It’s in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.
– Tony Robbins
What decisions have had the biggest impact on your life?
In my life, there are a few that stand out. Where to go to college. Taking a job in tech instead of consulting or banking. Moving to Seattle. Getting married. Quitting my job to travel the world. Starting my business. Moving to Colorado.
When you think about your major life decisions, what was it like making those choices?
Was it hard? Was it easy?
Did you weight the pros and cons or just go with your gut instinct?
Every day we are making choices. Some seem big, and some seem small. Decisions can be exciting, but also a drain on energy and source of stress.
In this post, we will get to the heart of what decision-making really is, and find a way to make them less stressful and more effortless. I’ll specifically focus on two big mistakes we make. These errors keep us stuck and limit our potential.
If our destiny is shaped by our choices, moving towards free-flowing decisions (and away from analysis paralysis) is a crucial step to take.
1. Decisions are never big or small
Which is more significant decision:
(1) What to eat for dinner?
(2) Whom to marry?
Seriously think about that….
The irony of this question is that for years I was notoriously indecisive about mundane things like what to eat for dinner, what movie to see or what pair of socks to wear to work. However, when I met my wife, I instantly knew in my heart that we would be together. There was no deliberation. There was no struggle. It was an immediate sense of knowing what was right.
We create the illusion of decisions being big or small. Some choices seem ominous, while others are casual. Big decisions seem worthy of struggle and analysis. Small decisions seem easier to make because the stakes appear small.
It’s all an illusion.
The fact is….decisions are never big or small, they just ARE.
Decisions are things we make up in our minds. We assign choices a severity and criticality that is 100% arbitrary.
My decision of whom to marry would seem big to most people, but it was effortless to me.
Don’t believe me? Let’s conduct an experiment:
What are three choices you’ve made in your past, that were obvious and effortless, that would be a big and stressful ordeal for someone else?
If you are like me, you have dozens of examples of doing things without deliberation, that others would have struggled with for ages!
When we make decisions BIG, we create more pressure, stress, and anxiety. When we have more stress, we are getting in the way of the natural flow of how our minds are designed to work. We make terrible choices when we are under pressure!
I am not saying you should be reckless. I’m saying that if you are struggling your way through a decision, you should first get in a more resourceful and calm state of mind. Chill out and calm down. Then, you will notice that your capacity to decide will be evident. Your choice will be clear.
Decisions are not big…
Decisions are not trivial…
Decisions simply ARE.
If they don’t feel that way, it’s a sign that you are thinking way too hard. Go for a walk. Take a nap. Clear your head.
Then, see if an answer emerges!
2. Outcomes are never good or bad
What is a decision you have been struggling to make?
If you knew that no matter what choice you made, you would be OK and everything would work out in the end, what would you do?
Take a minute to come up with something right now…
The stress of decision making gets compounded when we pretend that there is such a thing as a bad outcome vs. a good result. We fret over making the best decision instead of just making a choice and moving forward.
How many times have you been stuck in analysis paralysis or find yourself doing nothing instead of making a choice and moving forward?
What’s so confusing is that there are entire fields of study around decision-making. Consulting firms make millions (billions perhaps?) helping teams work their way through all sorts of strategies and processes to support decision-making. Yes, even my coaching practice I’ve been known to use frameworks to help clients make better career choices.
My point isn’t to throw out the value of these tools, my point is that your mindset around decisions is the most important thing to notice and take care of first. When you trick yourself into thinking that outcomes are good vs. bad (or varying shades of good), you make everything harder than it needs to be.
Here’s an recent and personal example…
I recently purchased a new home. My wife and I spent a few weekends traveling around and touring dozens of houses. After spending hours visiting homes, we realized that none of them struck our fancy. Then, one sunny afternoon we stepped into a modest home on a quiet street. We both instantly felt good and right about it. We had a strong sense that this was the right home for us.
Then, later that evening, I was second guessing myself. I analyzed the comps for the home relative to others in the neighborhood. My thoughts kept saying that “This is a big decision, you better be careful and make the best choice!” I kept thinking that perhaps we should put off buying a home and wait for the perfect home to show up.
My thoughts were racing.
The more analysis I did, the more confused I got!
Then I had an insight I realized that I was pretending that there was such a thing as a “best choice” for a home. The truth was, as long as it felt right, met our needs and fit within our budget, that it would work out just fine.
I deleted my spreadsheet and took a nap. Then, with a clear head, we put an offer on the house.
We’ve now been in our home for over six months and are very happy with our choice!
The truth is, humans are remarkably resilient. We are all very good at landing on our feet, regardless of the choices we make.
Outcomes are not bad or good. They are just different.
No matter the choices we make, we end up finding a way to move forward in life. With this knowledge, our decision-making process can be less about finding an optimal result and more about making choices that are appropriate at the moment.
It’s at the moment that we are able to bypass the friction of excess thinking and obsession and tap into a more intuitive and objective choice.
We kid ourselves by pretending that we can even begin to know what the future holds and which choices will really be best for us.
We make up the idea that decisions are big (or small) and that some are worthy of being stressed about while others are inconsequential. We get confused by pursuing the optimal choice instead of picking something that is intuitively sound and moving forward.
Life shows us that in spite of making millions of choices, most of them happening without our conscious awareness, we have an uncanny capacity to land on our feet. With this understanding, we can tap into our deepest sources of insight and intuition, and make choices that have our best interests at heart.
Funny enough, when we approach decisions from this point of view, we get unstuck and move forward in life. We produce more, create more and achieve more. Decisions and our lives become less stressful and more joyful.
Less stress and more joy? Yes, please!
To me, that’s what life should be about.