I’d say I’m pretty good at making big decisions.
Yes, even really big decisions; I consider it one of my best strengths. Here are some examples that I’d like to use to evidence this claim:
- At age 11, I decided to change my name.
Fed up with (what I then thought was) a childish name, ‘Rosie’, I forced everyone to call me Anna instead. I didn’t have to change it legally, but I refused to answer to anyone unless they used Anna, including teachers, friends and family members. I must have seemed like a little brat at the time, but I don’t regret it. PS. No offence if you’re called Rosie; I was 11 and thought Anna was ‘cooler’.
- At age 13, I decided to move schools.
I was unhappy at the all-girls school I attended, and was in need of a fresh start. I had made some great friends there, so it was hard for me to leave, but ultimately I knew it was the best thing.
- At age 16, I decided to move out to live 4 hours away from my family.
I’d already been with N for 3 years, and after spending 1 year apart while he was at uni in Bristol, I couldn’t bear it any longer. I’ve always been mature for my age and independence seemed a logical step for me, so I moved up to Bristol and started college up there – knowing no-one at all except N.
- At age 19, I decided to quit University.
If you’d like to read about this whole shebang, go here. In short, it’s the best move I’ve ever made.
- At age 21, I decided to start a business & go self employed.
When you have a mortgage and bills to pay, this is hard. I imagine if you have kids too it’s even harder. But I am still very happy and proud of this leap.
Okay, so there may be bigger decisions in life that I haven’t yet come across, and some that I hope I never have to. But ultimately, I think I’ve had fairly good practice so far.
So what do I do to help me make these decisions?
Tactic 1: Weighted Pros & Cons for Each Option
Instead of just thinking about in your head, write it down. Clearly divide it up into a grid, and go through both the pros and cons for each option (yes, that includes the options of ‘continuing as you are now’).
That’s great, but just saying ‘Oh, Option 2 has more pros than cons in the list, so I’ll chose that‘ is flawed. You need to add weight to the points you write down – a scale from 1 to 5 of how much each thing matters to you. Then add up the numbers at the end and put a total underneath both the pros and cons (again, of each option). Take the total cons away from total pros for each option and voila, you have a much more accurate view of positives vs negatives.
Tactic 2: Imagine yourself on the other side of each scenario
For example, let’s say you’re deciding whether to stay in London or move to Cornwall (even though this decision should be fairly obvious :P ).
Imagine yourself in 3 or 6 months time living in London and carrying on as you are – what are you doing? How do you feel? Have you progressed in your career because you stayed in your same job? Or are you working too hard and depressed?
Now imagine yourself in 3 or 6 months time living in Cornwall – what are you doing? How do you feel? Are you going to the beach every day and loving your new life? Or are you really missing all your friends and family?
Putting yourself in the future may help you see which option you’d really prefer.
Tactic 3: Imagine writing your autobiography
For me, this tactic works best. It may not be the same for you, but try it anyway!
You’re 10, 20, 30 years in the future – you’re writing a book about your life. You’re looking back at this decision and are about to write a chapter about your choice.
Now ask yourself, which option would you be proud to write about? Which option are other people going to want to read about?
This will probably motivate you to go for the more ‘wild and daring’ option, but hey – it’s good to keep things interesting, right?
Tactic 4: Seek a Valuable, Unbiased Opinion
You’ve probably read that you should discuss your decision with friends and family. Obviously it’s good to keep them in the loop, especially if the decision is going to affect them, but (in my opinion), you might not want to base your decision on what they say.
Your friends and family are biased – they will have a motive behind what they say to you; whether it’s to make sure you’re making sensible, traditional decisions, or whether it’s to make you live the life they wish they were living.
Similarly, when I was making the decision to quit uni, I deliberately didn’t seek the advice of any careers advisor or tutor at the University, because they have a bias. Even if they tried to be neutral, they wouldn’t be. So I went to the government-funded National Careers Service instead.
Once you take the bias out of things, you should also make sure that the advice you’re getting is valuable, ie. it’s not coming from some random person on the street who has no experience in dealing with the situation. Get the professionals involved.
Tactic 5: Flip a Coin
It sounds reckless, but if all else fails, this can be a pretty crude way of unearthing your true feelings behind the decision.
Choose a side for each option, and flip. Be aware of your immediate reaction to the result – did you sigh with relief? Stick with that result! Were you disappointed? Choose the other option! Your gut reaction is the best to go on if you have tried everything else.