4 Steps That’ll Cut You Through the BS and Make a Hard Decision Faster
Ever gotten up one morning, had your shower, and then spent the next twenty minutes trying to decide what to wear to work? Have you gone into a restaurant and spent five minutes going over the menu because you couldn’t figure out what you wanted to eat? Have you spent days or even weeks trying to decide what gift you should buy your spouse for their birthday?
All of these are very trivial matters, yet a lot of people find it hard to make such small decisions.
For instance, ordering a plate of French fries and grilled chicken instead of pizza won’t have any significant impact on your life.
If you don’t like the French fries and chicken, no problem, you can order the pizza next time.
Yet, people still face difficulties making such trivial decisions.
Therefore, it is not surprising that people often spend days, months, or even years making the big, hard decisions.
Think about things such as quitting your job, changing your career, firing an employee, buying a home, moving to a different city or country, choosing who you are going to marry, choosing where to invest your money, and so on.
Such decisions have a very big impact on your life, and in some cases, they cannot be reversed.
In a bid to ensure that we make the right decision when it comes to such big matters, most of us spend a lot of time analyzing the various options, trying to determine what will happen when we pick one option over the other, trying to determine whether we will end up regretting our decision, and so on.
Well, here’s the problem; the more time we spend deliberating and analyzing, the longer we take before making the decision.
Just like making the wrong decision, delaying an important decision also has a significant impact on your life.
For instance, the longer you take before making the decision to quit your job or change your career, the more time you spend in a job you don’t like.
When you spend months before figuring out where to invest your money, you are losing out on all the profits you would have been making if you had invested your money a couple months earlier.
Therefore, it is important to make the hard decisions as fast as you can.
Question is, how do you make such decisions quickly while at the same time ensuring that you are making the best decision?
In this article, I am going to teach you four steps that will help you cut through the BS and make these tough decisions faster.
Before that, however, let’s understand why making decisions can be such a hard task.
WHY IS MAKING DECISIONS SO HARD?
There are several reasons why most people find it difficult to make decisions. Some of these reasons include:
- Fear of failure: In most cases, tough decisions usually involve options where the possible outcomes are completely opposite. For instance, let’s say you are trying to make a decision about whether to invest in cryptocurrency or not. If you decide to go ahead with the investment, there are two possible outcomes – you could either make lots of money, or you could lose all your money. The fear that your decision might result in failure – in this case losing all your money – is one of the greatest factors that makes decision making so difficult.
- Fear of accountability: As we have already seen, decisions will sometimes result in negative, unwanted outcomes, and in such cases, whoever made the decisions might need to take responsibility for the outcome. For instance, as a business leader, you might make a decision that ends up tarnishing your company’s brand or ruining the business. In this case, you will need to take responsibility for the decision, which might sometimes mean something as extreme as resigning from your position. Having to take such responsibility for the outcome of your decision makes most people afraid of making hard decisions.
- Lack of experience: The more experienced you are with making hard decisions, the easier it is for you to make such decisions. Lack of experience with big, tough decisions can make it difficult for someone to choose when faced with such decisions.
- Too many options: The more good options you have to choose from, the harder it becomes to actually make the decision.
- Equally attractive options: Decisions are also harder to make when the different options are equally attractive, but also have some significant differences. Making one decision requires you to trade-off some factors in exchange for others. For instance, when my wife and I were searching for an apartment, we were torn between two choices. While both apartments were almost equally priced, one had an extra room (which we wanted) but a very small kitchen compared to what we would have wanted, while the other one had the kitchen size we wanted, but didn’t have the extra room. Having to make such trade-offs between two things (or more) you want equally can also make decisions quite difficult to make.
Having understood the reasons why making decisions can be so difficult, let’s now dive into the four steps that will make it easier and faster for you to make the big, tough decisions.
1. FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU REALLY WANT
Whenever you find yourself in a situation where you have to make a decision, it is obvious that you have a desired outcome in mind, else you wouldn’t be having to make the decision in the first place. In most cases, however, the desired outcome might not be very clear to you.
This lack of clarity on what you want out the decision can make it harder for you to decide.
For instance, let’s assume that you just got a job offer, and you are trying to decide whether to quit your current job and take the offer, or decline the offer and remain at your current job while searching for a better job opportunity.
When you weigh between the two jobs, you realize that you love the work you do at your current job.
However, the new job offer also seems appealing because it pays better, even if you don’t think the work is appealing.
On the face of it, it looks like a difficult decision between two job positions.
However, when you take a deeper look into this decision, you will realize that the desired outcome is better pay.
In this case, instead of quitting your current job for a new job you don’t love, the better option would be to negotiate with your boss for a pay raise.
If you are unable to get your boss to give you the raise, you can then once again consider what you want the most – a job you love or better pay.
If you prefer better pay, you can go ahead and take the new offer. If you prefer a job you love, hold on to your current position while you search for better opportunities.
If you find yourself holding off a decision, there is a high chance that none of the options you are considering is appealing for you. For instance, in our example above, none of the two options is truly appealing.
You don’t like your salary at your current job, and you don’t like the work at the new job.
Therefore, when you find yourself in such situations, the first thing is to try and identify what you really want from the decision.
To know what you really want from the decision, stop focusing on the decision and look at what drove you to the point where you have to make the decision.
Before you got to the point where you have to choose between your current job and the new job offer, what drove you to search for the new job?
If you want to move and are torn between two different cities, stop comparing the advantages and disadvantages of the two cities for a moment and ask yourself why you want to move in the first place.
If you are debating on whether to fire and employee or not, first ask yourself what drove you to consider this option.
Doing this will allow you to figure out your most desired outcome.
Once you identify your most desired outcome, you can then consider which option allows you to achieve this outcome.
You might even realize that there are other easier ways of achieving this outcome, outside the options you were initially considering.
For example, when considering whether to fire an employee or not, what you really want is not to have the employee gone, but improved productivity in your business. If there are ways of helping the employee become more productive, then you don’t have to fire them.
However, if you have tried getting them to improve their productivity and performance to no avail, then the decision here becomes straightforward – the employee has to go.
Figuring out your most desired outcome also keeps you from wasting time considering factors that do not have any major influence on the decision.
For instance, in the above example about firing an employee, you might find yourself considering things such as the amount of resources you have spent training the employee, the cost of replacing the employee, and so on.
Putting such factors into consideration will only complicate your decision, and ultimately, they don’t have any impact on what you truly want.
If your aim is to improve productivity and performance, and you have unsuccessfully tried to get the employee to improve their performance and productivity, you will have to let them go, regardless of how much you spent training them or what it will cost you to replace them.
2. DON’T MAKE DECISIONS BASED ON WHAT YOU THINK YOU’RE “SUPPOSED” TO DO
Most of us like to assume that we are independent, autonomous people who can choose what it best for us without paying much attention to outside influences.
In truth, however, we are very vulnerable to these external influences. One of these external influences is society’s take on the same issue.
Human beings are social beings, and evolution has primed us to approach situations the same way that most other people would approach them. Imitating other people is the primary way through which we learn.
When a child is born, they know nothing about this world.
They start gradually learning how to interact with the world by imitating what others close to them do in different situations.
With this need to observe others ingrained in our brains, it is difficult to resist the temptation to consider how other people would approach the same situation.
This is why, when you find yourself having to make a difficult decision, you will often hear a voice in your head telling you what you are supposed to do, because this is what most other people would do.
Unfortunately, if what others would have done is not what you want for yourself, the opposition from this inside voice can make it hard for you to make your decision.
A great illustration of this is to consider people who quit their jobs to focus on their hobbies or start their own businesses.
Quitting a high-paying, secure job to get into the unpredictable world of business is a risky affair, and therefore, most people will avoid it.
Therefore, the voice in your head, as well as other people, will try to convince you that you are supposed to hold on to your job.
A lot of those who quit their jobs to pursue their dreams feel like they are making a mistake, because they are not supposed to be doing that. However, it is by taking such risks that they end up becoming wildly successful.
Therefore, next time you find yourself having a hard time making a tough decision, don’t pay lots of attention to what you are supposed to do. Instead, pay attention to what you actually want. If what you are supposed to do was the right decision for you, the decision would have been obvious.
The fact that you are thinking twice about it means it is not the right decision for you.
Even if a decision looks good for most people, don’t get pressured into doing what most other people would do.
Instead, take a step back and figure out what is your most desired outcome from the decision (step 1 above), and then take whatever decision allows you to achieve this outcome.
3. REMEMBER THAT ACTION BEATS INACTION
One of my favorite stories regarding decision making involves an US army general.
For almost a decade, the army and the Pentagon had been debating a huge decision that would significantly affect the entire army.
The people responsible for making the decision had pored over tons of documents and complicated technical explanations over all these years, but a decision had not been reached.
Once our general was appointed to head the team responsible for the decision, the situation was presented to him, and surprisingly, he did not hesitate to make the decision.
What’s more, he didn’t even spend time studying all the documents and technical explanations.
Surprised by how fast the general had made the decision, one junior officer couldn’t help but ask the general how he had made such a decision so easily and so fast.
The general explained that if the team had been going over the documents for a decade with no answer, spending more time going over the documents would not produce any further information that would lead to an answer.
Therefore, his solution was to pick a choice and go with it. He explained that if his choice was right, the problem would be solved. If his choice turned out to be wrong, they would know much faster and switch to the alternative decision.
This story shows how important it is to take action when faced with a difficult decision.
In a situation where one of the possible outcomes of making a decision is failure, most people, in an attempt to ensure they are making the right decision, spend lots of time analyzing various factors about the decision.
Unfortunately, this often leads to analysis paralysis, where someone remains in the analysis stage and never moves ahead to make the decision, just like the team in our example above, which had analyzed the details of a decision for almost one decade.
While making a decision without enough information could potentially turn disastrous, it is much better than making no decision.
If you are thinking about quitting your job to start your own business, but then do not make the decision, you will still be in your miserable job ten years later wishing you had quit.
On the other hand, someone who made the decision early on is no longer in the same position. If their business venture became successful, then quitting was the right decision.
Even in the event that the business ventured failed, this person will just find another job, while you remained afraid of making the decision.
There are two strategies you can use to spur yourself to take action when it seems like it will take you a long time before you make a decision. These are:
Limit the Amount of Information You Put into Consideration
It is common knowledge that the quality of a decision depends on the information you have. The more information you have about the situation, the more likely you are to make a better decision.
However, the problem arises when you try to find every little bit of information before making the decision.
This will only prolong the amount of time you spend before making the decision. Actually, having too much information can also make it more difficult for you to make the decision.
To avoid this, limit the amount of information you put into consideration before making the decision.
Once you have the most important bits of information, quit looking for more information and make the decision based on the information you already have.
Give Yourself a Time Limit
The other technique to spur yourself to make a decision is to give yourself a time limit. Like the army story, if there is no time limit, a decision can be dragged for years.
When you have a time limit, however, you will need to quickly evaluate the different options and make a decision with the information you have, without having to wait for information that might never come.
Therefore, whenever you have to make a difficult decision, give yourself a time limit, depending on the magnitude of the decision.
Analyze the situation as much as possible, but once the time limit is up, pick whatever option seems most appropriate at that time and run with it.
4. PRACTICE BEING DECISIVE
If you normally find it hard to make the big decisions in your life, there is a chance that you also struggle with the small decisions, such as what to eat for dinner, what to wear, what to watch on Netflix, and so on.
Basically, this means that your decision-making muscle is not well developed.
Since we already saw that having experience making decisions makes it easier for you to make the bigger decisions, what you need to do is to start practicing how to be more decisive. Instead of holding off some of the small decisions you avoid every day, try to make more and more of them.
For instance, instead of asking the waiter for more time before you can place your order, give yourself just one minute to make the decision. If the minute is over before you have decided what you want to eat, just pick one option and place your order.
Instead of spending an hour scrolling through different movies on Netflix before deciding what you want to watch, give yourself five minutes to scroll through and pick one. If you don’t like it, you can always go back and pick another.
Doing this will strengthen your decision-making muscle and make it easier for you to make these trivial decisions. With time, as you continue practicing being more decisive, you will gradually start becoming better at making the bigger and tougher decisions as well.
Your ability to make decisions – especially the big decisions – has a huge impact on your life, and therefore it is important to improve your ability to make these decisions easily and quickly.
This is something a lot of people struggle with. Fortunately, with the four tips shared above, you will find it easier to cut through the BS and make the big, tough decisions a lot faster.
As I wind up, I also want to remind you that regardless of how good you are at making decisions, you can never make the right decisions 100% of the time.
Even the most successful people in life have made lots of wrong decisions. Therefore, don’t spend too much time making a decision because you are afraid that you might make the wrong decision.
Instead, choose action – consider what your most desired outcome is, quickly analyze the information you have and make your decision.
And if your decision turns out to be the wrong one, don’t berate yourself.
Instead, learn from that decision and use the lessons to help you make better decisions the next time.