Working with ‘creative indecision’ to make difficult decisions
All too often, when faced with making a difficult life-changing decision we can over analyse our situation and become ensnared in ‘analysis paralysis’. We become so confused by the plethora of factors, options and so worried about the consequences of making the wrong decision that we freeze and are quite unable to make a rational decision. This sometimes results in dithering and putting off the inevitable or making an ill-informed and unwise decision.
This 10-steps process aims to breakdown the process into manageable stages and stimulates the all-important process of creative thinking or ‘creative indecision’, as I prefer to call it.
1) Establish a deadline
Have an end date to aim at and commit to this time-frame.
2) Think creatively about the future
Most ideas are not very good, so the best way to get a good idea is to generate lots of ideas. So we need to engage creative ‘right-brain’ thinking to explore the unconscious mind where many important messages reside.
To encourage creative thinking it is often necessary to abandon our impulse to make lists using logical ‘left-brain’ thinking and to adopt more unrestricted and messy ‘right-brain’ activities. Here are some creative ‘right-brain’ activities to free up your thinking regarding the decision you need to make.
- drawing pictures to explore the present and desired futures
- listening to your metaphors
We use metaphors very frequently in our everyday speech sometimes without noticing them. A metaphor can be a window on to our unconscious mind. Some commonly used metaphors include:
- "light at the end of the tunnel"
- "flogging a dead horse"
- "the elephant in the room"
- "left high and dry"
- "point of no return"
- "slippery slope"
So, having heard yourself using a metaphor about your situation try asking yourself:
- "What kind of X………. is that?"
- "What does being like X…….. feel like?"
- "Is there anything else about X…....?"
- "What happens just before X…….?"
- "What happens just after X……?"
By asking yourself questions about the metaphors you use, you might uncover some unconscious messages about your situation and unlock your thinking about the decision.
I believe that creative thinking is a vital precursor to more structured and coherent thinking about important life-changing decisions. It is a stage that can be revealing and also fun, so it is worth sticking at it and pushing ideas, even to the point of absurdity, to see where they end up. Go with the flow and try to maintain an open mind.
3) Decide on your values
Choose three words that someone who knows you well would use to describe you. Also, make a list of your values as you see them. What does the description of you tell you about your motivations and the decision to be made?
4) List options
Now, having undertaken some creative thinking about your future and considering your values you might be thinking about the decision in a different manner. So, now make a tentative list of potential decisions, and try to be open-minded and include even ‘wacky’ options.
5) Information gathering
Having created a list of potential decisions it is time to get practical and start applying ‘left-brain’ thinking. For each option ask yourself:
- "What do I need to know?"
- "Why do I need to know this?"
- "How do I go about finding it?"
6) Weigh–up risks of making the wrong decision and the benefits of making the right decision
This is an important decision which could result in life-changing consequences, both good and bad. So you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- "How serious would it be if I made the wrong decision?"
- "What are the benefits of making the right decision?"
- "How bad is the worst outcome?"
- "How likely is the worst outcome?"
7) Weigh-up pros and cons
For each potential decision draw up a list of pros and cons, then carefully consider the lists and weigh-up the positives and negatives of each outcome.
8) Make a decision
Now this is the tough bit. It is the moment to take the leap of faith and make a decision. Remember that making a decision is often an uncomfortable process, so just accept this and give it a go.
9) Does your decision feel comfortable?
This is the moment for checking in with right-brain thinking again and trusting your intuition. Does the decision feel comfortable?
- Yes, go to stage 9
- No, review previous steps.
10) Action plan
Assuming that you wish to proceed with your decision, an action plan is required. Here are some questions you could ask yourself:
- "What needs to happen now?"
- "What is the timescale?"
- "What could cause problems?"
- "How can I get around these problems?"
- "How do you mitigate the risks of making this decision?"
Big decisions are always tough to make but I hope the 10-step plan helps.
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About David Rendle
David Rendle has a level 7 diploma in executive coaching and mentoring and he is a member of the Association for Coaching. He works mainly, but not exclusively, in schools as he has had a career in teaching. He uses coaching tools, thoughtful questions and insights from cognitive behavioural coaching to facilitate deep thinking and solutions.