How to start making decisions for yourself…..Why is this blog post being written? Believe it or not – it’s because it most definitely has to. The transition between childhood and adulthood isn’t smooth sailing. The fundamental reason being that adults have dependency issues. When we are little; we are told what do to and how to do it. Eventually, if we are not allowed to fend for ourselves as we grow older; we become helpless adults unable to make decisions for ourselves. The results are relationship mistakes, poor leadership at work and also an unhappy life. All because we allow others to make decisions for us.
You may be wondering why you struggle when it comes to making decisions for yourself. Why for others this comes naturally but for you it is an uphill battle. Unfortunately there is no simple answer. There could be a plethora of factors which contribute to your inability in making decisions; these include:
- Too much hand holding during childhood has made you dependent on validation and approval from others
- You may be good at making decisions in one area but suck in another. This could boil down to a lack of experience which means you look for people to back you up. E.g. you got extremely good at making financial decisions because you built experience over time. However suck at healthy living decisions because you didn’t put in the effort to learn about your body.
- You care more about what people think therefore you question your own decisions whenever someone goes against them. E.g. you are afraid to wear a brightly lit shirt because it will draw attention to you
- You struggle when it comes to making your own decisions because you are afraid of hurting other people e.g. you are afraid your choice of career may disappoint your parents even if it is really what you love doing.
Why You Should Start Making Decisions For Yourself
So now that we have ruled out why you struggle to make decisions for yourself; the next question is to clarify why making decisions for yourself is so important in the first place.
- It makes you more independent. The more confident you get in making decisions in different areas of your life – the less dependent you become on external validation. This prevents issues in relationships such as becoming too needy on your partner because you are not strong enough to pave your own way in life. If you are curious, also read: independence vs interdependence: what’s the difference?
- It prevents regret down the line. At the end of the day, it would be better to live with a few wrong decisions made by your own hand than several wrong decisions made for you by others. Realize that you know yourself best and need to experiment with decision making to know what feels good for you.
- It builds internal validation. Internal validation means what others say or do doesn’t affect you because you are principle centered as outlined in the book “The 7 habits of highly effective people”
Rule 1 For Making Decisions For Yourself Is Confidence
Here’s the thing about confidence – you can only get confident at something after sucking at it a bit. The human brain learns through trial and error. So it makes sense that to get good at making decisions for yourself; you will need to make a few bad decisions. Eventually after several bad decisions, you will learn what works and what doesn’t and this new wisdom will make you trust yourself more. If you have a fear of making a few bad decisions – know that most bad decisions can be reversed. What can’t be reversed is the regret you feel knowing you have lived your life on someone else’s terms primarily because you can’t make your own decisions.
Rule 2 : You Can Kind Of Trust Expert Opinion
Realize that when you are listening to the advice of others – you are taking in their fears, knowledge, experience insecurities and values which are different from your own. This means that you need to be very careful about asking others of their opinion when it comes to decisions in different areas of your life. For e.g. It would make sense to put more weighting on the advice of your financial advisor when it comes to decisions concerning your money. On the contrary, it wouldn’t make sense to ask that same financial advisor for advice regarding tips to distract yourself from anxiety unless they have a psychology degree or first hand experience in the matter.
However, even though it is important to ask and consider expert opinion – it is important to always run all information through a filter. All final decisions should be filtered through your own value system before a final verdict is made.
Rule 3 : Realize That You Are Not As Important To Other People As You May Think
We grow up wanting validation from friends, family and the community. This means that we often base decisions on impressing people instead of being concerned with how to really be happy There is even a psychological term coined the spotlight effect indicated by an innate fear of being watched excessively by those around us. This again affects our decisions e.g. you may want to hit the dance floor because you know it would be fun but then you are afraid that people will judge your dance moves.
A good way to overcome external validation and the spotlight effect is to first realize that people don’t really care about you as much as you think they do. People are usually preoccupied with their own issues rather than being concerned about you. However our minds make us think that we are the center of attention – and so concocts this idea that our every move is being monitored to the fine detail. The next thing you can do is follow Stoic philosophy i.e. come to terms with your mortality and realize that you have a limited time to live a happy life. Make the changes and decisions that will help you live a fruitful existence.
Rule 4: Be In The Moment – That’s When The Anxiety Stops
Embrace the present moment. When you are in the present moment; the thoughts and anxiety stops. It is during this time that you should do something brave like….. making decisions for yourself. Mindfulness and meditation are excellent ways to calm your mind and embrace the present moment. In the present you are not dictated by the fears of the past or concerned about the worries of the future. Instead, you feel no emotions which could skew your decision making. This is when the mind is the most clear. This is when the mind can be trusted.
Rule 5: Limit Your Choices
Limit the options. To many options make you more doubtful. There comes a time when you just need to start doing and stop thinking. Overthinking puts you in a constant state of stagnancy. It puts you in a state of limbo where you want to get things perfect. The truth is it can never be perfect and you just need to take a leap of faith.
When faced with a difficult situation – it is easy to fall into a state of analysis paralysis. You get so caught up in the details instead of actually making a move. Rejecting too many options prevents “choice overload”, a cognitive impairment which makes decision making extremely difficult. Choice overload is so bad that a book was written about it. According to the Paradox of choice written by American Psychologist Barry Schwartz – too many choices causes the feeling of unhappiness, lack of satisfaction and even paralysis.
Rule 6: Accept that not every decision will be a good one
Don’t beat yourself up when you get things wrong. learn from your mistakes and fall forward. Realize that there are never wrong decisions; only different paths taken. You can always change your course of direction if you really want to. If you are not failing; then you are not trying. The final rule when it comes to making decisions is to be easy on yourself when things don’t work out the way you planned. Don’t use a few failed attempts as an excuse to question your decision making prowess. The fact is even subject matter experts make wrong decisions. You are the subject matter expert for yourself – there will be no one that understands you better than you can.
To learn how to live life consciously and with a clear perspective; read this ultimate guide: A Mindful Approach To Self Actualization
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