How To Take Decisions You’ll Be Proud Of

Get un-stuck with three simple steps

It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities — Albus Dumbledore

This is my favourite quote from Harry Potter. It is empowering to think that making good choices is a better measure of character rather than just being capable or powerful.

Choices are powerful.

You’re making a series of choices right now — in reading this article, in agreeing or disagreeing with the ideas, and even in thinking about what you’ll do after you’ve read it.

What’s interesting is that unless you’re a professional poker player, chances are, you haven’t formally been taught how to make good choices.

No one has thought of including a subject at school on decision-making.

When was the last time you said, "I'm really proud of that decision". Even if you remember, do you know exactly how you took the decision? Are you confident in your decision-making abilities?

As for me, I've had my fair share of good and bad decisions and yet when it comes to new decisions I'm usually:

  • indecisive
  • unsure of my decisions if and when I make them and
  • constantly wondering if I made the right choice or if I just got lucky.

Over the years, through some reading and a lot of failed experiments, I've built a short framework to help address the issues that come with decision-making.

I don’t claim that this is a comprehensive framework, but it will help you take the first step towards better decision-making.

Overcoming Indecisiveness

There is a finality to the act of decision-making. And rightfully so. Choosing one thing usually eliminates many other choices. But choosing nothing puts all of the choices out of our reach. And yet, it’s easier to be indecisive and wait things out.

One way to combat indecisiveness is to build a limitation into the process. If you could only do three things today, which ones must they be and why? Answering this is easier than marking everything as top priority and not finishing a single one.

Another way to do this is to limit the number of hours for a task — if you only worked 4 hours today, what should you invest your time on? This will help you say no to a lot of unimportant things that are cluttering up your schedule.

Picking The Best Option

While this is largely subjective, I’ve noticed one quality that separates good decisions from poor ones. Good decisions don’t feel very good in the moment but feel great after you’ve made them. Poor decisions feel great in the moment, but make you feel much worse once the consequences start to materialize.

For instance, you could decide to exercise or study for a few hours per day, the decision doesn’t necessarily feel pleasant and the process may not always make you happy, but you almost always feel happy after you’ve acted on the decision. Just the way rough roads lead to pleasant destinations, hard decisions lead to favourable outcomes.

Dealing With Uncertainty

Life is a game of both skill and luck. This means you could make good decisions and things can still go wrong due to things outside of your control. There’s no way to escape this. There is a way to manage it though. You won’t always be 100% right or 100% wrong about something in most cases. Life simply isn’t black and white — the worst decisions could have a silver lining while the best ones will have a slight downside in some way or another. One way to use this to our advantage is to think about probabilities.

Is this decision going to solve all my problems? Is not a great question to ask yourself.

But, "Is there more than a 50% chance this will help me improve my life?"

That's something you can work with. You can take the first step with a question like that. The first question puts a lot of pressure on the mind. You can't answer it with certainty but the second question gives you some sense of direction to move forward.

If there's a decision you're struggling with right now, put it through the paces of the framework.

Let me know of your experience in the comments section.

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Author of 'How to be a Lighthouse'. I write for those pursuing excellence and meaning.

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