How to Make a Decision

Your brain is a control freak!

In its effort to protect you, to keep you alive and safe, your brain can keep you from getting what you want if you don’t take the steps to stop it.

I am not just talking about big goals. Generally, people are more deliberate when making major life and business decisions unless they are running from a terrible situation and think there is only one choice to make. Yet it is easier to identify the anger and fear that are driving these decisions. The questions below will help you with these choices as well.

The greater dilemma surrounds your everyday decisions—whether to make the phone call, confront someone you THOUGHT was a friend, or join, maybe speak to a group of people—when it comes to these decisions, your brain often steers you wrong subversively.

Because your brain’s primary job is to protect you, when you face an uncomfortable decision, it will in a flash give you a fabulously credible rationalization for avoiding embarrassment, humiliation, or just plain nervousness. As humans, we are master rationalizers.

Most of my clients come to me with decisions that presume only two possibilities exist. Either they opt for one way or the other. They rarely see the middle ground or the out of the box solution. The greatest danger in seeing only two options is to choose the one you think will be most comfortable in the end without really knowing what will happen in the future.

Giving yourself the benefit of choices means you first lay out all the options you have, including hybrids where you do one thing while trying out the other. Your decision-making becomes a creative process. You should feel more hope as possibilities unfold. Instead of saying, “Should I or shouldn’t I?” you say, “What else is possible for me in this situation?”

Whether you are deciding on a career move, the next step in a project or a relationship issue, or what clothing to pack for your conference, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I making a black and white decision or have I explored all of my options around this choice I have to make?
  • Which option will I regret more if I don’t decide on it?
  • What is the worst that can happen if the option I take doesn’t work out, really? How likely is the worst to happen? How painful will a failure be? Will I be able to pick myself up and move on, rich from the experience?
  • What sacrifices must I make or discomfort will I endure to realize my goal? Is it worth it? Is the possible gain greater than the expected pain?
  • Why am I making this decision now?

The moment your brain says yes or no to something, even with good reason why, you should ask yourself, is my reason really a convenient rationalization? Is this my fear or my logic speaking? Then explore the impact of each option and discover other solutions before you make your choice.

Your gut feeling can be based on fear, not good sense.

Most people can’t predict the future. It is hard to know, really, if the action you take is going to have a horrific outcome or if something great could come out of an awkward situation.

Remember, there will be less to regret if YOU make the decision instead of letting your protective, control freak brain do it for you.

You can outsmart your brain. The possibilities you create will make achieving success much easier.

3 thoughts on “How to Make a Decision”

  1. Excellent points, Marcia. I think another factor is the brain’s drive to efficiency – wanting to reduce potentially complex decisions to their simplest form (like yes or no) to enable a quick decision and action. With survival at stake, and with fewer complex decisions to make each day, this efficiency process was effective in the savannah. With the complexity of postmodern life, the need for both divergent consideration (as you encourage) coupled with an ability to engagen in an efficient process to test hypotheses and act on them rationally is esential. I think we’re both saying, “Get off emotional autopilot, and make up your own mind!”

    1. Oh yeah, that efficient, control-freak brain. Great way of putting it Larry, notice and stop the autopilot and make up your own mind!

  2. Very good points Marcia.

    I agree that we need to fight our spontaneous reaction of fear when there is a possible change that put us out of our comfort zone. But only by being exposed to new challenges we can learn new skills and adapt to inevitable life changes. Action is fundamental to fight our irrational feelings.

    I love that quote: “Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future.” Fulton Oursler

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