Life is the grandest and most varied of buffets and you have the freedom as a human being to decide what you put on your plate.
But how do you know that you’re making the right decisions? The best ones? The optimal ones? The ones that will serve you well in the future?
Whatever decision you’re making, whether it’s about a career change, relationship, or health issue, it’s important to really think about what you’re doing.
To help you, we’ve created this comprehensive guide to making good decisions…
What Are The Short-term Effects And Long-term Consequences?
Think about why you want/need to make a decision about this particular aspect of your life.
The fact that you’re considering changing something shows that it’s important to you, but you need to look deeper.
Are you just after immediate gratification? For instance, as a vegan, caving in to meat cravings may feel good for a few moments but that pleasure won’t last long.
While the short-term impact is positive, you need to consider why you’re really making this decision. If it’s just to enjoy something for a small period of time, is it worth the potential fallout?
Many decisions have a longer-term impact, so you need to think about every aspect of what you’re doing.
Will there be short-term pain for long-term gain, perhaps? Ending a relationship may be horrendous and upsetting for a few weeks or months, but will it make you feel better overall? Probably, yes, if you’re already thinking about it.
It can be so hard to find the balance between short- and long-term pleasure and pain, so take time to consider the consequences of your actions.
Write a list of the possible and probable outcomes of your decision and how you’ll deal with them.
For example, you can be pretty certain that breaking up with your partner will be difficult. By writing down how you expect to feel and why you should stick with your decision despite the upset caused, you’ll find the pain a little easier to bear.
If short-term pain is likely after making a decision, anticipate how you’re going to feel, give yourself time to come to terms with it, and think about the coping mechanisms you might employ during the process.
Do The Pros Outweigh The Cons?
We all know about making these lists – grids full of positives and negatives in a desperate bid to work out if something is worth doing.
This basic technique can genuinely help you make bigger decisions in your life. Often, it’s not what we actually write down that helps, but the process that we go through when making these kinds of comparative lists.
For example, if you’re leaning toward doing something, you’ll probably find yourself filling out the pros column with more bullet points than the cons side.
This is often subconscious – much like flipping a coin and realizing which side you want it to land on whilst it’s in the air.
This will tell you a lot about how you feel about the decision. You may even find yourself hoping that things happen that make the decision for you – such as being rejected for a job in another country so you don’t have to decide whether or not you uproot your life for it.
Pay attention to these messages and listen to your gut, you’re much more intuitive than you might think.
Research Background Info Thoroughly
In order to make good decisions, you must have as much relevant information as possible. This will allow you to make the aforementioned pros and cons list and predict the likely consequences with greater accuracy.
It will also give you more confidence that you’re making the right decision; you’ll have an idea of what the future holds and won’t be going into it blind.
You have to ask yourself all of the important who, what, why, where, when, and how questions and try to find answers to as many of them as possible.
If you want to up sticks and move to the countryside, for instance, you’ll need to research where you could possibly afford to move to, when the best time to do it is, and how you’ll commute to your job (or what the job prospects are in this new location), among other things.
And you also need to take a look inward and examine the internal workings of your mind that might be influencing your decision.
Think about what has led you to this decision-making stage and how true your feelings and thoughts regarding the situation are.
It is very easy to be influenced by those around you. This can sometimes be helpful, but it can also muddy the waters in terms of clarity of information.
You need to think about why you’re in this situation and what experiences have led you to it. By reflecting on the journey in a wider sense, you’ll be much better equipped to plan for the future.
This is where things can get tricky. While we’re all for putting yourself first and doing what’s best for you, compassion is also very important.
That’s not to say that you should avoid making any decisions for fear of upsetting anyone; don’t allow that fear to hold you back.
Think about the impact of a decision and how it might shift friendships and relationships. This ties in with making a pros and cons list, but goes deeper than that.
Remember that the people you want to keep in your life are already there for a reason and they will most likely remain so whatever decisions you make in your life.
Those who love you will stick by you even if they are affected by your decision; those who abandon you so easily might not really be worth it, sad as it may be to accept.
That said, be cautious about how you handle things. Many of those whom you love may not be massively upset about a decision you make, but about your delivery of the news – or lack therefore.
Keep those who will be affected informed, as there is nothing worse than hearing about a change to your own life from a third party.
Don’t let those who count be the last to know. Be as compassionate as possible, with others and with yourself.
Talk It Out
Talking about your thoughts and feelings is an essential part of human existence, and decision-making is no exception.
We all have friends who are kind and sweet, and those who give us tough-love when we need it the most.
By talking to people you trust, you’ll probably get a few new perspectives on the situation which will really help.
Most of us have that one person who says what we know we need to hear – we subconsciously go to them because we know that they will voice aloud the doubts we’re secretly having.
Sharing your thoughts and emotions is so important, especially when you’re considering making a big change to your life.
By building up that support network before you take the plunge (or choose to not to), you’ll be well prepared for the consequences, be they good or bad.
Furthermore, don’t be afraid to seek expert advice if the decision is something that no one in your direct life has experience of. If you have gaps in your knowledge, find someone who can fill them.
Give It Time – But Not Too Much
As with all important things, don’t rush into it. It can be so easy to race toward making a decision, especially if your immediate circumstances are making you very unhappy.
Take into account all of the above advice and give yourself time to make lists and talk to those you love and trust.
Whatever the decision, it is bound to take up a certain amount of your thoughts and energy, so be sensible and honor it with a decent amount of time too.
Rash decisions can sometimes pay off, but they also come with more risk. Give yourself some credit and respect, and take the time to really think about what you’re doing.
That being said, don’t drag things out once it’s clear to you what you want to do. Decisions like getting a new haircut or having minor conversations with people shouldn’t take up excessive amounts of time and energy.
Whether or not you get bangs probably isn’t the biggest decision of your life, but can rapidly become a source of tension and anxiety if you focus too much on it.
It’s a learning process, but you need to figure out which decisions are worth spending time and energy on, and which can be made more quickly and easily.
Accept That Hindsight Is A Wonderful Thing And Move On
Once you’ve made your decision, give yourself a little grace period.
That new job you sacrificed a lot for might be hard to start with, and you might find yourself regretting your choice.
Let yourself settle in – new situations and people are enough to deal with, let alone the fact that you made a big decision and are probably going through a mourning period due to the change.
Accept that some decisions might not be right, however much you think about them beforehand. Hindsight affords us 20:20 vision, yes, but a positive mindset can make a huge difference whatever the outcome.
It’s okay to think of what you would have done had you known how things would work out, but that’s just life. There are no guarantees or certainties, so do your best to be sensible and fully commit to your decision.
Being aware of your decision-making process is so important, and the fact that you’re taking your time is a good sign.
Whether you’re planning a huge move, deciding if you should give someone a second chance, or making a career change, good luck!
In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing. – Unknown (though often attributed to Theodore Roosevelt)
Lucy is a travel and wellness writer currently based in Gili Air, a tiny Indonesian island. After over a year of traveling, she’s settled in paradise and spends her days wandering around barefoot, practicing yoga and exploring new ways to work on her wellbeing.