Himself and I have a very different decision-making style. He’s slow, steady & thorough. He researches a subject – any and every subject – to the death. Sure, when a subject needs investigating, I investigate – and I do so thoroughly but, after that, I’m ready to take a decision. In terms of time frame, I tend to take in the region of hours, days or weeks – a month at most – whereas he’s more of a months to years kinda guy. An undeniable fact is that I’ve made more mistakes than he has, but I counter this with the fact that I focus on moving forward and that often involves risk. I’ll never change his style and he won’t mine, but it made me wonder where everyone else lay on the decision-making spectrum?
If you’re making an important decision – do you make it by reasoning it through, or by going with your gut? Or do you employ a bit of both? When you make a decision, what is it that matters to you? That you don’t do anything risky, or that you don’t do something you’ll later regret?
Of course, some decisions are easier than others. When it’s a smaller decision which could turn out to be inconvenient at worst – the regret needn’t be more than fleeting. But there’s also the big stuff – and a property purchase seems likely to be the biggest decision most of us have made, which is probably why it ranks up there in the realms of life’s biggest stressors. Another on that list is divorce (and I would also include the breakdown of a long/serious relationship).
Yet – and I’m going to posit a theory here – if you’re absolutely clear about what you want/need, if you’re black and white about your requirements from a house, or a relationship, the decision making is probably not the most stressful part. Control (or lack of it) over the outcome is the greatest stressor – in my opinion – because the desire for a known or guaranteed outcome in order to decide can paralyze the best of us.
Having reached the grand old age of 65, I’ve learned that when a decision is time sensitive, making no decision can become a decision in itself. So I find basing my decision on what I can live with right now, helps me not to dwell on the negative outcome and to push back decision-making paralysis. My methodology to achieve this involves engaging with my gut. First I make an active (but private) choice. Then I live with it – ideally overnight. When I wake up in the morning, I take my emotional and gut temperature. A bounce in my step, a feeling of excitement, or relief – and I know I’ve chosen a path that feels right for me, right now. While there may also be feelings of fear or anxiety over what’s ahead, that’s not something which worries me, for the feeling I look out for (and act upon immediately) is dread – the “oh no, what I have done?” feeling. By doing it this way, I can still reverse my decision without upsetting or affecting anyone else.
In my 50th, following the ending of a long-term relationship, I decided to say “yes for a year” to opportunities, invitations, suggestions and ideas – regardless of whether they were something I’d normally consider, even whether they were things I liked doing. If they were unlikely to harm me, were legal and not immoral – I said yes. And I had an absolute blast. That one amazing year, gave me the opportunity to reflect on who I was and what I truly wanted. That experience allows me to react with relative ease in many decision-making scenarios, and to give a categoric response. It means that I only rarely need to sit down to make a pros and cons list, even when something unexpected occurs.
What’s your decision-making style? Is it different dependant upon the size or importance of the decision? Any hints & tips, or learnings you’d be willing to share?
© Debra Carey, 2022