How is it, paradoxically, that sometimes having the freedom of choice can make us less happy?
When it is time to make a decision and we don’t know what to do, the brain weighs up the pro’s and con’s of both sides. This is what we have been taught. Almost like a very quick mini SWOT analysis.
Naturally, when you are in a situation where you have to decide between two or more options, you will chose the option with the most positive benefits.
Then sometimes you get that ‘feeling’. And now you’re stuck. Both options have now got an ‘equal’ amount of pro’s and con’s. Has this ever happend to you?
This doesn’t just have to be for the big decisions like getting married, choosing a career or moving country. It can also be for the every day smaller decisions, like whether to go to the gym, out with friends, what clothes to wear or even what to eat from the menu.
You are left indecisive for minutes, hours or even weeks and months.
Firstly, what is the cost of not making a decision?
The natural one is worry and anxiety about the future. When you worry, this impacts your health. An obvious point. But how seriously do we actually take this?
We may miss other great opportunities or moments in life. If the decision has to be made over several days or weeks it makes it more difficult to focus on life. Perhaps we are blinded to other opportunities while the mind is occupied with doubt.
I know when I am like this, my whole energy is impacted and I don’t live in the present moment at all. It happened in April this year when I had to make big career decision. This went on for weeks. Both jobs had great benefits but different types. They were not measurable on a scale. One gave me a stable life with good income and the other an opportunity to fly around the world, get promoted work on amazing clients but potentially long hours. It was like comparing apples with pears. Without knowing, my health was being impacted as I was pulled between the two choices. It would always be on the back of my mind wherever I was, whatever I was doing. Looking back it seems ridiculous but when you are in that position, it feels like your biggest priority to resolve.
“Worrying is really just a misuse of imagination”
Secondly, why does this indecisiveness happen? What makes it so hard to make the decision?
1. Fear of being wrong. It’s a survival technique. I did not know what each career choice would actually turn out like. Perhaps I would have enjoyed travelling the world. Or working in senior exec position. But what if my stable life allowed me to pursue charitable events outside of work and that actually made me more happy? How do I know what the future looks like? What if I regret the decision I make and then I am unhappy? The same applies to smaller decisions. What if eating pizza made me more happy but instead I chose pasta which didn’t taste great. I don’t want to be wrong and both are equally nice in their own way, therefore I’m stuck.
2. Not having faith in my own decisions. Connected to the first point but this is more about not trusting myself or the decision I make is the right one. I met a lady recently at UBS Culture Awareness Network event, who is senior Exec at Deutsche Bank. She told me how over the years, whether it was interviewing people or strategic corporate decisions how she relied more strongly on her intuition. She was completed attuned to her intuition which gave her a lot of belief in her decisions. It doesn’t mean she’s not weighing up the facts, but when choices are hard to separate we have to turn to another deciding factor – what does your gut say.
3. We do not actually know much about ourselves. This is why we are indecisive. I chose the less enjoyable, safer job, stable life with more free time. Yet I thought life was about big promotions, city jobs and top executive positions. The values that I intend to have are different to the values that I actually have. Having a hard decision makes us learn this. Hard decisions can be considered a blessing!
“Every hard decision you make, regardless of the outcome, will teach you something about yourself. Therefore, welcome the hard decisions.”
Thirdly, When we have to make a hard decision, what can we do to enable us to make the right decision, quickly?
What if you were the type of person that can make hard decisions quickly? And be happy with your choice.
I’ve had to learn some tough lessons when making decisions. So here are some techniques that help make a decision quickly and confidently.
1. Know first of all that any decision you make there will be loss of one good thing but a gain in another. That’s why there is a deadlock. Accept the loss. I’m not travelling around the world with promotions but I also accept that there is much more to life than working long hours. In this, I realised I value both time and money. But I value time over money.
2. Have self belief in your decision. Believe what your ‘gut’ says. Eastern philosophy believes the energy we have is sourced from our gut. The gut instinct is also a survival technique that all beings have – it comes as part of the package when we get our bodies. Trust your gut instinct and trust that whatever you decide is the right thing. That pizza may have been great but it may have made you sick. Therefore, the pasta you chose even if you did not like the taste when you had it was the right decision at the time.
“You will make the right decisions, if you believe you are right. Be defiant in your self-belief.”
3. Be open to learn. Therefore, you can’t be wrong. Regardless of the decision you make, you will learn something about yourself that you did not know before. This is an invaluable lesson. Make the decision, learn from it and better yourself for next time.Share on Facebook