How To Make Good Decisions - And Stick to Them

Life is all about decisions.

From what foot to put out of bed first in the morning (or even, whether to get out of bed some days), to what task to tackle first at work or what cook for supper, it's Decision Central.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Some of us are great at making them, others not so. 

Some of us thrive on making big and important decisions but can still be found weighing up the pro's and con's on something as insignificant as, let's say, which books to take on a trip; (putting them in the suitcase, taking them out, putting them back in, taking them know the drill...) until ten minutes before they need to leave for the airport - having started the decision making process a full month beforehand.

And others are all over the small decisions, with life running as smoothly as you can imagine but a big decision sees them running and hiding under the duvet until it's gone away.

(Spoiler alert: It didn't, and they're still there).

And I'll leave you to guess who the bookworm is.

So if you're facing a big decision and looking for a bit of advice, here are my four top tips, and a couple of suggestions for sticking to them once they're made.

  1. Be clear on what you need to decide. I don't know about you, but there have been times when I've thought I was making a decision regarding A and B but when I looked a little closer I actually needed to decide between X and Y, with a little Z thrown in for good measure. Clarifying exactly what the situation is and what your choices are is the first stage in any decision making process. Make sure that you understand what's involved, who's involved, and what needs to be done - and go from there.
  2. List the pro's and con's. My second go-to decision making tool is always listing the good and bad of each possible solution in their entirety. Anything that might impact, help, or hinder your decision - and then the implementation of that decision - needs to be on the list. Include how you feel about each one, as well as the long and short term implications too. It needs to be an exhaustive list, and can't be done effectively overnight. But then, the best decision making, and its research, does often take a little time. However, if you have to make an on the spot decision, you can do much worse than go with your gut instinct. Never tried it? Give it a go. Tried it but don't do it often? Start doing it. Instinct is one of the best tools we have when it comes to decision making.
  3. Go wild! I'm not suggesting that you muss up your hair and roar a bit (although that may well bring out some inner, hitherto un-recognised, decision making skills in you), rather that you embrace every solution to your problem and add them to your list. No idea is off the table. Think outside the box, put yourself in the shoes of the other people involved in the decision (clients, colleagues, bosses, friends, family members, partners etc), and let your mind run wild. Often it's the seemingly nuts and out there ideas that yield the best results; innovative, blue sky thinking can sometimes be just what your decision doctor would prescribe. Indeed, some of my best decisions have been made when I've embraced the alternative view of a challenge.
  4. A wrong decision still has the potential to be a good decision. So here's the thing. We don't always make the right decision first. But that's OK! Better to make a decision, even if it's not the one that's going to totally solve the problem, than it is to sit still and not move forwards for fear of failing. Ah, those two words again... Fear and failure. How many times have you been loathe to make a decision because it's too big to handle, you hope someone will magically appear to solve it for you (and have they?!), or you're just too plain worried in case you get it wrong? Yet the only person who is eminently qualified to make decisions in your life, is YOU! And, ultimately, the only person who is going to be affected by those decisions, is YOU. So cast off the worry, follow points 1-3, and believe that whether your decision works out or not (and our decision making skills get better the more we use them), it'll all be OK in the end. And sometimes even the worst of wrong decisions can turn out to offer something even better than the best decision might have done. Funny how that works, isn't it.

So once you've made your decision, how can you make sure that you stick at it?

  1. Remember why you're doing it. Sometimes we need to make a decision because change is needed, or we feel the pull towards something new. Neither of these are easy, I'll be the first to agree. However, remembering why you're following the path you're on, or what it was about the old situation that made you want to do something new - and how good, or bad, it made you feel - can often be the motivator we need to stick at it. So dig deep and keep going.
  2. It takes, on average, 66 days to get into a habitFor some people, it can take up to 254 days. Expecting to be able to just merrily carry on with the new version of your life after your great decision making can be at the heart of why you might struggle; so remembering that the best decisions, and their implementation, don't come easy will aid you in carrying out your plans.

Have you made a decision that you'd like to celebrate? Or do you have a foolproof technique for making them? I'd love to know more. Just comment below!