August 28, 2018 |

Learning to Make Decisions

Every day for the past 20 years, I have helped people make decisions.  Pretty big ones.  At times stressful ones.  In 1967, psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe began a project that led to the creation of the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale – a checklist of 43 items designed to inventory “fundamentally important environmental incidents.”  Job related incidents like changing jobs, being fired or having difficulties at work rank only behind incidents like death, divorce and being put in jail.  Bottom line – job decisions are stressful for people, and difficult to make.

Lack of decisiveness is nothing new for humans.  What’s new, however, is that it’s becoming an epidemic.  Why?  One is simply the Paradox of Choice, which is well documented.  The more choices a person has, the more trouble they have deciding.  We live in a world today of almost infinite choices.  That gets people paralyzed.  Another reason – we are raising a younger generation that has incredible difficulty making decisions.  Why?  They’ve grown up with parents who made their decisions for them.

A colleague of mine recently said, “The only way to get comfortable with making decisions is to make them.  The only way to get comfortable with making really big decisions is to make really big decisions.”  That’s extremely well stated.

So how do you learn to make decisions?  Step 1: Start making decisions.  Step 2: Quit making it so hard on yourself.  You can do that by treating a big decision as a series of smaller decisions.  Then it becomes a process vs. an event.  Break the big decision down into a series of smaller, linear decisions.  As long as you are deciding “yes” to the smaller decisions, you move forward.  If you hit a “no”, you may have just saved yourself a ton of stress at the end.  Try it.  See what happens.