It struck me that we tend to think about decisions in a binary way: stay or go, keep or discard. And while this can work with relatively simple decisions, eg shall I eat an apple or orange, wear the blue or black top today, with more complex and weighty decisions it adds a rigidity that leads to stuckness and indecision.
Why limit ourselves to a forced choice when there are often far more possibilities out there?
My client was putting immense pressure on himself to make the decision quickly ‘so that I can move forward’ . This was producing the opposite effect and creating so much pressure to do something that he’d come to a complete standstill. He’d made his 'pros and cons' list, he’d talked himself round in circles, he’d berated himself for lacking clarity about what to do next; and now the decision was completely overwhelming and affecting his work even more.
It was clear that he needed another way to approach this. How about seeing a decision more as a journey to a destination than a forced choice? Like a good pot of tea, decisions often need time to brew .
Sometimes it’s not the decision itself that’s tricky, it’s the knots the person has tied themselves in due to the pressure of the situation, or the lack of confidence to do ’the right thing’. So rather than focus on the content of the decision, let’s pay attention to the process.
I asked my client to consider how confident he was on a scale of 0-10 that he’d make the right decision. 8 was the answer. 'How come it’s an 8 (and not a 0)?', I asked. He explained that he’d made good decisions about his career before, and that whatever he decided he knew he’d make the best of the outcome. Curious, I asked him about these other good career decisions and how he’d done that. What did he know about making good decisions about his career? Before long, he came up with a list of actions to move this forward - contact a head-hunter, have a chat with his boss, get mentoring/training on team management, explore other suitable roles in-house. There was lots to do while the decision brewed - actions that would provide more information, make progress and generate possibilities.
So next time you’ve got an important decision to make, give yourself more choice and allow things to emerge by asking yourself what you know about making good decisions, what’s worked before and what can you be getting on with whilst it’s brewing. You never know, you might even have time for a nice cup of tea.