Making Difficult Decisions

Written by Molly McCafferty of CincyStateofBeing.

Decisive is not an adjective that I would use to describe myself. At my best, this lack of decisiveness makes me easygoing, down for whatever, open minded, and agreeable. But, at my worst, this trait can be a total mental drain for myself and those that love me, work with me, and interact with me.

Should we cook, or eat out? If we’re eating out, do we choose Aladdin’s or Maplewood? Should we sit inside or out? Salad or sandwich? These decisions, though small, compile, and the constant analyzing can be exhausting. When it comes to larger decisions, my mind tends to spiral even more. All of a sudden, deciding to switch jobs or move cities or date that guy turns into night-long, week-long, too-long thinking sessions. In my mind, I’m 10, 20, 50 years down the road, playing out every possible positive or negative scenario that might happen along the way.

“We don’t have all the answers.”

I’ve tried countless ways of dealing with making tough decisions. I’ve “slept on it,” drank a few glasses of wine to avoid it, arbitrarily made a decision just so that it was over with and I could move on (my personal go-to), consulted with every single friend and family member I have for input, and connected with the inner institution of myself through self-reflection.

I found that the latter, self-reflecting and connecting with my gut, has been most effective. In my experience, this method has supported decisions that were the best for me in that moment while calming my mind (aka protecting my overall health and well-being, and saving me many sleepless nights).

”The only thing certain is today, and there is a lot to be said about gut feelings.”

If you are like me and struggle with making decisions, I highly recommend reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. This book changed my life. Here are some tried-and-true hacks for decision-making that I learned from Brené, and a few others along the way.

  1. Quit it with the perfection. There’s no such thing as a perfect decision. You will never know all the answers and the ramifications. People that are decision-maker pros “leap without all the answers and trust that they’ll be able to build their wings on the way down.”

  2. When fear talks, it’s always wrong. In other words, do not make a decision based on fear. By taking fear out of the equation, you are able to focus on the options without a cloud of fear fogging your mind.

  3. Look for patterns. The last time you were faced with a decision like this, what actions did you take? What did you learn from those actions? By creating patterns, you are able to take the stress out of decision-making, even create automation.

  4. Take a break from overthinking. My most insightful thoughts come when I am not looking for them. By getting into your body, switching tasks, or being physically active, you give your brain the chance to scan for information that is “stored and waiting to be retrieved.”

  5. Lastly, my favorite: Don’t solve a problem. Make a decision. A decision can solve a problem, but not every problem can be solved by making a decision. Making a decision relies more on intuition than analysis.

In her book, Brown emphasizes that while we love to believe that we are rational creatures, at the end of the day, emotion drives our decision-making process.

What I have learned the most in my path to being a better decision-maker is that the only thing certain is today, and there is a lot to be said about gut feelings. As Brené puts it, “Intuition is not a single way of knowing – it’s our ability to hold space for uncertainty, and our willingness to trust the many ways we’ve developed knowledge and insight, including instinct, experience, faith, and reason.”

So, by trusting our gut, we are trusting the previous knowledge and insight we have gathered throughout our life to make the decision that “feels right.” We don’t have all the answers. All we can do is make the best decision with what we do know, and trust that we can handle whatever comes our way next.

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