Speak with anyone about decisions and it’s likely that you will get an eye roll.
When I was young, I could not wait to grow up so that I could finally make more decision in my life. I had the type of childhood where many of my decisions were made for me. One of the most frustrating aspects of being young was that it seemed like adults were always deciding where we would go, what we would eat, and what we did on Saturdays. The answer to that last one usually included pulling weeds in the backyard, by the way.
One of the most appealing (and daunting) things about adulthood is that we have the ability to decide for ourselves. We determine how to spend our time, where we go, where we work, what we eat (which in my case included several brownies today), who we hang out with and much more. What an exciting thought! Right?
Sometimes decision making is really fun. Oftentimes, however, it can be quite difficult. A researcher named Adrian Camilleri has listed out the most common decisions that are considered to be the ‘big’ ones in life. These include:
- Start a new job/position (or not) – 60%
- Get married (or not) – 59%
- Pursue a degree (or not) – 52%
- Have/adopt a child (or not) – 44%
- Buy a home (or not) – 37%
- Quit a job/position (or not) – 33%
- Move to a new state (or not) – 30%
Many people struggle with the feeling of being ‘stuck’ and not knowing which course of action to take. Or, they struggle with the idea of being confused which can lead to such negative emotions that they are unable to decide. When experiencing fear, brain scans reveal limited blood flow to the prefrontal cortex, the primary area of the brain responsible for evaluating alternatives.
Decision-making is the process of evaluating alternatives so that you can identify the right path forward for yourself. It is a highly personalized process, and each person may choose differently when needing to select a course of action among alternatives.
We’ll save discussing decision making tools for a different post, but for now, here are three types of decision makers:
Inactive Decision Makers
Inactive decision makers. These people prefer to let circumstances and the passing of time determine the best course of action. Often what emerges is what is accepted as the decision. This person usually waits until one option inevitably plays itself out. Inactive decision making can make one feel out of control, a lack of confidence or that they have difficulty perceiving that they have control over events.
Reactive Decision Makers
Reactive decision makers. These are people who wait for others to decide first prior to taking any action and respond based on the needs of others. These people are highly influenced by others and often question their own decision-making capabilities. They may ask many people what they should do and have a strong need to be viewed positively by others. They may not think they are capable of determining the best course of action for themselves.
Proactive Decision Makers
These people take action to make decisions. They take responsibility for the consequences of their decisions and adjust where needed along the way. They get input but ultimately make a choice for what they believe is aligned with their preferences and is in the best interest of those around them. These people exert control over their lives and feel empowered.
The biggest decisions that you can make are those that impact not only your life but the lives of those around you. Decisions relating to getting married, getting divorced, or having a child all affect loved ones in your life. Humans are designed to be social, and so we can struggle with decisions because we want not only what is best for ourselves but also what is best for those people around us. It’s these kinds of decisions – the personal ones that affect other people – that deserve time, attention, and reflection.
When working to make a decision in life, especially if it is something important, it is helpful to have a few things in mind as you get started. When we were in school, there was usually a ‘right answer’ to many of the problems that we had to solve. In life, there are usually several options that you can pursue, and sometimes there is not a ‘perfect’ solution. Different decisions will result in different outcomes for you. Making a decision is a bold course of action, and learning will take place along the way as you move forward. Most times, you can adjust along the way as you learn more.
Author Lysa TurKeurst provides this eloquent summarization, “Not making a decision is actually a decision. It is the decision to stay the same.”