Decisions – how do you make yours?

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

22 thoughts on “Decisions – how do you make yours?

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  1. For big decisions, I research, research, research, then sit on it for some length of time– days, weeks, months. When I’m actually forced to decide I then use my gut, knowing that my brain has chipped in earlier. As for questions I ask myself to help clarify the decision itself, I say: “what’s the simplest thing I could do here?” Keeps me rooted in reality and should I make the wrong decision it’s easier to undo simple than complicated.

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  2. Mine is mainly research and pros and cons, a little tiny bit gut feeling. But I don’t wallow…I make a decision and I stick to it

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  3. My decision-making style is a lot like yours, Debs. I try on a new idea and commit to loving it for at least 15 minutes. As if it was a done deal, already. During that time, I think up all the pros and cons and try to dig deeper on why it appeals (or not) and what my emotions about it are. Often the “15 minutes” is actually a lot longer. Then, when I feel I have a tentative decision in place I research it further (if big enough to warrant such actions). I usually stick with that decision but I feel it is also important to keep my mind open to new information (and potentially, feelings) coming in while I research. Sometimes I even come up with a T chart of pros vs cons. The point is to be fully informed and happy with whatever decision is finally made.


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  4. Oh that’s an interesting layer to add into the process Ally, I can see how that could be helpful – thank you 🙂

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  5. Something to do with our name eh? 😀 Yes, making sure you know as much as you possibly so you can make a decision you’re happy with for none of us has a crystal ball 😉

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  6. Jane, so far it seems that some mix of the two is the standard. I’m still waiting for my pure one way or the other response.

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  7. “Yes for a year,” and you had a blast. Hmmm. I’ll have to think on this. I’ve never been sorry I traveled, even when I initially thought it might be too hard, too expensive, etc. On the other hand, I’ve spent years learning to say no when asked to volunteer my time and abilities. Did you say yes to everything?

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  8. Yup. I can’t think of anything I said no to. Well…. maybe except to my mother 😀

    I’d have loved to go travelling, but had to make do with the fact that my father worked overseas so we lived in a few “interesting” places. It’s not something I’ll do now, as I’m too old not to do so in comfort, and that really IS expensive.

    Learning to say no was the lesson after this one and was much harder 🙂

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  9. I do like to research, Debs, but I don’t like to take too long with that phase, as I tend to get stuck in my head…weighing and reweighing the options long after it’s doing me any good. I’m learning to do the research expeditiously and then turn to my gut. Once I make a decision, I like to act right away and get on with the consequences.

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  10. I mostly take my time and think about it, but there are also times when I know exactly what I want to do and then I don’t hesitate. It doesn’t matter if it’s big or small either. I rarely second guess a decision and there have only been a few where I’ve wondered if I did the right thing. I will admit, though, that there have been times when I let myself get totally miserable before I did what I knew had to be done, e.g., with relationships.

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  11. Christie, that’s what concerns me – the getting stuck in the loop, unable to find my way out. I know Himself doesn’t do that, but I can see that if I used his methodology, it would happen to me. I have to take action – sooner rather than later. Sometimes it hasn’t worked out well, but the list of potentially good things I missed out on because I dithered, is a lot longer.


  12. Linda, I think relationship decisions are the hardest as they involve the greatest emotion – including sadness and grief – so I suspect you’re not alone there.

    Even when I’ve got something wrong, rather than beat myself up over it, I examine the decision as a whole to see what I can learn from it. And there’s always something there, something behind why I went the wrong way, rather than it being a fault of my decision-making process.


  13. I research and research until I probably drive myself crazy. That usually creates a momentum towards a decision. I wish I was more streamlined in my approach. Most of the time it works, I like to think! – Marty

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  14. I’m a guy who once spent 90 minutes researching men’s slippers before buying a pair, so obviously, I’m not going to jump into anything blindly. But I think, more than anything else, I follow my heart…tempered with whatever I’ve learned through my research. Case in point: for years I wanted a Mini Cooper. Finally, when I had the means to purchase it, I learned that quality and reliability weren’t the greatest. I ended up buying a Mazda3 instead. Was it the sexier choice? No, but it was the smarter one.

    If I’d ONLY followed my heart, I’d have ended up with the Mini Cooper. But chances are, that would have cost me more in the long run.

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  15. You know, the truth is I’m an emotional decision maker. I then seek out information, I compare, I consider, I weigh options. I discuss. I get opinions. And then I do what my initial emotional response was. It isn’t logical and I suppose I sometimes get information that lead me to a different decision but most of the time I really do go with my initial reaction.

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  16. Buying houses has not been hard for me. My dad built our first house. My husband and I designed it, more or less. After living overseas where we rented, I came back before my husband and chose a house on my own. After choosing a part of the city I liked and researching the schools, I gave a real estate agent what I thought was a reasonable budget. She showed me what was available, I narrowed it down to my two favorites and then brought my mom and my kids to see what they thought. It was sort of like choosing a dress as long as I got the budget and the location right.

    The hard thing is life choices. Then, I’ve found that I don’t always know what I want, so I have to give it time, sometimes lots of time. You can make lists of pros and cons, but your heart doesn’t work that way. At least mine doesn’t.

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  17. Those slippers must’ve been quite something! What I can tell you about Mini Coopers is that their turning circle is absolute rubbish. A good friend bought herself a JCW – the sportiest one – in celebration of her midlife crisis and, although it looked like a lot of fun from the outside, I wasn’t a fan of the manoeuvring experience.


  18. Ha ha Marty, Himself’s research, research, research process only drives me crazy 😀 He seems to positively thrive on it! I’ve come to realise you just have to have a method that works for you, there’s no one intrinsically right or wrong way. Most of the time is good enough for me.

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  19. Zazzy, I like to think of emotional decision making as the decision-making process being driven by what you can live with. And, you’re right, it does get influenced by our research, but also by our individual circumstances and needs. It’s a funny thing that we all act out of instinct when small, but get steadily trained out of that behaviour as we grow up.

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  20. Exactly Nicki, when you know what your want, especially if you’ve honed it down carefully, the decision making bit is easy. It’s when you’ve got choices to make about stuff that is outside of your experience or knowledge, but still have to choose. I hate pros and cons lists in those circumstances, even though you can be forced to use them in order to make a time sensitive decision. And no matter what I choose, the decision never sits well because I’ve not engaged in it with my heart, and only my head.

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