Personal Growth

Make Better Decisions: 6 Steps to Help You Decide What’s Right for You

February 3, 2015

Hi! I'm Marie

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Whether I was working with coaching clients, speaking at a seminar, or chatting with entrepreneurs in B-School, I’ve heard the same question again and again:

Marie, how do you make big decisions? Who do you call to help you figure out the best thing to do? What’s your decision-making process?

So…. how do you make the best decisions?

Your ability to make decisions is a skill you have to practice like anything else. No one is inherently good or bad at making decisions. We do it all the time! Whether it’s deciding between the kale salad or a Tuscan panini, or deciding on brand colors for your business — all of us face a million choices every day.

The secret is learn how to harness that decision-making power and use it to make big, important decisions just as easy.

6 Habits to Train Your Brain How to Make Better Decisions

In this MarieTV, I answer a question from Poonam:

I’m really bad at making decisions. I feel like everything I’m doing in my life is based on decisions made for me by somebody else. Is there a way that I can improve my decision-making skills?

I’ll tell you what I told Poonam: You’re perfectly capable of making your own decisions — you just need practice. In the video, I share three steps to work those muscles and build your decision-making skills.

If you’re insecure about your own ability to make decisions and find yourself polling friends, overwhelmed with choices, or frozen with indecision, keep reading for six habits to train your brain to make better decisions.

Here are six smart strategies to hone your decision-making muscles.

1. Put Down the Clipboard

There’s no single secret to making big decisions — but I can tell you one thing not to do.

Let everyone else decide for you.

Whether you’re addicted to the opinions of family, friends, or social norms, one of the key components to create a business and life you love is taking full responsibility for your decisions.

Don’t let other people hold you back with their opinions.

If you’re a survey addict — running around constantly asking others what they think you should do — you need to put down the clipboard.

The most important step you can take to improve your decision-making skills is to trust yourself to start making them. That means you need to go cold turkey on group surveys.

Make your own decisions. 

2. Celebrate Your Daily Decisions

You make tons of decisions every day, but you’re probably not aware of them. Think about all the small choices you need to make just to get through the day:

Which way should I walk?
What do I want to wear?
Should I send this as an email or a text?
Should I put my bra on the inside or the outside?

You make decisions all the time! You just have to learn to celebrate them. Yes, I know these are little decisions, but the point is that YOU make them. And if you can make small decisions, you can make big ones.

Recognize all those times that you’ve been the decider. Notice the great places your decisions have gotten you — like discovering a new park on your walk or getting compliments on your outfit.

When you celebrate these daily decisions, you’ll get more confidence to go for the big ones. 

3. Go With Your Gut

We’ve all had those moments where something looked like the right decision on paper, but something inside just screamed, “Nuh uh, don’t do it!”

Here’s the deal: The advice that’ll never steer you wrong comes from within. Instead of calling friends, dial your inner wisdom hotline, and listen to your inner voice.

For what it’s worth, when I’m facing competing messages from logic and intuition, I always go with my gut.

If you’re not naturally intuitive, it can be tough to ignore logic and go with what feels right, so it’s helpful to have a strategic decision-making process that lets you listen to your inner voice AND make a well-thought-out decision.

Here’s a simple, but powerful, strategy:

When you have a difficult decision to make, make it on paper.

When you get all the pros, cons, possibilities, and fears out of your head and onto the page, you can evaluate the situation clearly without ignoring your intuition.

Ask and answer these questions to help guide you in the right direction:

  • What’s the result or outcome you most want?
  • What are your options? List them all — challenge yourself to think of outrageous options, not just the obvious ones.
  • What are the upsides and downsides for each option?
  • What’s the worst-case scenario for each option?
  • Who else will this impact?

You have 24/7 access to your inner wisdom as long as you know the right numbers to dial to get it on the line.

4. Do a Decision Detox

A few years ago, I did my first detox — 10 days with no no dairy, gluten, grain, alcohol, caffeine, or refined sugar. I’d been reading about the negative effects of all of them for years, but this was the first time I cut them all out for an extended period.

I was excited to see the impact of clearing my guts of all these nasty ne’er-do-wells — both physically and mentally.

What totally surprised me? Cutting my food options so drastically forced me into a decision detox, too. And, wow, did that flush out some gunk!

Here’s why: Every day, we have a finite supply of decision-making energy. 

We drain the tank every time we make a decision, like:

  • Watching Netflix instead of going for a run.
  • Getting out of bed instead of hitting snooze.
  • Starting the day with meditation instead of exercise or journaling.
  • Working on your writing project instead of answering emails.

By the end of the day, most of us run out of decision-making gas. If you want to improve your ability to make decisions, think about where in your life you might be giving yourself too many options. Where are you depleted by little daily decision battles?

Now, think about how you can eliminate those decisions. Put yourself on a 10-day decision detox by creating a rule you’ll stick to for 10 days. Here are some examples:

  • Wear just one of 10 shirts.
  • No screen time after 8 p.m.
  • Work on your dream project for two hours a day before starting any other work.
  • Work out every day at 2 p.m.

Greatly reducing or limiting your options for these daily decisions can free your energy for the big decisions — and, just about anything else you want to do with your mental energy.

Limited choices in your day can lead to limitless freedom in your life.

5. Let Go of Old Dreams

Are you struggling to make a decision because you feel guilty about abandoning a long-held dream?

Maybe you studied writing in college so you could become a novelist. Or always dreamed of being a doctor. Or worked your butt off to climb the corporate ladder.

But now you want to go in an entirely different direction.

Set yourself free, and embody the dream you have in this moment rather than one from the past.

You might have held onto that dream for years, spent endless energy daydreaming about achieving it. But when you dreamed up that dream, you didn’t have the life you have now. You might have developed priorities, passions, responsibilities, skills, and strengths you never could have imagined.

Don’t torture yourself by clinging to an old dream when a new dream is tugging at your heart.

Let your old dreams go — guilt free! — so you can follow your new path from a place of joy. Don’t let that old dream weigh you down and keep you from pursuing what’s right for you in this moment.

And guess what? Deciding not to pursue an old dream doesn’t mean you won’t have the opportunity to do it in the future.

Not taking that path now doesn’t mean you’re cutting off the possibility! Instead, you’re following the path carved by your inner wisdom, and not confining yourself to a single, limited idea of who you’re meant to be.

6. Be Willing to Make the Call

Okay. It’s time.

The above strategies can help you find clarity toward the right decision. But none of them matter unless you’re willing to make the call — and embrace your decision wholeheartedly.

Here’s an exercise to help you get crystal clear on your next steps:

  1. Try on different futures: How does it feel in your body when you imagine yourself fully embracing one direction? What about the other path? Get quiet, and look within yourself to notice how these options make you feel in your body.
  2. If you’re lying on your deathbed and looking back on your life, what do you see behind you?
  3. When you imagine yourself not going for one option, does it feel like a big deal? What about not going for the other option?
  4. What’s the next step you need to take to make this choice come to life? How long will that take? When can you do it?

The point here is to make a choice, and stop torturing yourself by living in limbo.

That’s how indecision kills our dreams.

Be willing to make the call and get started.

Make Your Own Decisions

Big choices. Small choices. Seemingly “insignificant” choices. 

Every decision we make helps shape our reality. Compounded over a lifetime, those decisions create our destiny.

Because no matter what you’re creating in your life at the moment — the decisions you make on a daily basis really do matter.

Often, it’s the smallest decisions that can change your life forever.

So, yeah, decisions can feel a little intimidating sometimes.

But you already have all the answers you need inside of you. Making a choice is just about listening to your inner voice and following the direction your heart is leaning.

Now, let’s turn this insight into action.

Grab a notebook, and set a timer for 15 minutes. Take this time to get in touch with your inner voice and tap some wisdom to guide any decisions you’re stuck on now.

Write a list of the top dreams, goals, problems, or projects you’re excited to start working on in the next year. Include anything that comes to mind that you’d like to change, start, stop, pursue, heal, transform, learn, experience, explore, become, create, or achieve.

Here are some questions to get your ideas flowing:

  • If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about your life or the world, what would it be?
  • What breaks your heart about life, work, or the world?
  • What pisses you off about life, work, or the world?
  • If you had TWO extra hours a day, what would you do with that time?
  • Finish this sentence: Wouldn’t it be cool if . . . ?
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