Are you confident in your own decisions? Are you able to say decisively that you do what you want to do, say what you really mean, and take actions with authority?
If you’re sick of hesitating, second guessing yourself, and relying on everyone else for signs of what to do or say next, then stick with me, because today we’ll be discussing the best way to gain control over your own mind so that your decision-making process can become much stronger and easier.
Decisions are a huge part of life, and people who have less confidence in themselves tend to avoid them, causing them to miss out on life’s greatest rewards.
When you have trouble making decisions, you take yourself out of the running for upper-level positions at work; you miss out on relationship opportunities; you waste time laboring over miniscule issues day in and day out—in essence, you are literally living in perpetual self-doubt . . . even about things that don’t really matter.
But why do some people have the ability to make decisions quickly while others struggle with it so much?
Because when you get right down to it, decision making is all about confidence.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that there is this misconception that decision making requires some rare innate trait that some people are just born with . . . and that is absolutely untrue. Decision makers don’t know more than you; they’re not smarter or wiser or more experienced. They’re simply unafraid to take action in the face of uncertainty.
Sometimes you’ve got to just make your analysis, weight your options, and GO, regardless of whether or not you know how it will turn out.
The truth is that decision makers face just as much doubt and uncertainty as you do. They worry that they might be making the wrong decisions, and they question themselves from time to time. The solutions to their problems are not obvious—it’s just that they’re more used to facing them.
The only way to get more comfortable with that feeling of uncertainty is to place yourself in that position of decision-making power.
You know the old saying: the only certainties in life are death and taxes.
You can’t spend your life waiting around for a solid sense of security in all things . . . because it will never come. Instead, you must build your capacity to act in the face of uncertainty.
But, why is that so hard to do?
Usually, when we’re hesitant in the face of uncertainty, it’s because we are afraid to face pain and discomfort: we worry we’ll be embarrassed or get fired for making a mistake or experience some sort of huge loss.
In the book, Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz discusses some of the worst trials we put ourselves through when dealing with tough decisions. Specifically, he talks about what he calls “maximizing”: this word describes a particularly torturous mental pattern in which we literally play out every possible scenario in our heads, weigh the pros and cons of each so that we can determine which will bring us the least amount of pain, and then agonize over the options until we’re blue in the face.
You’re literally maximizing the decision-making process, rather than making it easier. What you’re also doing is creating a fantasy world in which choices exist that cause us NO pain.
Fact: every decision will carry with it some good results and some negative results.
There is no such thing as a choice that’s all pleasure and no pain—that’s just not how life works.
Let’s say you get a promotion – The good news is that you’ve got more pull at work and you’re making more money: yay! The bad news is that you’ll be tasked with new responsibilities and working more hours: boo!
Does that mean that you’re going to turn down the promotion and halt your career progress just because you’re unsure about how you’ll handle the changes?
Life is full of ups and downs—without the bad, you would never know anything was good, and living would be intolerably boring.
The trick is to anticipate that each day is going to bring its own set of challenges; to learn to roll with them instead of letting each little bump in the road completely ruin your journey.
One way to do this is to build your decision-making “muscle.”
Ordinarily, you might be used to making decisions by attempting to just decide which choice is the “right” choice . . . but there is no such thing as a right or wrong choice.
Instead, you might try evaluating each option based on what it can bring to your life—both good and bad. This will help you get away from the concept of right versus wrong altogether. Then, all you have to do is get faster at it.
What’s the best way to get better at something? Practice.
The next time you’re standing in your closet deciding what to wear, or you’re looking at Google Maps figuring out which route to take, or you’re sitting at a restaurant looking at a menu, see if you can do it in under 30 seconds. Read the menu once, and simply make yourself choose without going over and over and over it again. The key here is to start learning to make the basic decisions instantly (without having a panic attack).
Sure, maybe you mess up once or twice—you forget a jacket on a cold day, or hit traffic, or you end up with plate envy—who cares?! Is a little cold going to kill you? Nope. Are you going to die because you were 5 minutes late? Nope. Is that the last time you’re ever going to eat at a restaurant? Nope.
Whatever is going to happen is already going to happen, whether you like it or not—the only thing you can control is how you handle it.
Believe it or not, you can handle whatever is going to happen. It might seem really tough, but all that means is that you have two really great options to decide between—that’s a good thing.
Now, obviously, some decisions will take longer than others simply because of their actual significance (I hope, for example, that you wouldn’t take lightly the decision to lay someone off). That doesn’t mean, however, that you need to spend six months hemming and hawing over it.
Can’t decide on the perfect engagement ring? Sleep on it. Got a tough work decision to make? Give yourself until the end of the weekend to figure it out. Stuck on what to do about a tricky relationship? Discuss it with friend or two for a couple days.
Give yourself an appropriate amount of time . . . but then DECIDE.
Remember that for every minute you spend deciding, that is really just another minute in limbo.
You don’t need to hang out in limbo for weeks, months, or even years—that’s insanity. If you’ve given something your 100% commitment and effort for a month, and it still isn’t working out, it’s probably time to cut the cord. If you’ve waffled over a big purchase for a year, then the thing must not excite you that much to begin with.
Get brutally realistic and honest with yourself, because living your life stuck between choices is pointless. You have the power to develop the confidence it takes to make tough decisions—you just need to start practicing with the small, everyday choices NOW.
When people have a palpable sense of confidence about their decision making, it’s not because they know what will happen—it’s because they know they’ll be okay either way. That kind of confidence and peace of mind is exceptionally appealing to everyone else around you. When you become the kind of person who can face uncertainty with a calm, cool head, doors that you never knew were available to you will begin to open up all around you.
So, start small, be brave, and let go of the need to be “right” with every decision you make. You’ll be a happier and saner person for it.
As always, I invite you to share your thoughts and comments below. What are some decisions that have tied you up recently? How did you move past them? What have you been doing to quicken your response times for everyday decisions? Please also feel free to hit the little bell icon to subscribe and receive notifications about these posts as they’re released.
Until we speak again, may you have the courage to be who you are, and to know on a deep level that you’re awesome.
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