Life often seems like an endless series of decisions to be made. Chai latte or decaf Americano? Take a walk or sit at the computer? Plant roses or zinnias? Start a business now or wait until you get fired?
Given the fact that we are called upon to make decision after decision everyday, it would seem reasonable to assume that most of us would have given thought to how we make decisions. We’d have our own decision-making tools that we could employ when needed.
If we lack such tools, too many decisions are simply based on habit. (Chai latte yesterday, chai latte today, chai latte tomorrow.) That’s not the road to living a creative and inspired life.
Self-doubt—simply not trusting ourselves—is behind much of the indecision we encounter. The sheer abundance of options can make it even more difficult, but living decisively is necessary if we’re to have the richest experience possible.
It may also contribute to our health. According to George Crane, “It is uncertainty or indecision that wears people down and promotes peptic ulcers, high blood pressure and nervous breakdowns.”
Since the decisions we make determine the kind of life that we have, how can we improve our ability to make wise decisions? It may be easier than you think.
My starting point is based on this observation from Stewart Emery: “Nothing in the universe is neutral. It either costs or it contributes.”
That bit of wisdom has simplified decision-making for me ever since I heard it.
However, it’s fairly useless without a sense of priority. You need to be clear about what matters most to you and be determined to set up your life to support that.
If being physically healthy is a high priority, every food choice either costs or it contributes. If finishing your book in the next 90 days is a priority, every time choice you make either costs or it contributes.
It all comes down to bringing your activities and actions into alignment with your personal goals.
Some decisions require gathering information in advance, of course. Wise leaders in all walks of life have sounding boards, people whose opinions they trust. The trick for us, whether we’re the leader of the free world or not, is to exercise wisdom in choosing the voices we listen to.
Often that means getting advice from strangers, not from those nearest and dearest to us. Then thoughtfully weighing that advice while keeping in mind your ideal outcome, can make the process smoother.
The more familiar you are with your own intuitive voice, the easier it will be to rely on it when it’s time to make a decision—especially a big important one.
Even if that’s not your usual method of deciding, here’s an exercise that can be helpful providing you pay attention while you’re doing it.
How can you tell if you really want to do something? Toss a coin. Literally. It works—not because it settles the question for you, but, as the Danish poet and mathematician Piet Hein said, “While the coin is in the air, you suddenly know what you’re hoping for.”
Success, prosperity, all the good things in life only come to us after we’ve decided to let them in. Minute by minute and hour by hour, decide in favor of your dreams.