July 2, 2012

How To Make Decisions

Much of the time, we don’t actually want to make decisions. We want to defer or postpone them, allowing another person or some external event to determine our future. In that case, see how to put off making decisions about your life.

But what about those times when you really do want to make a decision, but you aren’t sure of the right one?

Here are three approaches.

Option 1: Flip a Coin… Sort of

If your decision is binary (there are only two options), think long and hard about each choice. Then get out a coin and prepare to flip it. Assign each outcome to one side of the coin, take a deep breath, and throw it in the air.

Important: you don’t need the results to make the decision. When the coin lands, cover it up and don’t look at it. Think about each choice again. Which side did you want the coin to land on?

There’s your answer. No need to look at the actual coin toss results, since they may just confuse you. The point of the exercise was to learn what you actually wanted. Now you know.

You’re welcome.

Option 2: Do the Last Thing on Your List

Sometimes people say they feel conflicted over the choice between many different ideas. If you’re with someone experiencing this indecisiveness, ask them to list out the ideas. Try to pay attention to how they sound when telling you. You can often hear their level of emotional commitment when listing competing ideas.

If you’re on your own, you can do this yourself. Write down the different options. What feels right? What gets you excited?

Also, think about what comes last on the list. Sometimes that’s the thing you really want to do, but you’re worried it won’t work out, so you list the safe choices first.

In this case, choose the last thing.

Option 3: Just Pick Something

Remaining in paralysis is often worse than making any actionable choice. Like it or not, if you remain in paralysis you’ve already made a choice to do nothing. You must find a way to take action and move forward.

On book tour in Seattle a few weeks ago, Tom Bihn told a story of a lesson he had learned from a teacher. “I have so many ideas!” someone had said, “But I don’t know which one is best.”

“It probably doesn’t matter,” said the teacher. “Just pick one of them and do it.”

Therefore, follow Tom’s advice: Just pick something.

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Overall lesson: stop deferring the responsibility for making decisions to someone else. Proceed with your own decisions!

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*We’ll be starting local meetup groups for The $100 Startup soon. If you’ve read the book, will you share your thoughts with other readers on the Amazon listing page? Choose “Write a customer review” at the bottom.

Image: Katie

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