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How to make the best decision when you’re unsure

6 July, 2021

Recently I had a decision to make. It was simply around what to do with our summer, nothing life-changing, but for a range of different reasons (namely PCR testing and the cost of travel), I kept putting off making the decision. 

Pre-covid, my summer plans were usually in place – an outline at least – by April, so this decision has been hanging over me for a couple of months. However, it wasn’t until three weeks ago it all came to a head. Deadlines were looming, and I started to feel completely overwhelmed and felt pretty stuck on what to do. 

My heart said one thing, and my head said something else. 

“I have responsibilities, so I need to be realistic, I need to check on finances as we have longer-term goals to meet, and I really didn’t want to regret the decision I made.”

When I feel unsure about doing something, my whole day feels like a distraction. I can feel completely off-track and want to hide away in my house, ticking by on the things I have to do (and daydreaming about running away in the mountains for a really long time!). If I do this for too long, I start to lose perspective, feel more irritable, and less positive about life. I’m very aware this is what happens to me, and I knew I had to take a step to change the situation: I knew I had to stop avoiding the decision and figure out what I wanted and needed to do.

My first step is to ask myself these 5 questions: 

  1. What do you really want and need in your life – and what is it you think you must or should do? 
  2. What are you unwilling to give up?
  3. Do the costs of making the change feel worth the benefits?
  4. If you continue to stay the way you are and do nothing to change, what will your life be like in 6 months? 1 year? 5 years?
  5. What kind of future can you commit to creating?

This self-reflection exercise brings clarity and momentum to figure out what I want to do to move forward. 

The Decisional Balance is a helpful tool for weighing the pros and cons of making a change. By evaluating the costs and benefits of your current behaviours against those of the desired behaviour change, you can reflect on what is most important to you. 

List all the benefits of making the change and then all the benefits for staying the same.

Next, list all the costs of making the change and then all the costs of staying the same. 

Take some time to reflect on the possibilities, imagining each of these scenarios unfolding. 

A usual exercise to go alongside the one above is the 3 scenarios exercise:

The 3 Step Scenario Exercise

Step 1: Write down the most realistic scenario that can happen

Step 2: Write down the very best case scenario that can actually happen 

Step 3: Write down the worst scenario that can actually happen and most importantly how you would overcome each challenge. 

This provides you a perspective of calmness – that whatever happens you will be able to cope with the outcomes. 

An important point to take away is that we cannot guarantee any outcome, every decision we make is an opportunity to grow and evolve – in some way. 

Keep a positive perspective, trust yourself to make the best decision available to you at the time.

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