“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”
Imagine a world where your entire life was predetermined. The moment you came of age, you received some uniquely charted course. Each decision pre-programmed, and life was merely following instructions.
Would this be easier?
How about ideal?
It’s safe to say life would be dull – at least, I think so. In such a world we’d likely see constant rebellion. An insurgency against the “system.”
For some reason, however, during times of difficulty we beg for such a system. Answers are what we demand frantically with childlike patience. We crave for the pain to cease and pleasure to reclaim its dominance.
Because pain flat out sucks, and finding clarity under duress is damn hard.
So if we established life would be dull if we possessed some magical scroll, how can we embrace and thrive when difficulty arises, all while making decisions like a pro. Essentially, how can we problem solve, with a little grace, as we resolve our trials and tribulations?
Here are some quick tips for your decision-making process when it counts the most.
1. Find the epicenter of the problem and make it your focus
When problems and choices are mixed with uncertainty, we tend to react in one of two ways, complaining or resolving. It’s up to you which commands your focus. When you settle on finding solutions, you consciously place yourself in the most favorable position. You’re now in control.
The trick then is dissecting your problem and reducing it to a single sentence. Just as we have the “paradox of choices,” we similarly become paralyzed by multiple problems. Stack a bunch of them in front of someone and watch them run for the hills.
Therefore, reducing your problem to a single sentence takes away the power. Now you can direct your attention and focus on problem-solving in a state of readiness.
2. Reduce the seriousness of the matter
We often become paralyzed when decisions are seemingly attached to life altering circumstances. Instances, where the wrong move can ripple negative consequences through time or immediately flip our world upside down – or so we think. When you stand face-to-face with such situations, you want to dial down the seriousness of the matter.
How do you accomplish this?
- Compare the problem to more extreme conditions. Draw from your creativity and compare your situation to one 10-times more severe. Such perspective will instantly crush your “serious” matter. When seriousness is reduced, we become more likely to choose an alternative with less emotional barriers. And when I mean 10-times more serious, truly, compare to the most extreme. Make your comparisons so extreme your situation becomes laughable. Mixing in some humor always helps.
3. Put distance between yourself and the problem
When faced with important decisions, we tend to view them so closely we become incapable of finding solutions. The problems seem larger than life itself, and guess what, under a microscope they are! It’s in these moments when distancing ourselves from the problems lends itself to favorable conditions for unearthing solutions. It allows us to reframe the problem.
What can you do to get some distance?
- Manipulate your sense of time. Review the problem, and choices, from 5, 10, or 15 years in the future. For instance, if you’re choosing between staying at a job, or accepting another one, fly into the future and ask what would likely lead to a better outcome. What choice would satisfy more needs? Such manipulation of time can quickly lead to clarity.
- Manipulate your vantage point. Review the problem, and choices, through the eyes of others. Jump outside your skin and view your circumstances through friends, family, or anyone important in your life. Ask yourself, what would they think of the situation. From this exercise, you channel their abilities to unlock alternatives you couldn’t uncover alone.
4. Don’t worry about making the “right” decision
We all want to make decisions that lead to the most favorable outcomes. It’s our baseline standard. However, when you become consumed with trying to make the “right” decision, you likely get stuck – really stuck.
How can we overcome this tendency?
Simply put, there is no “right” decision. Let me say this again; a “right” decision is nonexistent.
Being right is a state of relativity. You need two situations compared to one another to determine some standard of right or wrong. However, with your circumstance being unique, and never existing before, there can’t be a so-called “right” decision. Your sense of “right” is an illusion.
(Boy did I say “right” a lot, I’m almost done with the point)
Again, the history books never had you in them, your current situation never happened before, so it’s impossible to make the “right” decision. With not having an identical – and I mean identical – situation before, there is nothing to compare. Ergo, your sense of making the “right” decision is a mere illusion.
It’s not about making the “right” decision. It’s simply about making “a” decision. Choosing a direction and navigating through things as they come. That’s what it’s about; that ‘s your goal.
Trying to make decisions under demanding conditions, or uncertainty, are sometimes crippling. It’s natural for us to become overwhelmed. We get wrapped in the gravity of the situation and try desperately to navigate most favorably. But don’t let this paralyze you. You only are looking for the best alternative with your information at hand. Use what you have and don’t overthink.
Keep in mind there are few things in life where your decisions are final. Just as John Wooden said, “Success is never final, failure is never fatal.”
If you decide on a particular direction, and it backfires, great, you now learned something. An invaluable lesson to make you wiser. Simply course correct, enjoy the wisdom, and keep the train moving.
It can be that simple, I promise.