best fortune telling skills a try. Narrow your list of probable choices down to a list of 2 or 3. Then figure out how each choice looks days/weeks/months down the road. Compare those outcomes and see which one looks the best. During this process, separate emotion from fact as best you can. Keep it black and white.
Wait (or Don’t)
If you’re typically an impulsive decision maker, make a conscious effort to slow down and give it a little time. Impulsiveness with a record of bad choices tells you that there’s something wrong with your gut instinct. It can be overcome with time. Learning how good decisions look and feel helps you gain the confidence to trust yourself. On the other hand, if you have a habit of dragging out decisions – making tons of pro/con lists, asking your Facebook friends, Tweeting about it, waffling back and forth – you may want to give your gut a try. Major, life altering decisions don’t need to be made carelessly, but often, our initial response to things is the right one. So, if you often doubt yourself and make bad decisions, try trusting yourself and talking it through with knowledgeable folks and try to make it happen.
Don’t be paralyzed by your past
Everyone… seriously, EVERYONE makes bad decisions. It’s what you do next that sets you apart. Don’t let past poor decisions keep you from being willing to act. Each mistake truly is an opportunity to learn something. Bad choices do have consequences, but all things can work together for good if you’re willing to power through. This isn’t always easy. Sometimes the consequences really are terrible. But they become part of you and YOU decide whether they empower you or slow you down.
These just a few tips that can help with decision making. There are oodles of resources out there that are more reliable than the Magic 8 ball. Let trusted friends tell you “outlook not so good.” Let your intuition tell you “without a doubt.” And if you’re feeling like you’re being told “better not tell you now”, then maybe you just need to “ask again later.”