Faced with a big decision, how do you know what the right choice is and, more importantly, how do you know what the wrong one is? Niamh Ennis investigates.
When it comes to making decisions, we don’t always feel confident enough to know what is the best or the right approach to take. We can find ourselves experiencing paralysis by analysis and over-thinking a decision, or rushing to make a hasty decision without considering all the factors involved, and more often than not, get it wrong. Or do we?
Is there actually such a thing as the wrong decision if it teaches us something, and if we are willing to believe that perhaps it was the right call for that particular time in our lives? Many people, myself included, even subscribe to the belief that sometimes not making a decision, is in itself a decision. Whether you’re on the fence on this one, or not, the truth is that the best way to make a big decision is always to connect with how it makes you feel. How will you feel if you decide to do it and just as importantly how will you feel if you decide not to.
What is a big decision?
An important or “big” decision is one in which you deliberately make a choice between two or more options, knowing that the outcome could have quite a significant impact on your life, or somebody else’s. I’m not sure that citing only examples of the most talked-about decisions such as marriage, motherhood, career choices are what I’m referring to here, as I’m looking to explore whatever the decisions you have to make that feel most important to you are. These are YOUR big decisions.
When faced with making a decision, we rely on our emotions, often without even being aware of it. We slam on the breaks in our car when someone stands out in front of us, out of fear. We supervise our children to keep them out of danger, out of love and we know how to stop ourselves from walking over the edge of a cliff, out of terror. But these are more reflex actions and are primarily made in the moment, without thinking, and are based on the information we learn through experience and wisdom.
Let’s be honest, some decisions can feel way harder to us than others, especially when there are multiple options and multiple possible outcomes. We can really feel the burden of making the right choice and, interestingly, the need to do it quickly, which to my mind never ends well.
My own decision-making process
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about just how it is that I make decisions. I’ve come to recognise this fact: I don’t do quick decisions well but, given time, I do BIG decisions rather brilliantly.
This has always felt very counter-intuitive to me, especially as someone who always knows her mind when it comes to what she likes and what she doesn’t. I’ve always believed myself to be capable of making a quick decision, which I am, but when it comes to life decisions, important decisions, I now see that what I really need, is the proper amount of time to reflect and listen; in order to reveal how I feel deep inside about each possible outcome, before ultimately deciding what my next best step should be.
When I look back at all of the big changes I’ve made in my life, in the last ten years, and trust me there have been an awful LOT, I didn’t just decide them overnight. A pattern emerges that looks a lot like this:
I thought about making the change.
I thought about NOT making the change.
I waited some more.
I started to notice how I felt when I thought about making the change.
And I started to notice how I felt when I thought about NOT making the change.
And then I knew.
I knew what to do.
I listened to my own inner voice.
I made my choice based on how it made me feel.
I did this when it came to leaving my 25+ year career behind, moving country for a year, releasing friendships, setting up my own business, moving from the city to the countryside and when I decided where I needed to put strong boundaries in place. I was able to do all of this, once I had processed how I really felt about each choice.
The fact is that I never had a knowing about what was the right thing to do, but eventually I had the strongest feeling and that proved more than enough.
All my very best decisions have come to me, when I paused and waited to see how I truly felt about them and how they felt to me.
I see now also that when I relied on doing what I felt was expected, or what everyone else was doing, it simply resulted in me making poor decisions, because I was so heavily influenced by others and totally ignored my own needs and desires. In my younger years, I was far too easily swayed by the herd, and did what everyone else was doing, purely because I believed they couldn’t all be wrong. Of course, this is not at all uncommon, at any age, but it results in you finding yourself living out someone else’s life choices and decisions, rather than your own which causes utter confusion when you are unable to understand why it is making you so miserable.
Don’t be in such a hurry
Be warned, just because you might be the impatient type or known to be a quick thinker, shouldn’t mean that you put pressure on yourself to move towards a speedy resolution. Life-altering decisions, such as ‘Who do you want to become?’, ‘Where do you want to live?’, ‘What do you want to do?’ or ‘Who do you want to do life with?’; will all leave a massive imprint on your life, so please don’t rush them. Don’t succumb to external pressure and don’t give in to a timeline. The right time to decide is when it feels right, not a second before.
So yes, it’s a question of silencing the noise in your head and moving yourself to a place where you can listen to what your intuition is trying to communicate to you, but it’s also important to gather the facts, collect the evidence, reflect on past experiences and then when the final decision needs to be made, listen to it and trust how it makes you feel inside.
I’ll let the inimitable Oprah Winfrey have the final say on this important process: “The truth is, I have from the very beginning listened to my instincts. All of my best decisions in life have come because I was attuned to what really felt like the next right move for me… Align your personality with your purpose, and no one can touch you.” Stanford Graduate School of Business, April 2014
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach and Author. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need. Niamh has just launched THE CHANGE ACCELERATOR her Self-Study Online Programme for those looking to make Changes. Find her on Instagram @1niamhennis or https://www.niamhennis.com/