How to approach a big decision
If talking hypothetically about making a big decision summons a sense of anxiety for you, then please know that you are not alone. Although some people do a fantastic job of being decisive when the need arises, we all wonder about the potential outcome should we have made a different choice.
It is natural to wonder, be curious, and explore a choice from different angles. This ability to problem-solve and consider multiple viewpoints is a part of what makes us human. But with great power comes great responsibility, and so it is also human and perfectly natural to worry about the potential outcomes of any decision we make.
We don’t want to make a bad choice; one that leaves us feeling guilty or looking foolish. We don’t want to live with regret either, so there is a lot at stake.
So knowing all this – how can we then make a good decision without getting stuck in the dreaded ‘analysis paralysis’, where we are unable to choose out of fear?
There is an excellent tool I use for this, that is so simple yet we overlook it so often. The trick is to write it all down; pros and cons, potential choices and potential outcomes. Yes, that’s really it!
Of course, writing it down helps you to see it all laid out in front of you, but there is a little bit more to this. Neuroscience can confirm that this actually helps to free up more of your attention to think clearly and choose well.
Our working memory has a capacity, which research suggests is around enough ‘brain power’ for seven things at once. So, if we hold more than seven things in our mind to work with, we are fighting a losing battle. You might know this feeling if you’ve ever revised hard at the last minute for an exam – your brain starts to feel really full from processing too much at once.
The simplest way to empty things from your working memory is to get them down onto paper. The moment that you do, you have more of your working memory back and are able to focus much better on your one big decision.
This simple tool can do wonders for the logical side of decision making, but there is of course the emotional, more human side of this to consider too. It’s great to come at big changes with your head clear, but don’t forget to also check in with your emotions.
How do you really feel, deep down beyond what the logic tells you to do? How about your gut – does it feel right to you?
A really well-rounded decision is a meeting of both logic and emotion. If you find that your head and your heart are in conflict over the decision to be made, then you may benefit from working with a coach to get to the bottom of your feelings.