5 Common Struggles and 4 Unconventional Strategies to Unleash Your Decision-Making Potential!
Decision-making is something we do every day (consciously and unconsciously), all day. Yet, it can be one of the most challenging aspects of being human.
“It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.” - Tony Robbins
Decision-making is largely the cognitive process of choosing a course of action from among several possible options. Simply put, it’s about making choices.
But is it that simple?
Yes. In some cases, we don’t even think about the choices and decisions we make. Take for example brushing your teeth. We just do it. This process is so deeply ingrained in our subconscious that we just do it seemingly with little or no effort.
However, selecting a path forward can be challenging. Why? Because every decision we make (even if it’s the decision to do nothing), likely has an impact or consequences (big or small).
From my own research and experience of working with clients over many years, here are some common struggles around decision-making. (This is not an exhaustive list, but some of these may resonate for you).
These days, with the obsession around data and SO MUCH information available, it can be easy to get into analysis-paralysis and delay choices in pursuit of “ideal” knowledge input and the “perfect” output answer.
Disappointing Others / People pleasing / Stakeholder Management
Whether we're the leader of an organisation, a parent, a community director or a project leader, many of us want to consider the greater perspectives. Whilst we're social beings, many with goals and ambitions, confident decision-making may require you to forego popularity contests.
Self-doubt / Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome whispers "you're not qualified" to determine the course ahead, despite the road already traveled, the progresses and achievements accomplished. It’s a voice that can be the destroyer of goals and dreams.
Fear (of failure, judgement, humiliation . . . of just about anything!)
The potential consequences of making a "wrong" choice or decision weigh heavy, scaring us away from bold risks our goals and missions demands.
Lack of framework/process
Without clear guidance or a process for helping decision-making, sometimes it can be a shot in the dark.
If you think for a moment about an important decision you’ve made in your life (personal or professional) – be it changing jobs, moving countries, getting into a relationship, making lifestyle changes (exercise, diet etc) - it’s likely that at some point you will have been inhibited by some or all of the above challenges
Confident decision-making may not always feel easy or right at the time. It can bring up a myriad of emotions, thoughts and ideas that feel confusing, confronting and even overwhelming. It’s just as important to acknowledge these emotions, thoughts and ideas (and not make yourself wrong for having them) as part of the process.
Sometimes, just to move forward and get out of our “unstuckness”, we just have to make a choice.
“Often, tough decisions are less about making the “right” choice and more about choosing.” - Patrick Ness.
In 2022 I was working with a Head of Business for a large financial services organisation. He had been hired to turn around company performance that had been in steady decline over the prior 4 years.
Within 4 weeks of joining the firm, he made a bold choice to revise the strategy that the company had been stalling on for the prior 4 years. When I asked about how he came about making his decision so quickly and whether he had all the information he needed beforehand, he replied:
“No, but I had enough to make a decision. I knew we had to revise the old strategy. Everyone was ‘stuck’ and going down a rabbit hole. I was hired as a leader to make decisions. I also have sufficient trust and confidence in the management team’s skill, competence and intelligence. I knew they would figure out an alternative way forward. What I needed to do as a business leader was make a decision that no one else had been prepared to make, to shake up the inertia and get the ball rolling again. The worst thing I could’ve done within a long-stagnant and declining business was spend more time being inactive.”
The company is now pursuing new markets and making quick inroads with new product launches.
This is often what sets leaders apart from everyone else. Their willingness to take action when everyone else is paralyzed by uncertainty.
And here’s more good news.
Whilst none of us are born with the innate ability to make confident decisions, it is a learned skill and can be developed and honed with experience and time.
It takes practice, experimentation and sometimes failure. It requires thinking about the outcomes you want, evaluating ALL the options, exploring the consequences, looking at risk mitigation and then resolving to move forward and TAKE ACTION.
Yet while confident decision-making is crucial for progress and growth, success isn’t ALWAYS guaranteed. It’s equally important to create and foster an environment where strategies can be adapted and refined based on emerging insights, where resilience is learnt from setbacks and where there is a healthy balance between confidence and humility.
Because decision-making also takes a level of self-awareness, it blends both art and practical processes with an understanding of our mindset and motivation. Here’s the other thing about decision-making, it is an energy-intensive cognitive process. Give yourself space, time and permission to reflect on the decision that needs to be made (where this is possible as it sometimes isn't). This can be a game-changer.
Here are 4 Less Common strategies used to help you make better and more confident decisions. (And more in the download!)
1. Tap into Your Three Brains: Head, Heart, and Body.
In the business world, we often hear the advice to remove emotions from decision-making and focus solely on facts and logic. However, recent scientific research suggests that it's nearly impossible to separate ourselves from our emotions when making important choices. Neuroscience reveals the significance of tuning into not only our rational thinking (head wisdom) but also our emotional intelligence (heart wisdom) and gut instincts (body wisdom) to make confident decisions.
The Rational Brain (Head): Gathers facts, analyses pros and cons logically, and makes judgments. It's important to be aware of its tendency to lean towards safety and the status quo due to its fear-oriented wiring.
The Emotional Brain (Heart): The seat of passion, interest, and compassion. Pay attention to feelings of excitement or discomfort as they subconsciously detect risks.
The Intuitive Brain (Body/Gut): A powerful source of wisdom and insight. By creating reflective moments free from distractions, you may experience flashes of insight and trust hunches that feel right. Nature walks, mindful activities, or even taking a shower often trigger these insights.
When considering decisions, it's essential to take into account the perspectives of each of these brains. If you find yourself stuck, it's likely because there's a conflict between them, which is entirely normal."
How will you know? When the 3 brains align - you will know. You may experiences this as a sense of ease, flow, a feeling of confidence and expansion or simply a deep inner awareness of knowing.
2. Embrace / Befriend Fear:
Fear often accompanies big decisions. Many of us believe that we can only make confident decisions in the absence of fear. However, since our brains are wired for fear (to ensure our safety and survival), we need to shift our perspective.
Our brains function like air traffic control towers, constantly scanning for potential threats and pain triggers, both physical and emotional.
Confidence is having the courage to make decisions in the presence of fear.
It may mean risking rejection (in a personal context) or accepting a promotion (despite feeling underqualified) in a professional setting. When fear arises, our task is to acknowledge its presence, understand its purpose (to protect us), and step into it. By taking action despite fear, we initiate the rewiring process and show our brains that we are safe and capable."
3. Reverse Decision Method
Instead of focusing solely on the pros and cons of a decision (normally the rational and logical way of making a decision), try reversing it.
Imagine that you have already made the decision.
NOW assess how you feel about it.
This technique helps you gain a different perspective and evaluate the potential consequences more objectively.
4. The Six Hat Decision-Making Process
The Six Hat Decision-Making Process is an unconventional approach that helps leaders and impact-driven individuals make confident decisions by considering various perspectives. It involves metaphorically wearing six different "hats," each representing a different thinking style or perspective:
White Hat: Focused on facts and information. It encourages objective analysis and data-driven decision-making.
Red Hat: Emphasizes emotions and intuition. It allows for gut feelings and personal instincts to be considered.
Black Hat: Concerned with caution and critical thinking. It helps identify potential risks, drawbacks, and challenges.
Yellow Hat: Optimistic and positive thinking. It explores the benefits, opportunities, and possibilities associated with a decision.
Green Hat: Creative and innovative thinking. It encourages generating new ideas, alternatives, and solutions.
Blue Hat: Facilitates the process as a whole. It oversees the decision-making process, sets objectives, and manages discussions.
By systematically employing these different thinking styles, the Six Hat Decision-Making Process enables you to explore a decision from multiple angles. It helps overcome biases, encourages comprehensive analysis, and fosters more balanced and confident decision-making. This approach allows for a holistic consideration of facts, emotions, risks, opportunities, creativity, and overall management of the decision-making process.
If you liked these strategies, download this FREE Ultimate Confident Decision-Making Toolkit which includes 12 STRATEGIES that will prove to be game changers for your decision-making abilities.
PS: The Toolkit includes 6 Questions I ALWAYS use to make confident decisions.
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