How to Make Decisions with Confidence
The decision has plagued you for weeks. Should you do X or Y?
You’ve already made the pros and cons list. Maybe more than once.
You’ve consulted everyone who would listen.
Actually you just got off the phone with a dear friend and they confirmed your current decision. You’re feeling good and ready to finally take the next step.
Then your sister calls and has a completely different view. As you listen, you feel confused again. Your mind feels cluttered and your body is heavy. You can feel that tension return to your shoulders.
Now you’re back to square one.
“What’s wrong with me?” you think. “Why can’t I just decide?”
Know & Honor Your Values
First off, there’s nothing wrong with you.
There’s a big confusing world at play sending countless messages your way at all times.
Part of this is the external world - the opinions, thoughts, values of society, culture, media, peers, family etc.
Then we have the messy internal world that needs to be considered. All of us have conflicting thoughts, opinions and values swirling around in our minds most of the time.
Whenever I feel this or hear my clients offering sentiments reflecting these opposing ‘voices’, I know it’s time for some connection with values.
Values are like a compass. They keep us on track for what’s most important to us. When we don’t know our true values or we don’t honor them, we can get very lost in life and our decisions can be extremely challenging and feel almost impossible. We can second-guess and even be full of regret for some of the decisions we’ve made.
It seems like Values are one of those things that everyone knows about, but I’m almost always surprised when I bring it up with clients and they haven’t ever thought about their own core values. Or sometimes people say they know their values, but aren’t really able to express them.
If you can’t recite your own personal values right now, I’m sure you’ll benefit from some focus on them. And if you do recite them effortlessly, well done and read on for the next step.
With our Values firmly in place, we can have a strong foundation within us. Without identifying and honoring our values, we can feel shaky and uncertain - susceptible to the opinions of others or even parts of ourselves that really don’t serve us.
We can be swayed in an instant by an outside opinion or even an inside thought not consistent with our values (and each moment we have plenty of those!).
If you’d like to explore, identify and/or review your values, there are plenty of resources online. Here is a good starting place.
For some, identifying their values goes quickly. For others, it’s a process. Our core values don’t really change over time, but they can morph and shift a bit. And we certainly may need to refresh how we relate to them, but that’s another topic and another post.
The point here is to be patient with yourself. Think of this as you building the foundation of a strong sturdy home for yourself. It might take more time than a less permanent structure, but it will weather those big storms much more and is well worth the time and investment.
Be Aware of What Your Are Choosing and Why
Once you know your values, you can weigh your decisions with these in mind.
Which of the values is/are most important to you right now? How will Choice A and Choice B honor that value or not?
When my client, Cynthia, began her coaching with me, she was in her early 30s and feeling burned out, confused and lost. She was trying to decide if her demanding job was what she wanted for herself. She liked the lifestyle it afforded her, but she wasn’t sure it was worth it.
Should she stay or go?
Cynthia went through a values exercise to identify what was most important to her in life. She found this interesting and centering.
She realized there had been a lot of shoulds in her mind up until this point. The shoulds were mostly what others thought about her path - her parents, peers as well as the company itself, as it had a certain career track in mind for her.
She was also “What-iffing” constantly. If I make this choice, what if this happens, and what if that happens. While the what iffing can be helpful to a point to make sure we have thought through things as much as we can, it can also be overwhelming.
If we’re trying to think through every possible scenario (and often even the most improbable ones), we can get very confused and even paralyzed - not able to make any decision.
Once Cynthia knew what her values were, she saw a different way. She understood that instead of worrying about office politics or the ‘shoulds’ of certain career paths, she could use her values as a guide.
I remember the day she said that this way of thinking was liberating for her. It simplified things greatly in her mind. Instead of making choices using an external lens of what others valued, she could choose based on her internal core values.
Use This Powerful Question to Keep you on Track in Decision-Making
It’s true that sometimes we have competing values at play. Our big life decisions can bring this out.
Do I want children? I value freedom and independence as well as family.
Do I want to stay in the corporate world with the feeling of security it brings or do I want to take that leap and start the business I’ve always dreamed of, honoring my values of creativity and adventure?
It’s complex for sure.
There’s one question I’ve found that in addition to values, supports us when we’re navigating the complexity of life and the multiple values and thoughts it brings with it.
Who do I want to be here?
I often ask this question of my clients. In the beginning, it can feel really big. But we keep at it.
In this situation, in this choice, in this life, who do I want to be?
This question allows you to go within at a deeper level. It allows you to question and listen.
There is so much of the external world that we cannot control. But when you ask yourself this question, you come back to the internal, to things you can control.
If you want to be brave, how can you honor that in this decision?
If you want to be compassionate (to others or yourself or both), how can you honor that in this decision?
One caveat here is that it’s not about feelings. It’s about the act of being. Even though a choice might feel scary and you don’t feel brave, you can still be brave with a certain action or choice.
So when you have competing values, it can be helpful to ask, Who do I want to be in my life right now? Often times this can give you more clarity about that next step.
At the very least, this question can bring focus to what’s most important right now and how you want to show up in this choice as you move through it.
Having this information can give you direction as you contemplate your choices.
Step into Your Next Decision with Power & Confidence
Making decisions confidently isn’t hard. It only feels hard when you’re trying to make these choices without truly listening to yourself and what’s most important to you.
When you aren’t clear about what your values are or disregard them, it can feel impossible to make a decision confidently. And often times after you make a decision, you still second guess yourself — especially if things don’t end up the way you thought.
So no wonder it’s easy to feel frustrated and stuck and maybe even as if you’ll lose no matter what decision you make.
When you begin truly listening to yourself, though, everything can change. When you are clear on your own values and start choosing options that honor them, decisions can feel easier.
You can look at the choices you make and be clear of why you made them. You can lean into this even when things don’t go the way you expected.
So now, you’re ready.
Bring to mind an upcoming decision you need to make or maybe one from the past.
Imagine what it would be like to be clear on your values - to have a list you could consult.
You might even put together a few questions to guide you through the process:
What value would I be I honoring with this choice?
What value do I most want to lean into right now and how does that connect with my choice?
Who do I want to be right now at this stage of my life and how does that connect with my choice?
Imagine what it would feel like to have a process for yourself - to be able to really tune in and make your decisions following your own formula, no matter what anyone else says or thinks.
It really is possible for you. All you need to do is begin.
A great first step would be to start tuning into your values and/or doing an inventory of what you are currently choosing in life and how that honors those values or not.
And remember it’s a process. Be patient. Know that at the end of the process is more clarity.
With this clarity, you can make that next decision with the inner power and confidence that will allow you to move forward with more peace.