Why is decision-making so hard?

“Do I stay in my current job or find a new one?” “Do I go on a trip with one group of friends or another?” “Do I choose this undergraduate degree or that one?” “Do I stay with this person or do I leave him/her?”

We’ve all been there with decision making: we’ve turned questions, solutions and more questions around and around in our minds until it felt like our head was going to explode and we were further than ever from reaching a conclusion.

No matter how big or small a decision, sometimes it can just seem like an impossible puzzle to solve… So why is it so hard to make decisions?

For big decisions (e.g. whether you should change jobs), the reason is quite obvious: the stakes are high and you feel like you have a lot to lose from choosing one over thing over another other.

In other cases however (e.g. what holiday to go on) it’s less obvious, but it usually stems from some fear of uncertainty and fear of missing out (FOMO).

What can you do about it?

Decision-making doesn’t always have to be painful, you can train yourself to become better at it! Check out these simple tips!

Trust your inner wisdom

Do this when you have to make a decision

We can see you rolling your eyes at the hippy-ness of this but bear with us. When trying to decide what to do, try not to force yourself to think of the solution. Let your thoughts pass through your mind without engaging with them – after a while you will realise that the solution will come up without you making much of an effort: it’s your gut telling you!

Your mind is a powerful machine, but it isn’t necessarily your friend when it comes to decision-making. By training yourself not to over-engage with your thoughts, you are allowing yourself to trust your gut feeling more, which will allow you to make the right decision.

Don’t give in to FOMO

Do this when you have to make a decision

For each solution to a problem, ask yourself: “Would I really want this or am I just afraid of missing out?”

This sounds obvious but the answer may surprise you. Yes, you might be missing out on an opportunity to see one of the seven wonders of the world, but you may not feel like going with that specific group of people.

Make a list of pros vs. cons

Do this when you have to make a decision

  1. Think of your question (e.g. Should I leave my job?)
  2. Think of the different answers (e.g. Change job vs. Stay in job)
  3. Make a list of the pros and cons for each answer 
    1. What are the pros and cons of changing jobs?
    2. What are the pros and cons of not changing jobs?

This sounds long-winded and obvious but it really helps! It might not in itself solve your dilemma, but it will give you some clarity and help you take a step back from all the thoughts going around in your mind. It might even help you figure out what your gut wants and to go with it!

Accept that you can’t have it all

Do this when you have to make a decision

You can’t be everywhere or have everything at once and that’s what makes different experiences in your life special. Realising that by taking one decision over another you are inevitably losing out on something is key.

Yes, by moving to one city for your dream job you may be leaving behind a city that you love more – but what’s more important to you?

Flip a coin

Do this when you have to make a decision

Yes – you read it right. No – we’re not kidding.

The point here is not to trust the coin (we definitely don’t recommend doing that!). The point is instead that, while the coin is in the air, you might suddenly find yourself hoping that it falls on one side rather than the other. It’s your gut instinct telling you! This might not always work, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a try! Many use this method when making big decisions.

Make a list of priorities

Do this now

Yes, another list: we love lists!

What are your priorities? Is it spending time with your family? Working on a personal project? Developing a hobby? Make a list and go back to it every time you are struggling to make a decision.

How do the different answers to your problem align to your priorities? By doing this, you will increase your chances of making a decision that is in line with what you really want and with how you want to live your life.

Accept it and move on

Do this once you’ve made a decision

The worst thing you can do once you’ve made a decision is to continue to wonder whether you made the right one.

Accept that you can’t go back and that the outcome of your decision will only be as good as you make it. So make the most of it and trust that you made the decision that was right at that time.

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