3 savvy practices that will help you make decisions faster.
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. ~ Theodore Roosevelt
I found myself re-enacting an episode of the Simpsons. In the episode, Mr. Burns was going mad trying to figure out the difference between ketchup and catsup.
I couldn’t make a decision between two flavors of ice cream: mint chocolate chip or OREO Cookies ‘N Cream. And there was a line of people forming behind me, quietly cursing me. And the sales lady was rolling her eyes. It was quite uncomfortable and no matter how silly it seems now, it felt like a difficult decision at the time.
A friend I was with told me that: “Real men are supposed to make decisions and if you can’t—you’re not a real man.”
I don’t find that making decisions is necessarily a man’s job, but her comment made me realize that taking so long to make even the simplest decisions was sucking up an extraordinary amount of my energy. I decided to do something about it.
Here are three simple and savvy ways I used to teach myself to make decisions faster.
It took me a few months—and now I’m capable of making any decision with no regrets, even the most difficult ones (although I still advise taking the time and thinking through your choice if it’s potentially life changing).
1. Just Do It.
Nike hit the bull’s-eye with their slogan: Just do it! The worst thing you can do is stay indecisive. That way you make room for others to make the choice for you.
You already intuitively know which choice you’d rather make. Listen to your little voice inside your head or follow that feeling in your tummy—and make the choice fast. We make the best decisions when we follow what our gut is telling us.
Even if you do make a wrong choice with small decisions, it doesn’t really matter. Nothing of consequence could have happened if I chose mint chocolate chip over OREO Cookies ice cream and I decided that I didn’t like my choice five minutes after the purchase was completed.
The only thing that would have happened is that I would be more tuned into what my gut was trying to tell me. And that’s a good thing, because as someone said, “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from poor judgment.”
Start with the small choices that won’t matter in an hour, let alone in the grand scheme of things. Pick either Mint or OREO Cookies right away. Force yourself if you have to. This way you are systematically desensitizing yourself with “small” choices so you can easily make bigger ones in the future.
2. Flip a Coin
“The hardest decisions in life are not between good and bad or right and wrong, but between two goods or two rights.” ~Joe Andrew
Like Two-Face, one of Batman’s archenemies most recently seen in the Dark Knight Trilogy movies, I flip a coin when I have to make a decision that I can’t seem to make instantly. Heads for OREO Cookies and tails for mint chocolate chip.
Unlike Two-Face, I don’t care on which side the coin lands on. The result of the toss is not important. What matters is the feeling I have while the coin is still in the air—that little voice inside that is secretly be rooting for the coin to land on one side or another. Listen to that little voice. It’s telling you what you really want.
If you have multiple choices, just swap a coin for dice. And your difficult choice is resolved without effort.
3. Make Time for Yourself
Taking some “me time” every day is important for good mental health. When we are feeling good about our lives, it’s easier to recognize what we truly want. For me, walking, meditation and visualization do the trick.
Walking. There’s something about being in motion that makes me think clearly. There has to be something to it—almost every personality test I’ve done has had one variation or another of the question “Do you enjoy long walks by yourself?” My answer is always a resounding yes!
Meditation. Be still and quiet your mind. Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated. All it all boils down to is settling in a comfortable position and focusing inwards for twenty minutes (or more).
Meditation is the tool that brings me the most clarity of all. It is easy, but still, as Steven Aitchison put it, “And this makes meditation sound easy … but when you try it, well, it isn’t quite so easy.”
Visualization. Finally, during “me time” I often focus on visualizing the kind of life I want to have. Visualization helps me get there more easily. A study suggests that visualizing is almost as good as actually doing it. So visualize. It’s not hard.
One of the benefits of visualizing is that it helps me crystallize what I want. When the time to make a tough decision comes, I refer back to what I visualized and chose the path that leads me closer to my desire.
“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” ~ Roy Disney
I have to admit that I firmly believe that most of the time we know upfront what choice we want to make. What takes time is logically justifying that choice to ourselves. You don’t have to justify choices logically—if they are resolved emotionally you’re good to go.
Do you struggle to make even the simplest decisions? Or does it come to you easily? I would love to read your thoughts, so share your thought below.
Photo: Flickr/Nicu Buculei
Would you like to help us shatter stereotypes about men?