by Vicki Nunn
“Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.”
Rev Robert H Schuller
One of the challenges of adulthood is decision making, and living with the consequences of our choices. For those of us who struggle with low self-esteem, larger decisions can be particularly challenging for us and impact on our ability to find happiness:
- We juggle all of the possible options and may doubt our ability to make the right choice;
- We may worry that we’ve missed something obvious that we believe will backfire on us later;
- We may phone friends repeatedly in the hope of gaining some clarity or reassurance, but may still remain confused about whether we’ve done the right thing;
- Once the decision is made, we may then go into a spiral of worry about the consequences of our decision. This can haunt us for weeks or even years;
- If our decision does result in something unfavourable, it only confirms to us that we’re poor decision makers and increases our self-doubt;
- Even if the decision results in something positive, it seems almost anti-climactic because we were expecting the worst, and we may tell ourselves it was just a fluke and start worrying again that our next decision will be wrong, or that something else will go wrong.
- We impulsively make a decision because we aren’t thinking clearly or because it’s just so difficult to make a choice;
- Or we don’t end up making any decision out of confusion and fear that it will be wrong, and then we have to live with the consequences of our hesitation.
While the above points may seem like extreme examples, if any one of these even faintly rings a bell, then we need to start making deliberate changes in our personal decision-making processes.
First, we should ask ourselves the following questions:
– Do I delay making decisions?
– Do I dither about what is the correct choice?
– Do I feel stupid when having to make big decisions?
– Do I wish I had a partner so they could make these choices for me?
– Does it feel like a there’s a huge weight hanging over me at these times?
– Do I often find myself making impulsive decisions that I regret later?
– Do I sometimes avoid making any decision in the hope that it will work out or just go away on its own?
One of the main reasons that decision-making can be so hard is that we’ve allowed it to become a much bigger challenge than it needs to be. It’s like the old phrase, ‘to make a mountain out of a mole-hill.’ We’ve gotten into the habit of seeing all decisions as insurmountable mountains of difficulty, rather than seeing them as they really are: a normal part of life, ie just small bumps along the way.
If decision-making is difficult for us, it can certainly impact on our happiness, so we need to start healthy habits when it comes to our choices.
Be Well-Prepared in Advance
As much as possible, we should plan ahead for the larger decisions so that when they arise, we don’t feel overwhelmed and are well prepared to make our choice.
If we leave decisions to the last possible moment, it will add to our stress levels; increase our confusion; cause us to doubt our decision-making abilities; and make us feel quite horrible.
In the table following is an example of how we can prepare ahead of time, in this instance for the purchase of a vehicle. We can make the same kind of table for any major decision, including looking for a new job.
|Decision Making Process: Purchasing a Motor Vehicle:|
|Get out a notebook – start the process at least three months ahead of time.||Create a table – write down the steps in the process|
|Consider if we have any outstanding debts such as credit cards and work at reducing that , especially if it’s over $1,000.||Should we first pay off our credit card debt?|
|Consider how much we have to spend and carefully look at whether we can manage the costs. Seriously consider cutting up our credit cards.||Bank websites have calculators to determine loan repayments.|
|Work out insurance costs. Include those payments in all of our calculations, along with registration and maintenance.||Insurance websites often have calculators. If you’re unsure, ask a friend about maintenance costs.|
|Decide the basic requirements for our vehicle.||Auto/manual, sedan/hatchback/sports, second-hand or new, fuel-efficiency etc.|
|Research options on the internet and talk to friends and relatives.||Research, then discuss with friends/family.|
|Make note of the five best choices, then narrow it down to our three favourites, ensuring that they each provide our basic requirements.||Check if they provide basic requirements.|
|Look carefully at the favourites. Ask the question,“Did I choose these based on appearance rather than if it meets my basic requirements?” Reconsider the loan and other costs and confirm if we can afford it.||Choose not to be rushed into a decision based on its appearance.|
|Do further research and read feedback about the vehicles online.||Read real feedback from buyers.|
|Consider resale value – will this vehicle hold its value more than the others in five years time?||Check out resale values on vehicle-resale websites.|
|Narrow our choice to our two favourites and take them for a test-drive – then make a decision.||Test drive and make the decision! It’s time.|
|Go to our bank for a loan, taking along bank statements, six weeks pay slips and information on other debts we have.||Note: banks generally don’t like too much debt.|
Once we’ve made the decision, if we find doubt starting to creep into our minds, we should remind ourselves that we made the best decision after careful consideration. We should determine in our minds that we can live with our choice, whatever happens. We should do some positive self-talk such as, “No, I refuse to let this worry me. My choice was well thought out. I did a good job of preparing for this decision.”
Seeking advice from others can be both good and bad for us. It can be good in that more knowledgeable people can provide insight which may be beneficial. On the other hand, if we rely on others too much for advice, we can become too scared or too lazy to tackle the important decisions for ourselves. We should be aware of our tendencies in this area and be courageous enough to stand on our own two feet, and not be pushed into making a choice based on someone else’s preferences.
Keep God in the Loop
Are our major decisions part of our regular discussions with God? We certainly should be keeping Him in the loop and asking for His clarity and guidance.
I remember many years ago, seeking God’s help when I was considering purchasing a second-hand car. He sent me three messages from different sources about a particular model of a car, including a reference in an email which just happened to mention the best-selling car of all time. He went one step further by connecting me with one of the women from my workplace whose mother-in-law was considering selling the exact same car that had been mentioned in the email for the exact amount of money that I’d saved up!
If we want to ensure that we make a really dumb decision that we’re sure to regret, we should make decisions when we don’t have a clear head. Let’s consider:
- stress – if we’re stressed out with something else, it’s good to put off making major decisions until things settle down.
- impulsivity – buying on impulse can lead us into making poor choices and getting into debt, and if this is one of our tendencies, we may have to call on someone who is more clear-headed to help us;
- emotional mess – our emotions can impact hugely on our decisions because they affect our ability to think clearly; and
- tiredness – if we’re doing too much or not getting enough sleep, it can affect our decision-making ability as well
Not all of our choices need the preparation that our bigger decisions require. We must be clear in our own minds about what decisions need preparation and which ones don’t. Obviously what we want for our pizza topping is different to the choices we need to make when buying a house or changing jobs.
As with anything, the more practice we have with making decisions, the easier they tend to be the next time. We should learn to embrace our mistakes because they happen to everybody. I’ve never met anybody who hasn’t made some dumb choice at some point in their lives; sometimes repeatedly!
People who can shrug off mistakes have learned that beating themselves up about their choices, doesn’t help them. We can determine to let it go and not to hold onto our feelings of shame and recriminations. This is an important ‘happiness habit’ we need to put into practice in our lives. As suggested earlier, we should get into the habit of positive self-talk such as:
”No, I refuse to let this worry me. I’ve made my decision and whatever the consequences are, I will survive it. If I’ve made the wrong choice, I can learn from this experience, but it doesn’t mean that I’m a failure. All it means is that I made a wrong decision, and next time I will do better.” [End]
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