Indeed, hard choices are often called hard choices because of the weight attached to them. For most of us, a life or death decision may seem much more important than something that concerns our financial future, or having to decide by the end of the week where we’re going to live for the next five years.
However, in the moment; life or death, property A or property B, vendor X or vendor Y, value brand or premium — all become mental semantics.
- “Have a risky heart surgery that will add ten years to my life, even though I might die on the table?”
- “Buy the iPhone 6 or wait a few weeks to buy the new Galaxy S6?”
It would surprise most logical-minded people to imagine that decision #1 would be much harder to make and carry much more preponderance than #2, but in the moment, each is equally pressing because of how important they are to our perceived future.
Stress and anxiety soon come into play when the answer doesn’t come easily, further hindering our decision-making process.
Here are a few useful tips to help you feel less like a deer in the headlights the next time a decision dilemma shines its light at you.
Step 1: Chill
When a tough decision comes to the forefront, finding a way to ease your mind is the first crucial step to easing your stress levels and allowing your subconscious to get involved in the process. Don’t assume that the universe has the right answers and you’re just to dumb to figure it out. Ruth Chang, a philosopher from Rutgers, says there’s rarely just one perfect solution for any problem “So when we face hard choices, we shouldn’t tear our hair out trying to figure out which alternative is better.
Anxiety has long been proved to be a source of less than favorable outcomes, despite the whole “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” analogy that leads many of us believe that we’ll make better decisions when we’re down-to-wire and our back’s against the wall. You still have to maintain a clear head. Check out this study competed by the University of Florida a few years back.
Step 2: Get out your pen and paper
While it may seem archaic, putting your thoughts — pros and cons, perceived outcomes, roadblocks to success, etc. — on paper can really help your brain get the entire picture into perspective. The right (creative) brain also becomes much more involved when we conceptualize our thoughts on paper, helping to bring the yin and yang inside us back into symbiosis.
Step 3: Recognize that decisions rely on more than just intellect
Over 60 percent of executives polled in a study by the Fortune Knowledge Group and Gyro Advertising Group (read Gyro’s post about the results), insisted that most of them still make most of their tough decisions based on emotions (gut feelings) and other intangibles rather than data alone. Gyro CEO, Christoph Becker insisted that after talking to so many business leaders, it became very obvious that good decision making is “underscored by rational structure, but emotion has to lead.” Trust your gut and don’t let facts and analytics lead to analysis paralysis.
Step 4: Feel empowered that you’re so lucky to be in such a predicament
We’ve all heard this line of thought, “the grass is always greener on the other side” kind thing that all the optimists of the world are always espousing. If you realize that you’ve been put in control of a very empowering situation that you control, you allow yourself to become the author of your own life.
You’re the one that gets to craft the story as you see fit. The choice you end up making, right or wrong — painful or pleasure-filled, will define you at the end of your life when you’re laying back and reflecting. The choice you make today may lead to a more difficult choice tomorrow, a choice that eventually leads you to a more fulfilling, empowering place in your life.
As Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon has uttered in several of his inspiring speeches: “In the end, we are our choices. Build yourself a great story.”