Have you ever had the experience where you’ve been unsure about a decision you had to make? I know I certainly have. Being in a state of indecisiveness can be physically and emotionally exhausting, plus delaying making a decision can impact one’s ability to lead or influence others.
The state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone is called ambivalence. When we’re in this state, we’re likely to ask ourselves questions such as, “Should I or shouldn’t I?” or “Am I doing the right thing or not?” or have thoughts like, “I hope this works out.”
In his book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill wrote, “Analysis of several hundred people who had accumulated fortunes well beyond the million-dollar mark disclosed the fact that every one of them had the habit of reaching decisions promptly and of changing these decisions slowly, if and when they were changed.” Being able to make decisions fast is like building a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets.
A few years ago, I experienced this state of ambivalence as I had to decide whether to enrol in a training program that would require a significant financial investment plus involve travelling overseas multiple times within an eight-month period. Here are five questions I asked myself to reach a decision that I felt was the right thing to do at that time.
- Do I really want this? While it may seem like such a simple question, one of the main reasons why people don’t get what they want is because they’re unclear about what they really want. Clarity is power! The clearer we’re able to articulate what and why we want something, the easier it becomes to decide whether to do or not do something.
In my situation, I had been waiting to enrol in the training program for a year so I knew I wanted to do it. However, other criteria had to be met before I could make a decision.
- Will it move me in the right direction? It is very rare for someone to make a decision that will impact their life in a negative way, unless there are unconscious patterns or sabotaging behaviours playing out. However that’s for another post. For the vast majority of people, whenever we make a decision, we expect there to be a positive return or outcome. We think it will move us forward in some way.
When I was going through the process of making a decision for that training program, I knew without any doubt that if I enrolled in the program, it would have a major positive impact on my business and also my own development. The benefits of enrolling in the training program outweighed the benefits of not enrolling in it.
- Will this decision put me or others at risk? We typically make decisions emotionally and justify them logically. What that means is that whenever we’re emotionally connected or even attached to something we really want, all logic leaves. While that approach has its benefits, there is also this concept of “buyer’s remorse,” meaning that people can have a sense of regret about a decision sometime after the decision has been made.
This question was the big one for me simply because of the financial commitment I had to make. I certainly did not want to put myself at risk financially however once I had worked out how I would be able to cover all the costs involved, making the right decision became a lot easier. The key for me was being willing to take a risk but not put myself at risk.
- By making this decision, will it violate any laws or the rights of others? This question may appear to be a little strange, however a decision can be reached through means that are in direct violation of laws or rights of people. For example, the leader of an organization could make a decision that could be deemed unethical, which in turn, could affect others in the organisation.
In my situation, I knew I wouldn’t do anything illegal or violate any laws hence I was comfortable that making a yes decision would not negatively impact me or others down the track.
- Will this be disastrous even if it doesn’t work out? I operate with the belief that nothing is ever disastrous. I’m not referring to making a poor judgement which could compromise one’s physical safety or well-being. Here, I’m referring to making a decision about a career, a relationship or a financial investment. For example, if a decision about a career or relationship ends up being the wrong decision, it can always be corrected and a new career or relationship can be found again. Similarly, a bad financial decision can be painful in the short term, but over the long run, one can always earn back more money.
For me, I knew that applying what I would learn in the training program would by my responsibility. It was up to me to take different actions as a result of completing the training program. Therefore I knew it wouldn’t be disastrous because at the end of the day, it was only a training program.
By putting myself through these questions, I was able to make a decision to enrol in that training program without the stress or internal turmoil I would normally have put myself through. Reflecting back on it a few years later, I can say it certainly wasn’t disastrous, it has helped me move forward with my career and business, it didn’t violate any laws or the rights of others, it didn’t put me at risk and I achieved something I really wanted to.
If you’re able to practice asking these questions when making decisions, it will make the whole decision-making process a lot easier plus help you develop your decision-making muscles. It is certainly worth having a go.
Question: What did you find most useful about these questions in relation to making decisions?
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