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7 Strategies to Make Decisions with Clarity and Confidence

How do you know when you don't know?

Key points

  • Panic and indecision paralysis can sometimes kick in when people are presented with two options that they think are equally attractive.
  • Steps to make decisions clearly include taking a moment to breathe, thinking about one's long-term vision, and avoiding asking for opinions.
  • Listening to one's intuition, making a pros and cons list, and thinking about the journey rather than the outcome can also help.
Photo by Damian Siodłak on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Damian Siodłak on Unsplash

I felt my heart rate increase and my blood pressure rise. My breath got shallower and I started to feel hot, sweaty, and claustrophobic. Anxiety kicked in. I felt trapped, lost, and incompetent. Even the thought of deciding what underwear to wear made me panic. Say hello to indecision paralysis.

Sometimes, when we are presented with two options that we think are equally attractive to us, panic can kick in. Anything you ever knew about decision-making disappears and you have no idea what to do. This can feel like the end of the world — especially if you have a deadline to decide by — but it’s not.

It’s not the end of the world and you’re definitely not alone in this. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with choice sometimes and it’s ok to feel anxious about making important decisions. They're all a part of being human.

What’s not ok is staying in that space for too long as the anxiety and indecision will just grow. You want to get back in control of your calm as quickly as possible so that you can be clear and confident about the decisions you make. You want to commit to every decision with vigor and determination, not with fear and self-doubt.

Here are seven steps to help you to achieve exactly that:

1. Breathe.

It sounds silly and unhelpful, yet it's the first thing you have to do when you feel the anxiety kicking in. The faster, shallower breaths you take, the more stressed you'll feel and the less clear your head will be. Take at least five deep breaths to calm yourself down and get back in control of your brain.

2. Remind yourself what your long-term vision is.

Clarity on this is crucial if you want to make sound decisions. Then, when you're deciding between option A and B, you can ask yourself, Is this going to get me closer to where I want to be?

If it's the long-term vision you're struggling to get clear on, visualize your dream life. Write about your best possible self. Imagine if you had the life you dreamed of in one year's time, what would a typical day and week look like? It doesn't mean you have to build that dream life in one year, but it does mean you have to get clear on what kind of life you want to have.

3. Stop asking people what you should do.

You can't ask the people around you to tell you how to live your life. Sure, chat about your dilemma with your partner and your friends, but do that to get clearer on what's in your head rather than to obsess about the advice they're offering. Otherwise, you run the danger of being inundated with conflicting opinions and tips. Your voice will get lost with the voices of others and you won't remember which voice is yours anymore.

4. Listen to your intuition.

Your full being knows the answer already and it's time you listened to it. This is hard when you're feeling anxious or stressed, but it's even more important then. Take the time to breathe and reconnect with your soul in whatever way that works for you. Exercise, do yoga, read a book, go for a walk in the park, journal, or take a long bath. Then, revisit your choices and think about how each of them makes you feel. If one of them makes you feel open, inspired, and nervously excited, this is a good one to go with. On the other hand, if a choice is making you feel sick, lethargic, and beaten down, this is probably not the path for you.

5. Do the classic pros and cons list.

Think about the pros and cons of every option. Give each item a score of one to three based on how much it matters to you. You might be surprised to find that one of them scores a lot higher than the other if it offers less in the grand scheme of things but more of what matters most to you.

6. Let go of your attachment to the outcome you desire.

There are too many unknowns and uncertainties in life which means that things don't always go as planned. If you're able to accept every possible outcome that might happen as a result of your decision, then you're in a more comfortable position to get on with things. That's why you should focus on the journey rather than the outcome.

If you choose option A, it could lead to X, Y, or Z. But, regardless of what it leads to, will you enjoy the journey of working towards it? Or is it the journey that comes with option B that makes you feel more excited?

7. Make your final decision when you're in a neutral mood.

In an overly positive mood, you might be unrealistically optimistic about your options and as a result, choose blindly. On the other hand, when you're feeling tired and grumpy, you might just go for the "easier" choice because it feels better at that moment in time as you're feeling lethargic and unmotivated. After you've made the decision, your mood should be pretty positive — not just from having made the decision but also from feeling that you've made the right one.

As the last resort, you can always try flipping a coin. Assign each side of a coin one of your two options and promise yourself that whatever side the coin lands on is exactly what you will do. Flip the coin up in the air — and then pay attention to which side you actually want the coin to land on. Alternatively, observe your initial reaction once the coin has landed and chosen the option for you. If you feel like you want to flip again, you probably want to go with the other option.

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