I have never been great at making decisions. Unless I’m really clear about something, if it’s a strong yes or no, I will usually muddle around with it for a while, put together many pro/con lists and hope clarity comes to me. Because of this indecisiveness, I’ve become an expert at making key decisions.
Today I’m going to share with you some of the top ways I’ve learned about how to make smart decisions.
As some of you may know, I moved to northern Michigan from Evanston (outside of Chicago) a little over a year ago. I came up here because I’ve always loved this area and used to vacation here as a child. My husband and I even honeymooned here so it holds many special memories.
We started our journey here strong, especially since it was summer, the best time of the year to be here. We often remarked on how much we felt like we were on vacation and how wonderful it all was. But then late fall hit then winter and we felt like we had overstayed our vacation. Over the past several months we’ve gone back and forth around whether we should stay or should we go. It’s been an excruciating process at times but I’ve learned how to come at it from many different directions.
Making decisions (especially big ones) isn’t always easy but with these tools, it will make the process a whole lot easier. You can use each one on it’s own or combine them. Do what works best for you. They each come at it a little differently which helps broaden your perspective around the decision.
The Pain/Gain Model
I learned this technique from my coaching training (iPEC) and have shared it with many clients over the years with much success. It works great when you have a decision based on things staying the same versus making a change (like my moving or not moving).
Start by making a grid with four quadrants (as illustrated).
- First look at the pain of the current situation (BOX 1). What is bothering you with the current circumstances? Why are you thinking about making the change?
- Look at what you have to gain from the future situation (the change – BOX 4). What benefits will you have if you make the change? How important are they?
- Look at what you have to gain by staying in your current situation (BOX 2). What are the benefits of staying?
- Look at the pain of the future situation (BOX 3). What challenges will you have to make the change? What pains lurk in this change?
Once you have all these scenarios down, step back and ask yourself what do you think about all this information? This is all info that’s been swirling around in your mind. Now that it’s all out on paper, how does it make you feel? What jumps out at you? Which option is pulling you? Is there a clear winner?
If you could eliminate all the pain of change and find alternatives for the gains of staying the same, what would you want to do? If you could eliminate the pain of the current situation and find alternatives for the gains of the change, what would you want to do?
What I love/What I don’t love
I developed this technique while figuring out whether or not to move. It’s similar to a pro/con list however it’s more specific to what’s going on. Using this technique will help you get to the core of what’s working and what’s not working, coming from your heart versus your head. This option works best when you’re trying to decide between a current situation versus a future (unknown) situation, like whether or not to move.
- Start by listing all the things you love about the current situation.
- Next list all the things you don’t love about the current situation.
- To take things further, list reasons to stay in the current situation.
- List reasons to leave the current situation.
This technique helped me to discover that the reasons I loved the current situation (my current house) weren’t strong enough reasons to stay. However the reasons I didn’t love my current situation were strong reasons to leave.
Fear-based vs. Growth-based
I learned this technique today and love how it cuts through the truth of why you’re making the decisions you’re making.
To start you look at whether you’re making the decision based on fear or growth. To aide you in figuring this out, list all the fears around staying the same and all the benefits/growth opportunities for staying the same. Next look at all the fears of making the change and all the benefits/growth opportunities for making the change. Once you do this, you’ll gain clarity around whether your fears are causing you to stay the same or are the ones wanting you to make the change.
I used this technique combined with the what I love/what I don’t love technique to gain greater clarity around my decision whether or not to move. I discovered by doing this that I had fears around leaving my current home and growth opportunities around moving somewhere else.
The Body/Mind/Spirit Technique
I learned this technique from one of my spiritual teachers Mark Anthony Lord recently. It’s a wonderful way to check decisions and to determine which direction to go.
Start by closing your eyes and thinking about one possibility of your decision. For me, I thought about the possibility of staying. With this possibility in mind, taking in some deep cleansing breaths and consider how your mind thinks about this possibility. Don’t force or even think about your answers but instead allow your answers to come. What does your mind have to say about this possibility?
Once you’re clear about what your mind has to say, move down to your heart and ask your heart what it says and/or feels about this possibility. Because you’re down in your heart, chances are you’ll feel the answer more than think it. That’s OK. Make a note of how your heart feels about it before moving on.
Next move down to your gut. How does your gut feel about this possibility? Really allow the answer to come. Don’t force it. Sit with it as long as it takes for you to feel how your gut responds to your possibility.
Once your gut has given you its answer, move up to your crown chakra (at the top of your head) and focus on what your spirit has to say about this possibility. Be open to whatever comes.
Once you feel complete, open your eyes and make notes of all the responses you’ll receive. Some of them might contradict each other (like the mind vs. heart) and that’s ok. This exercise is meant to give you clarity around your choice, not necessarily to give you the “right” answer. For even more clarity, repeat this exercise with the other possibilities from your choice (i.e. if you did the possibility of staying, play with the possibility of moving).
Want help? If you need further help making your decisions and/or would like to discuss it more with someone not in the situation, schedule a strategy session with me. It’s all over the phone so you don’t need to be local. I can help you gain the clarity you desire.