Because of the nature of my work at Experience Institute, I spend a lot of my days around people who have to navigate an array of decisions. They want to grow in their career, learn new skills and mindsets, or change something important in their life. In other words, there’s a lot of:
“OMG WHAT SHOULD I DO NEXT?!?!”
And thanks to the internet, everyone is comparing their life to someone else’s. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) used to just be a phrase used when missing an event. Now it feels like something used for life as a whole.
Ugh…I wish I would have gone to that Coldplay Concert.
Ugh…I wish I would have become an Engineer.
If you’re facing any type of decision, here’s a short list of things that may be helpful:
1. Trust your gut.
I know it seems ridiculous to turn to your stomach for a big decision, but it’s a great place to start. It’s not like your brain that’s trying to process a gazillion things all at once. Your gut relies on intuition. It takes all of your subconscious experiences and, when faced with a fork in a road, gives you a simple yes or no.
Is that too simple for you? Alright, fine. Keep reading.
2. Play out the scenarios quickly.
Take yourself through each decision, all the way to the very best possible ends. Write or draw them so you can see them in one glance.
Next, imagine a big magic button appearing next to you. Pressing that button would fast forward to one of those ends without any of the pain or challenge of getting there. Which decision would you choose?
Go with that one.
Sure, that perfect ending may not happen, and it certainly won’t happen without overcoming grand challenges along the way, but if that’s what your subconscious mind is thinking about, you’ll start steering towards that end once you make that decision. Even if you don’t reach the perfect conclusion, you’ll be on the right path.
Still stuck? Awesome. Let’s keep going.
This is a more advanced version of the previous route. Instead of you playing out all of the scenarios, find a few people you admire who’ve had to make a similar decision. What did they do? If anything has been published about their stories – articles, biographies, videos, etc – devour them.
You’ll never be in the exact position as someone else, so you can’t transfer everything perfectly. But you’ll find similarities that may help you make your decision.
4. Look inward.
Think through the last time(s) you’ve faced a similar decision. What did you do? Were you happy with the outcome? What would you have changed? Take time to reflect and write about your past experiences. Compare those moments to your current situation and let them help you navigate your tricky situation.
Another way to look inward is to lean on a few close family members, friends, or colleagues. Take them out to coffee and share what you’re thinking. Ask them for their perspective. And be sure to give them the brutal, honest facts. I’ve known too many people who use conversations with others as a way to validate a pre-made decision. If you have someone who truly wants the best for you, be open and let them into the entire situation.
5. Advise a friend.
Sometimes, these things are way too emotional. And emotions can cloud your judgement. So give the decision to a friend and remove yourself from the situation. If you were in the role of an advisor, what would you say?
6. Exercise, Eat, Sleep
These are three very good decisions. Not only should you be doing these regularly, but doing them amidst times of uncertainty will give you clarity of mind. And the momentum of doing a few simple, good things will help carry you in the right direction.
In fact, if you haven’t done these three things recently, you probably shouldn’t decide anything important at all.
7. Flip a coin three times.
Because if you’ve gotten to this point, one flip won’t be enough to satisfy you.
Just pick something and go all in. You’ll be ok.
Really. The secret with most good decisions is that they have little to do with external factors. They’re dependent on YOU and how you move ahead. If you work hard, stay positive, stay empathetic towards others, take care of yourself, and put yourself around others who do the same, you’ll be fine no matter what you choose.
The worst thing you can do is make a decision and then second-guess yourself from the moment you make it. That constant, nagging question of “What if?” is the thief of all joy, happiness, and sanity. The only way to put that to rest, is to stop looking back, and go all-in with the decision you’ve made for a period of time. You can always revisit it later. That’s normal. But after you make it, put it to rest for a while and go full steam ahead.
Overtime, you’ll get better with making decisions. You’ll become more wise, patient, and confident in your ability to make the best out of any situation.
So keep going. And if you need a coin to flip, I got you.
PS: This list is by no means comprehensive. If you have something you think I should add, send me a note on the internet. If you’re reading this, I’m sure you’ll be able to find me.