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How Does Decision-Making Work?

The word “decision” comes from decidere, which means “to cut off.” A decision cuts off all other possibilities, and that can be daunting.

We tend to make decisions as though everything is life or death. This keeps us alive, but it may leave us stressed, depressed, and generally unimpressed with our lives. What we really need is a broad perspective on our lives and a range of options from which to choose our future path.

When we make big decisions about our lives, we project ourselves into the future. We think about where we want to be in five or ten or fifty years. This sounds very sensible and adult, but the problem is that we can only guess at that future version of ourselves and of the world. Making decisions based on those guesses can leave us the victim of unforeseen circumstances (AKA pitfalls).

But we’re not helpless. The pitfalls have patterns, and we can anticipate them to some extent as well. Just remember: POWER.

Perspective is limited.

Options are limited.

Webs of deceit are spun by our brains with their little sneers and insults

Emotionality interferes with logical thought.

Resisting the rerouting necessary before reaching your final destination and moment of decision-making.

The first one, “Perspective,” is the key. When making life-changing decisions, you need the broadest perspective on your life you can muster. Don’t ask, “Should I quit my job?” Ask, “What things was I passionate about years ago, and how do I pursue those things with renewed interest and vigor?”

And how do you do this perception-broadening?

  • Talk to friends who will give you honest feedback and insights while you ask yourself what you do and don’t like about your life.
  • Use psychometrics, validated tools and personality tests, which will help you gain insight into what you want. Several of these tools are available to you on our website once you register (disciplinestrategy.com), and we offer additional information and feedback after these assessments to help you expand your perspective even further.
  • Journal faithfully.
  • Experience the unknown. If you’re thinking of moving into a job field you don’t know much about, do some hands-on research. You want to be a vet? Volunteer at a vet clinic to see what the job’s really like. Does being a pilot appeal? Don’t quit your current job before you go to the local airport and get your private pilot license, instrument rating, and commercial pilot license.
  • Travel to escape your current routines and perspectives. See the world, and open yourself up to new ways of thinking and being.
  • Counseling: is anything more outdated than the idea that there has to be something “wrong” with you to get some counseling? Talking with a professional about your life, your situation, and your possibilities may truly open your perspective to all manner of new ideas.

After all this, it’s time to do some serious, or what I call “unfiltered,” brainstorming. That means you write down every single thing you think of without editing. If you come up with, “I could move to Italy and teach English to kids,” that goes on the brainstorming list.

And don’t throw that brainstorming list away after you make your first decisions! Keep it in your back pocket for whenever you need a fresh perspective on your life and your choices. In fact, take it out occasionally and add to it. I mean, you might want to climb mountains or fight tigers one day. Who knows?