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I Know How to Make a Decision! Or Do I?

By Will from Holland

Are you ever in doubt?

  • Maybe
  • Who knows?
  • Sometimes, and sometimes not

Imagine this: Within the next six months, you will have to choose which college you'll attend and what exactly you want to study. Yikes!

As a kid, you dreamed about becoming a veterinarian or about gallivanting around the globe. But that was then.

Now, all you can think about is moving out of your parents' home, going to business school and having a big career in business. You dream about making money, driving a nice car and living in a nice house.

But at the same time, you want to do good deeds, help people and make the world a better place for people and animals. Above all, you want to be successful and do well in life.

All of these choices and decisions: Which way to go?

Let's say you managed to narrow down your choices and you're looking at either becoming an accountant or a sales director. You also have your eye on two different colleges. One is the school where most of your close friends are studying, while the other has a better reputation for its business school.

What should you do? Which job would you ultimately prefer? Which school should you attend? What if you don't like this "serious life" after all? Should you try traveling instead? Are you in doubt?

Ah, the luxury! You may not have thought about this, but isn't it a great luxury to have choices? Having choices means that you can actually select the option that offers you the most yield or return.

Of course, there's a huge difference between choosing which clothes to wear today and whether or not you should buy a house. But no matter how insignificant the first choice may appear, it can have a crucial impact. For example, selecting shorts and a t-shirt to wear when you're heading to a job interview would definitely not be ideal for most professional career opportunities.

So, how do you come to a decision, big or small?

When you need to make a big decision, it is helpful to break the decision-making process into small steps. Let's say you're thinking about going to a big school far away. Make a list of all the choices that have to be made before you make the final commitment to that school. For instance, where will you live? Can you afford to come home regularly if you want to? Will you be comfortable going to a big school? Stuff like that.

When you need to make a small decision, try to be very critical and selective. Einstein (1879-1955) stated, "We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them." Here are examples to explain what he meant. You cannot solve your money problems by borrowing more money. Doing that would only make your problem larger by creating more debt. Similarly, if the results of your past decisions have left you wondering where you went wrong, maybe you need try a new decision-making approach to feel more confident that your choices are good ones.

Decision-making tips & tricks

  • The past — Don't dwell on poor choices you may have made in the past. You can't change the past, but you can definitely learn from it.
  • The present — Make a balance sheet, a simple list of pros and cons for every individual decision you must make. Look at what you hope to achieve and then develop the steps you'll need to reach that dream. Go over your list thoroughly. Focus on what is important to you and don't worry about things that are not a priority at that moment.
  • The future — Where do you want to be in life, five years from now? Which of your current choices gives you the clearest path to that situation? If five years is too far away for you, think of your future three years, or even 12 months from now. You can also look at the big picture by extending your thinking to 10-25 years down the road.
  • When you're looking at a big decision, ask yourself: If there was no risk attached to this decision whatsoever, which choice would you make?
  • Emotions vs. clear thinking — Be sure you know whether this is an emotional decision or a sensible one. A sensible decision is not always fun. Get used to that reality. But an emotional decision may be a lot less fun in the long run. Listen to your gut when you're fighting the ‘emotion vs. clear-thinking' battle. If your emotions say, "I just have to go around the world," but your gut says, "Are you really just running away from tough decisions?"—listen to your gut!
  • Ask and listen — Many times, someone who knows you well will be honest with you and can be a big help. Ask your best friend (if your best friend is really a good person to ask) what he or she would do and why. Really listen to the answer and their reasoning. Does it ring true?
  • Whatever the decision, here's a reality — There are often multiple ways to attain your dreams and very few choices are really "wrong" in life, as long as you learn from your experiences.

I hope these tips and tricks will help you make your selection process easier. Do remember that, whatever your decision challenge is, making a choice you feel good about will be a great relief in both the short-term and the long.

Cheers, Will