Do you feel like you’re a good decision maker?
The older I get, the more I feel like being decisive is a true blessing – you can spend so much of your life waffling over every decision big or small and it can get in the way of being able to make progress.
Plus, I think for most people, that waffling is endlessly exhausting. To stew over every single decision – from where to go to dinner to whether or not to buy a house – can just wear you down so much.
I hear from so many people who hate how indecisive they are, but don’t know how to become better at decision making.
I’m definitely not an expert, but here are eight things that help me MAKE decisions instead of spending so much time worrying about making a decision.
8 Tips for Being a Better Decision Maker
- Practice. This is my NUMBER ONE suggestion for being a better decision maker. You’d never get better at playing the piano without actually playing. You wouldn’t become a better skier without actually getting on the mountain. It’s unrealistic to assume that someday you’ll just magically make better decisions without actually practicing making decisions. The good news about life is that it will give you opportunities to practice making decisions if you take advantage of them. Recognize all those opportunities and see them as practice, instead of horrifying mountains to climb on a daily basis (that second way of living is EXHAUSTING).
- Acknowledge that for MOST CHOICES, there isn’t a right or wrong option. Most options aren’t between a clear right or wrong option. A Toyota Sienna or a Honda Odyssey? They’re both great cars – pick one and move on instead of agonizing endlessly about which one might be a tiny bit better. A family trip to Hawaii or Mexico? There will be pros and cons to each. Trying to find the absolute best option every single time you have to make a decision is paralyzing. Put your practice into action and choose one.
- Recognize that not making a decision is actually making a decision. If you’re trying to decide whether or not to go on vacation and you just can’t make up your mind and end up going nowhere? That was a decision. And maybe not the one you wanted.
- Realize that being indecisive probably isn’t as “nice” as you think it is. When someone asks where you should go to dinner and you say, “Oh, I don’t care,” it might feel like you’re being super affable. In reality, it’s usually not that helpful for the other people involved. Now it’s entirely up to them to figure out where to go to dinner, what color to paint the living room, where to stay on vacation, what you want for your birthday, and on and on. That’s a big weight to put on someone else to always be making all the decisions – it’s so much easier when someone is willing to say “I’m in the mood for sushi” or “I’d really like this pair of shoes for my birthday.”
- Don’t label yourself as indecisive. Words are powerful and if you’re in the habit of continually saying “I’m so indecisive” or “I’m just bad at making decisions,” your brain is soaking in that truth and making it MORE true. Instead, say “I’m practicing making good decisions!” or “I’m getting better at making decisions” or “I’m really a pretty decisive person.” Even if it doesn’t feel true to you (yet), it’s helpful to start training your brain to see yourself as decisive and unhelpful to keep pounding into your brain that you’re the worst at making decisions.
- Ask yourself what’s the worst thing that could happen. What happens if you choose a paint color and it’s not great? You can repaint! Or you buy the dress and it doesn’t fit? Return it! If you buy a new house and hate it, you can move. For most choices, you’re not going to go bankrupt or end up in prison or dead – make a decision, let it play out and then learn from it.
- Match the mental energy you’re giving a decision to the gravity of the decision. Deciding to quit your job or have a baby or move across the country are pretty big decisions and deserve some thoughtful consideration before you make a decision. Where to go to dinner with friends next weekend does not deserve the same amount of mental energy and stress. I say aloud to myself, “Is this actually a big deal? Do I want to be this stressed about this?”
- Leave the past in the past. Sometimes you do make a decision you regret. That’s life – it’s going to happen! If you picked the wrong entree at dinner, don’t let it ruin your whole night. Next time you’ll do better. Or you made a big financial mistake that can’t be undone. Continuing to stew endlessly about it isn’t going to change things – it’ll just make that mistake impact your life MORE. Learn from your mistakes and then let them go.
Any other tips for getting better at decision making? What works for you? I’d love to hear!
Great ideas! I’m working on being better at making decisions. Two helpful books are Don’t Overthink It and The Lazy Genius Way.
Something I consider a lot more now is how my decisions are impacting those around me. I have a lot to learn, but it might be buying from my local bookstore or BIPoC business, voting with those most oppressed in mind, seeking out the views of people who are often silenced, or allowing them to make the decision instead of me. First Name Basis Podcast, which you introduced me to, is one resource that is teaching me a lot about these ideas.
Thanks, Janssen, this post really got my thoughts going this morning!
Kelly Jensen says
These are GREAT ways to become more decisive. One thing I do and find helpful is eliminating the “should” from smaller decisions. If I’m debating between two tops, for example, I don’t let the should get in the way (“I own plenty of black shirts, so I should get this purple one”). In what would “should” I do that? If I want the black top, it’s because I want the black one, not that I think I “should” get a different color. And the thing is, I know which one I’d wear and make worthwhile because I didn’t “should” myself.
Janssen Bradshaw says
Oh, this is a REALLY useful lens! Thanks for sharing – I totally fall into that trap of ignoring what I really want because of the “should.”
Oh #4, there’s a couple of people who always do that to me. I don’t want to make every decision!