Some of us struggle with making decisions. Some of us fail to follow through. Then there are people like me, who find it difficult to make the “right” choice and stay motivated to see it through. There are five questions we can ask ourselves when making important decisions — setting us up for success.
5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Making Important Decisions
Being decisive isn’t about making quick decisions without thinking — it’s about considering all the outcomes and implications and then coming to a conclusion. If we get stuck in the world of “what if,” we fail to make the most of our opportunities. Give yourself a chance to succeed by using these questions to feel out your next big decision.
1. Does this decision align with one (or a few) of the goals I currently have set for myself?
I talk a lot about goal setting because I think that personal goals and life goals are equally important. They help us to find contentment in being a work in progress. Read more about setting those bigger overarching “life goals” in my other blog post. If you already know your bigger goals, it becomes instantly easier to use them to make decisions.
Big life decisions should point you towards the person you want to be. One of my “always a work in progress” life goals is to practice intentional contentment in my life. If I were faced with the opportunity to take a high-stress job for more money, my decision to turn it down would be based on who I want to be — not on the short-term benefits of extra cash.
2. Does this decision require me to set a new personal goal?
Sometimes we are faced with a decision that came out of the blue. You might not have considered this direction or opportunity at all before. In those cases, it might be time to create a new personal goal (as long as it still aligns with your larger life goals). Once you have the new goal set up, you can make your decisions within its framework.
For example, I have had the opportunity to see many of my friends and family members have babies and continue to grow their family over the last several years. Seeing their successes and struggles with having young kids at home and working full-time spurred me to consider my career decisions. The decision to prioritize family over a career led me to set a new personal goal: create another stream of income so that I can spend more time at home with my family. This new personal goal aligns itself with my larger “always in progress” life goals, and it serves as the framework for my career aspirations.
3. Are the number of options or potential directions keeping me from making a decision?
When we’re tasked with decision-making, there are almost always more than two directions to go. Sometimes that’s a good thing, and other times the number of options can make us feel helpless and unmotivated to move forward. We get stuck in the “what if” mindset that keeps us frozen in place. We might put off decision making, or even worse, miss an opportunity completely due to our own fear of making the wrong choice. The best thing we can do is to consider all the options available to us and then, using our personal and life goals as a reference, choose a path and refuse to look back.
I watched a TEDtalk by Barry Schwartz (The paradox of choice) once about the negative power of having too many options, and how a lack of decisiveness and commitment to a decision increases our unhappiness with whatever choice we make. I remember this whenever I am faced with a decision and it motivates me to consider my options (if I have any) and make the call without spending time afterwards in the world of “what if.”
4. Do I have a “gut instinct” that is leading me one way or another in regards to this decision?
There’s always something to be said about how our instincts play into our decisions. Sometimes we make a pros and cons list and still feel incredibly tempted to make the less logical decision. It makes sense to give our “gut” a chance to affect our decision-making when it comes to life-altering choices. However, it’s also important to remember that our “gut” could also be fear of making a riskier choice that might pay off in the long-run. Before allowing our instincts to make a big call, consider any of the anxiety or other emotions you are feeling. If your “gut” sounds an awful lot like a high school bully telling you that you aren’t worth the risk, it’s better to ignore it.
However, in some cases, your “gut” is a deeper feeling from your heart or mind that is leading you towards a particular decision — and you might not even know why. When I toured my college campus (in a wheelchair post-knee surgery, in the rain) I got a “gut feeling” that it was the right fit for me. It didn’t have a special program I was dying to be a part of, it wasn’t the most prestigious option, and it wasn’t where my friends were going. I just knew that it was where I was supposed to be.
5. How will my decision impact the people around me? Should they be given an opportunity to offer input?
If you are a single person with some cash in hand and a healthy body, you are in the prime position to make decisions without having to worry too much about other people. However, many of us are married, with kids, with a career, with debt, without a lot of money, etc. In these cases, our decisions are going to impact important people in our lives, and it might be worth asking for their input. Asking for input doesn’t mean that you are putting aside your wishes and goals, but hearing another person’s perspective can add some additional context to your decision-making process. Nobody wants to hear this these days, because we’re all so “independent” and don’t “need anyone,” but making decisions with the important people in your life means having support — and support when you’re taking a risk is really, really important.
When I was looking to leave my first job after college, and received an offer for my current position, I was faced with a big decision. I would be making more money, but would be losing some of that money and some of my time by adding a daily commute. Of course, I wanted to jump at the chance to take a new job, but because my decisions impact my husband and the future of our family, it was important for me to take his input into consideration before I made the call. Not only did he feel more invested in my new job, but he was excited to celebrate it with me because it felt like “our” decision, rather than just my own.
The Best Decisions Start with Great Goals
Whether you decide to walk through all of these questions, or even just a couple, the next time you’re faced with a big decision — it’s important to give yourself direction. Starting by setting some of your most important life and personal goals is like laying the foundation when building a home.
If you want to anchor decisions and dreams, set the goals that will help you prioritize and simplify your life. Too many choices without a defined direction is enough to make us all a little crazy. Head over to see my Life posts — get yourself inspired and motivated to choose contentment and prioritize your life along with me.