Making hard decisions requires us to take a leap of faith.
It’s a leap of faith when a decision takes us from a place of comfort and puts us into unfamiliar situations. And this type of leap of faith impacts our state of mind. Both before taking the leap and after we’ve made the decision.
Many times, when faced with a hard decision, we can become paralyzed trying to think the possible outcomes. When faced with a tough choice, you’ve likely thought it through to infinite conclusions. An attempt to understand the worse case outcomes.
What if I make the wrong choice?
Making hard decisions creates a mental fatigue that slows us down and makes life more challenging. And constantly battling tough choices is mentally exhausting. This mental fatigue is what fuels anxiety. A fear of future actions.
I don’t know what to do.
Some simple examples from everyday life: breaking up with a significant other. You likely don’t want to hurt the person and it’s hard to throw yourself back into the dating pool. Your mind fills with “what if” scenarios. These “what if” thoughts slow and delay the inevitable decision.
Stay or go? Maybe I’ll give it more time.
And delay likely makes the situation worse. Your delay of the breakup leads to more heartbreak and pain.
Or perhaps you’re trying to decide if you should leave a dead end job. You find yourself rationalizing away problems, thinking “it could get better”. It doesn’t help that you have an addiction to your income and the lifestyle creep that accompanied it when you accepted the job.
Making hard decisions requires a commitment to a new path. And its likely a path filled with consistent failure and unknown hardships at the start.
Making hard decisions causes many mental problems. But there are simple solutions you can implement to head off the problems before they arise.
Making Hard Decisions Causes Common Problems
To address decision making challenges, its important to understand that there are a few common problems that arise when making hard choices.
Making hard decisions can cause analysis paralysis aka FOBO (Fear of better options). It can lead to indecisiveness or what I call, half in half out decisions. And as we face more hard decisions on a daily basis, our minds can become fatigued from the constant weighing of options.
We also experience analysis paralysis and doomsday scenario building. When we drag our feet with making hard decisions even when we know the decision we ought to make. We do this when our minds come up with crazy disaster outcomes from the choices we contemplate.
We experience increased procrastination and delayed decision making when faced with hard choices. Avoiding what you know is an inevitable and important choice is a tactic for creating anxiety. Your life will fill with other complex choices in the meantime compounding your mental fatigue.
Strategies for How to Make Hard Decisions
The mental fatigues of FOBO, Analysis Paralysis, Procrastination, and Anxiety are common regardless of the decisions you make. And because they are common, there are common methods of avoiding these fatigues.
Make Concrete Goals & Eliminate Abstract Goals
It’s important to make concrete goals to support your decision making process. By understanding more clearly what your expected outcome is, you can better understand the potential challenges you will face along the way. Clear goals help you manage your own expectations and help you stay aligned once the choice is made.
Good Example: I want to start a business and grow to 100 clients and 100,000 in revenue this year.
Bad Example: I want to start a business and be an entrepreneur
When you make clear goals, your decisions become more refined. In the example above, starting a business and being and entrepreneur can mean many different things. But starting a business with 100 clients and $100,000 in revenue eliminates many options immediately. It forces you to think about your decision differently and allows you to consider the concrete choices you need to take to get started.
Reduce The Number of Options
A useful tactic to eliminating analysis paralysis is to simply narrow the window of options.
Sometimes we struggle to make decisions because we have too many options. It could be a seemingly insignificant set of choices. Like choosing a paint pallet for a room in your house (see cover picture). By having too many choices we develop analysis paralysis. How do we really compare so many choices when they are objectively challenging to measure against one another?
The first part of your decision making strategy is to clearly define your goals and desired outcomes. In doing this, you can better eliminate options that you don’t need to consider for your decision. In the paint pallet example – let’s assume your significant other would never be ok with painting a room in your house brown. So now you have a few shades of white to consider as opposed to 30 varieties of white and brown.
Less choice creates less mental fatigue. Eliminate as many options to start as you possibly can before getting into the hard details of your decision.
Eliminate Half in Half Out Decisions
Under commitment to any decision leads to lousy outcomes for all choices that we make.
It’s important to remember that most people aren’t polymaths. We aren’t good at everything we do. And we’re likely bad at splitting our attention to more than a few tasks at once. ie: when we focus on more than a few things we start to underperform in all of them.
Under committing to a choice is what causes the disaster scenarios we create in our heads start to come true.
That means we must pick the few things we will commit to.
When you make a choice, make it with 100% commitment and a mindset longevity. Not half in half out mediocrity. Full commitment to a decision focuses your decision making mental energy. By forcing yourself to commit to a hard decision you restrict the available choices and secondary decisions you need to make. There is less paralysis when you close off choices.
You can do this by setting a timeline for re-evaluating your decision. Don’t second guess or evaluate your decision right away. Give it time to be successful with your full mental commitment. Set a predetermined check in time with clear evaluation metrics for a reasonable time in the future.
Fight Mental Fatigue With Decision Making Frameworks
You’re human. That means you can expect to have similar reactions to common experiences. You’re familiar with procrastination, with fear of better options, analysis paralysis, and anxiety. It also means you can use common tricks to bypass many of these common problems.
That means creating a decision making framework. A system of decision making that is custom designed for you with an understanding of how you react to hard choices.
I use a system I created when I don’t have decisions to make in order to remove my emotional nature from the process. I lean on it when I have a hard choice to make knowing that I’ll get bogged down in mental fatigue.
- Set clear goals and establish clear outcomes
- Use clear goals to eliminate as many choices as possible (fights analysis paralysis)
- Establish hard deadlines for making choices (fights procrastination)
- Gain perspective using a personal board of directors (friends and mentors to share the decision making burden and anchors fears in reality)
- Assess what the commitment will require (do I have time to follow through on this? will it impact other activities? Can I manage my mental energy if I make this choice?)
- Set a commitment timeframe – I will follow through on this decision for 12 months before revisiting whether it was the right choice (eliminates second guessing)
This simple framework is effective because it helps me manage the problems I frequently face when making hard choices.
I’m creating the playbook to thrive in the Digital Age. Sharing unique perspectives on the societal change we’re living through. The things you can’t fully appreciate because we’re in the thick of it. Diagnosing the harsh truths created by our digital world and prescribing your path forward. The path to becoming a Sovereign Individual. Topics intersect at geopolitics, fintech, crypto, individual responsibility, and personal freedom.
*Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash
3 thoughts on “A Guide to Making Hard Decisions”
Excellent article. Would love to connect and discuss geopolitics and autarkic principles with you.
Glad you enjoyed it. I’d be happy to talk with you on those topics. Feel free to reach out via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Twitter DM https://twitter.com/DougAntin