We invest a lot of energy in making decisions. Even seemingly non-important decisions cause us headaches and make us stay up at night (little exaggeration always helps, doesn’t it?).
Some of us spend a lot of time searching for better solutions or cheaper prices, just to save 3 dollars — instead being with your partner, friends or in the gym.
Most of the times, we lack clarity and focus.
In Western societies, we think that by worrying a lot we make better decisions. We believe that worrying is useful to make better decisions. I don’t think so. I think worrying is mental masturbation.
If we aren’t in control of our thoughts realizing that most worries are useless, we won’t be really in control of our life.
Whenever I see myself confronted with making a decision and I observe that I start to worry, I ask myself five questions to gain clarity and focus.
#1: Does it take more than 2-minutes to complete the action?
If not, is it supporting my goals and projects in life? If so, I decide to act.
If it takes longer than 2 minutes, I delegate, schedule or list the action.
This is called ‘processing’ in GTD and it’s based on the 2-minute rule. Find out more here.
#2: Do I need more information to make a decision right now?
Most decisions can be made instantly. Whenever I’m confronted with a new situation, I should quickly go into silence and stillness and feel if I can make a decision right now.
If I feel I can’t, then I probably need more information to make a decision. My decision then is to collect more information. Also, I should decide how to collect the information needed to make a decision. I might want to schedule time in my calendar to brainstorm and think about the right approach.
Jumping right into doing without thinking through my actions isn’t effective. I should engage in planning and think through my possible actions, then decide on what actions are most effective to collect more information to finally make a decision.
#3: Am I afraid to make a decision?
Fundamentally, all decisions come down to fear or love. If I decide based on love, I can’t be disappointed. However, I should be aware of irrational decision making when being in love (with someone or something).
Making decision out of deep love and compassion is probably the best way to make decisions.
If I feel I’m afraid of making a decision, my default decision-making mode turns into ‘do it anyway’.
#4: Am I deciding out of self-love (ego) trying to manipulate others OR am I deciding out of compassion without fears and judgment?
I aim at observing whether I ground a decision on my ego or compassion. Mostly I ground my decision on my ego. I’m not empathic and act in a compassionate way. I’m aware of this and try to change it.
Also, I’m aware that my decisions influence the lives of people around me. I try to incorporate their feelings in my decisions.
For me, there is a difference between
- being sensitive
- being empathic
- being compassionate.
Let’s look into the dictionary
Sensitivity is the ability to emotional feelings (of self and others). Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It‘s an understanding and entering into another’s feelings. Compassion is a deep awareness of and sympathy for another’s suffering.
For me, being sensitive means to sense emotions and feelings of others. Being empathic means to act on other’s emotions and feelings. I think it’s what Daniel Goleman calls ‘emotional intelligence’. Lastly, being compassionate means not only to act on other’s emotions and feelings but HOW we act on them. I let the HOW be defined by yourself. For me, it can be kindness, deep caring, and love.
#5: Am I radical honest to myself?
To be radical honest to yourself, you must know yourself. I often feel that I don’t know myself as I am coping with everyday life, chasing to-do after to-do and losing touch with myself.
I am referring to not being in the moment. That’s when I most likely not being honest to myself and not being honest cause bad decisions. That’s why I aim to decelerate my life when I can. Trying to be in the moment. Trying to better understand myself in order to make better decisions.
Concluding rule of thumb
It’s always better to make a bad decision and close an open loop in our mind than to make no decision at all.
Because even wrong decisions will help us to grow and learn (important) lessons for our path.
How do you engage in decision making?