Do you get paralysed with fear when you have to make a huge life decision?
Making a decision can cause intense anxiety. The choices we make can move us forward towards the life we want to live. They can also keep us stuck and leave us with a feeling of stagnation.
The stakes feel high when making fundamental life decisions. Decisions like moving abroad, changing jobs, switching careers, or starting your own business.
We fear making the wrong choice and missing out. Sometimes, we wait until we have all the information or for the right moment before taking the leap. Meanwhile, the pressure builds. By waiting, you can fail to make the decision and stay stuck.
Decision-making doesn’t need to be this agonisingly hard.
What decision type are you?
When you made your last major decision, how did you make it? Were you lightning fast or slow as a snail?
In the 1990’s, Rowe and Boulgarides developed a decision-making framework. It divides us into 4 decision styles. They are:
A directive decision style is quick and decisive. You’re an action-taker and motivated by results. Decisions are based on structure, rules and procedures. You prefer to make decisions alone and inform people once a decision is made.
Your strength is your confidence in using a strong verbal communication style. So, you gain support and trust from others. Your weakness is your difficulty receiving advice, responding to change and differing opinions.
In an analytical decision style, you carefully analyse a lot of information and data. You enjoy variety and new challenges and find the best and most creative solutions. You’re adaptable but also very thorough.
Your strength is that you’re comfortable with ambiguity and consider every aspect of a problem. Your weakness is that it takes a long time to decide because you focus on all the details. You thrive on control, which can impact your stress level and your communication with others. Many people with an analytical decision style are perfectionists.
The conceptual decision style looks at the big picture, and you are motivated to make an impact on the world. You have a vision of where you want to go and are willing to take risks. You have a global view and are socially orientated.
Your strength is seeing the problems from different perspectives. You connect the dots and develop creative solutions. But your weakness is implementing your ideas and following through.
A behavioural decision style focuses on relationships. You collect information from people around you, ask for advice and gauge their reactions. You like structure and want to maintain harmony and balance.
Your strength is that you make people around you feel included in your decisions and make them feel important. You communicate well with others. Your weakness is that you don’t trust yourself. You want to avoid conflict at all costs. Many people with a behavioural decision style are pleasers.
You probably recognise yourself in one or two of these decision types. Having a strong primary and sometimes a weaker secondary type is normal.
How to make a life decision in 5 simple steps without crushing anxiety
Knowing your decision-making style helps you understand your strengths and weaknesses when choosing. Combining it with a strategic process supports you in making your decision and saves you energy.
Here are 5 steps I use to help me make big life decisions:
1 – Define what decision you need to make and your desired outcome
The first step is to be crystal clear about the decision you’re making.
- What do you need to decide?
- What result do you want?
- Why do you want this outcome?
Make sure you’re very specific about your desired results (there can be more than one). If you say you want a new job, be detailed about what type of work you want. Otherwise, you’ll achieve your goal with just any job, which won’t move you forward.
Knowing what specific outcome you want and why you want it makes it easier to make your decision.
2 – Collect the information you need to create freedom of choice
The next step is collecting the information you need to help you decide. How you approach this depends on your circumstances and the decision you need to make. It may involve research, surveys, data analysis, or consulting experts.
If you’re looking for a new job, talk to people doing the job you want. Knowing what you want before speaking to them helps you have more insightful questions. And you’ll be able to reflect on the essential themes:
- Does the job align with what I’m looking for?
- How does it evolve?
- Will it still be what I’m looking for?
Make sure to create different options, at least 3. Be creative and open-minded during this stage. If you’re a perfectionist, don’t wait until you have the perfect solution.
3 – Assess your options for pros and cons and create a wish list
Once you have a list of different options, evaluate them. Assess each choice. You can use criteria such as feasibility, cost, benefits, risks, and alignment with your goals. Brainstorm possible solutions to problems for these options.
Next, prioritise your alternatives. Rank them in order of preference and suitability. This helps you identify the most promising choice.
My story – How I decided on my new career
This decision-making process helped me choose my current career. My journey started when we moved to London for my husband’s job. I was a stay-at-home mum and wanted to rejoin the job market for intellectual stimulation, social connections, and financial independence.
Researching and gathering information, I set specific criteria for my job search. It had to be portable and fit into my life.
I began by identifying what skills I wanted to use and what I was passionate about. Art and interior design would need frequent retraining due to our moves. Studying psychology would demand a lengthy educational commitment. These options were not workable.
But coaching, linked to psychology, aligned perfectly with my goals. It offered shorter courses and the flexibility to start a business anywhere.
4 – Any decision is better than none – make your decision with ease
With all the information in front of you, make the decision. Choose the alternative that best fits with your goals and criteria.
Remember, it’s not about making the right decision. It’s about making a decision. If you never take the next step, you stagnate and don’t progress.
When you’ve made the decision, put it into action. Develop a plan, allocate resources, and delegate tasks.
For one of my clients, the new CEO had changed the company’s vision, and she wasn’t aligned with the new concept. She considered her options, one of which was moving back to her home country and doing something completely different.
My client ended up doing this, but before that, she had to consider her income, taxes and housing. She wanted to work on an art project, but she couldn’t earn a living from it. So, she took a part-time job linked to her old engineering job to enable her to develop her art.
5 – Decisions are not made in stone – you can change what doesn’t make you happy
Once you’ve made your decision, keep an eye on your progress to make sure it’s going in the right direction. Be prepared to make adjustments based on new information or changing circumstances.
Changing course and flexibility is part of the journey.
Also, reflect on the decision-making process itself. What rationale and criteria did you use? What outcomes did you expect? Consider what worked well and what you could improve for future decisions. And keep it for reference.
For another of our significant life decisions, we had moved from the Netherlands to Morocco. After a year, we turned to our plan B and moved back to the Netherlands. Our daughter’s school hadn’t turned out as expected. But none of us regretted the original decision to move to Morocco.
3 more tips to help you make the right decision
To support you in your decision-making process, use the following 3 tips:
1 – Create clarity by writing down your decision-making process
When making your decision, make sure you do it in writing.
Keeping all your thoughts in your head can feel overwhelming. You’ll go back and forth because your brain can’t handle all the information.
Writing things down will help you analyse your choices and gain clarity. There are different ways to do this. You can, for instance, use a decision matrix or SWOT analysis to help you.
When you have your answers written down, listen to your gut and intuition. Even if your list of strengths is longer, the shorter weaknesses list could weigh heavier.
2 – Is your decision in alignment with your true values?
A decision can look good on paper but should also align with your values. If you go against what you believe in, it will be difficult for you to thrive in your decision. Following what matters to you will propel you forward in your choice.
3 – Look at your mindset – is it holding you back from the right choice?
Lastly, consider your beliefs and behaviour.
Is your mindset preventing you from reaching your goals? Do you find yourself in the same situations every time you change jobs?
Fear is a common reason.
Avoid making decisions based on fear. It’s linked to limiting beliefs and can make you cling to what you know. For example, you see yourself in a narrow light when looking for a new job. You only look at options that EXACTLY match your skills.
Letting go of fear lets you open your horizon and look at ALL your experience and transferable skills. You’ll consider working in different fields and can make an informed decision based on your skills and not fear.
Being clear on what you want and your purpose will help you diminish your fears and tackle your limiting beliefs. It will help you move forward in your life and career.