There are times when you need to decide whether to continue keeping a loved one on life support, or which job offer to accept when they all look attractive (or when none of them look attractive), whether to stay home with your children or return to work, whether to choose success or happiness when their paths seem to diverge. How do you make that choice?
Many books have been written on the subject of decision-making. (Here are some of my favorites: How We Decide, Drunk Pink Tank, On Being Certain, The Power of Habit, Decisive, Predictably Irrational, and Your Survival Instinct is Killing You.) I even wrote my own book chapter on the subject, Making Choices Without Regrets, for a book I co-authored with several coaches. (If you’d like a copy of my chapter, just email me and let me know, and I’ll send you a free pdf).
The thing is that when you have to make a big decision, especially when you have to make it under pressure and fairly quickly, you may not want to sit down and read all of these great decision-making books. Of course, a methodical approach that entails a thorough analysis and even incorporates your gut feeling is great. Still, when you need a quick decision, you need a rule of thumb for making choices that you can live with.
I’d like to share with you a quick and useful tool for making choices. It may not work in some situations, but Tylenol may not work in some situations either, and it’s still worth having in your emergency kit.
Here’s one thing you need to know: we make choices based on our beliefs.
We root for the team that we believe is going to win, often despite the stats.
We vote based on what we believe the ruling party will or won’t do.
We act based on what we believe is the right thing to do, or based on what we believe is in our best interest.
Our beliefs may or may not be accurately reflecting reality, as beliefs are not necessarily rooted in facts, and yet we often act based on what we believe rather than on what we know.
So, when you have a difficult choice to make, do this one thing: make a list of 1-5 things that you generally believe about the issue at hand.
For example, when choosing between job offers, think: what do you generally believe about work? Do you believe that the amount of money that you’re getting should compensate for the stress of a cut-throat environment? Do you believe that supportive work environment has value that trumps a higher salary in a cut-throat environment? Do you believe that money is the primary reason you go to work, and therefore you should maximize the amount? Do you believe that your work has to have purpose and meaning, above all? What do you generally believe about work?
When choosing between two locations for your new house, consider your general beliefs about places to live. Do you believe that living within 15 minutes of close family members is important? Is living 30 minutes away, 2 hours away sufficient? Do you believe that proximity to family is not an important factor in choosing a location of a home? Do you believe that choosing the best school for your children is worth any sacrifice? Do you believe in your heart of hearts that you’re a city dweller? Do you believe that living close to an ocean is vital to your health?
When choosing between summer activities for your kids, ask yourself what you believe kids need. Do you believe that kids need more sleep and fresh air? Do you believe that summer is a great time to make friends and play, or to catch up on school work and move ahead? If you were pressed for an opinion, what do you really believe when it comes to your children’s needs?
Don’t ask yourself what you should do. Instead, ask yourself what you believe.
Generally, are you pro-choice or pro-life?
Generally, do you believe in tough love or in showering with love?
Generally, do you believe in self-reliance at all costs or in building extensive support networks?
Your general beliefs will give you a sense of direction for your choice.
Here’s the interesting part: your choice needs to be consistent with your belief, even if your belief is not rooted in facts. Otherwise, you will experience the internal tension of “It sounds right, but it doesn’t feel right”. Eventually, either your belief will have to bend, or your choice will have to adjust in order to match each other, and release the tension between your belief and your physical reality.
Use this strategy, and let me know how it works for you! Email me at Alina@MindTerrainCoaching.com . Thanks!