Numerous of times in my life I’ve found myself at a dilemma “what should I do/pick?”. I used to have a hard time deciding what to do, during my years I’ve found some processes that have made it a lot easier for me to make a decision.
How to decide what to do in your life.
How to decide what to do with your life.
I have found three kinds of decisions in my life.
- Trivial decisions that don’t really matter — What to order at a restaurant, or which of two or more movies you want to watch.
- What do I really want to do at this moment? — Decisions like this usually have some sort of social flare for me. E.g. should I stay home, or should I go to the party? I’m tired should I go home, or stay with the group?
- Life consequence decisions — Should I start at the college, should I quit my job, what should I do with my life?
Before I learned my processes I used to say should all the time, most of the time I only got more stressed whenever I thought I should do something. Today I’ve replaced should with want. It took a while for me to get used to it and actually tap into what I feel like I want to do. What I found out though is that just changing one word wasn’t enough. For example during some periods of my life I, as an introvert, seldom wanted to go to meetups, I just wanted to stay home. Thankfully I knew that I wouldn’t regret going once I was actually there so I actually went there and had a good time.
Then there’s also dilemmas where you want to do both: Watch both movies, or you want to start college and you want to stay where your current friends are.
I used to have a really hard time deciding what to order at restaurants and I was always the last person to decide. For restaurants, I found that I could outsource the problem. I.e. ask the waiter what’s popular at the restaurant; then I’d usually get something that’s good. However, this approach only works in a restaurant and it’s not foolproof as the waiter usually gave me a few suggestions.
When there are three or more options available I try to filter them down to 2 options. Either by asking which one do I least want to eat/do? Or by removing options randomly. When I have two options left I flip a coin. It’s probably not what you think, I use the coin flip to determine which option I like the most. I got this genius idea from Day. Let’s say you want to decide if you want to watch Amélie from Montmartre (heads) or The Matrix (tails). You flip the coin and it shows tails. At this exact moment, your gut will tell you if you like this outcome or not. If you like the outcome you go with The Matrix, if the gut is telling you this is wrong you go with Amélie from Montmartre.
What do I do if I don’t know if whether my gut is telling me this is a bad or good feeling? Then I just go with the coin flip outcome or let someone else decide 😉
I generally flip a coin to get the feeling of what I want in this moment. Although, as I mention, it’s not always the case I go with that feeling. Nowadays I rarely flip a coin since I’ve become more intune with my gut feeling.
If I have some previous experience I might instead go with my previous knowledge of what I think would be the best choice for me. As I mentioned I seldom wanted to go to meetups; I, however, knew that 95% of the time I would never regret that I went even when I felt like not going.
For new experiences, or when I don’t really have any data, I use a technique (although it’s more just a question) I learned from the Conscious Life Workshop by Steve Pavlina. It’s a question he himself uses often to make a decision.
What path will give me the best memories?
I find this question great in so many ways. It forces me outside of my comfort zone. It leads me to have an interesting life. It works great both in the moment but also on bigger life decisions. It makes me do what I think is the right thing. I.e. if I’m in the future which path would I’ve wanted myself to take?
I asked this question the previous week when I was invited to an unusual party with people from the first workshop. I wasn’t sure about going and it was a new kind of experience. As soon as I asked what path will give me the best memories? the choice was crystal clear: Go to the party.
I thought that this decision always chose the path that was most social, because my best memories have always been social experiences. During the weekend I had to make another choice. Either to move and stay at a friend’s place or stay at my hotel. I really wanted to go to and hangout with friends from the workshop as there were a lot of other people staying there. When I thought about it though I hadn’t had the time to plan and work on all the things we had been going through on the workshops so I decided to stay at my hotel. I didn’t want the memory of only being social during these two weeks; I wanted to get stuff done and plan for change. I wanted to have the memory of having made changes in my life.
For really big life decisions I like to write about them (e.g. Raise Your Standards). When I write about my decisions and challenges I get clarity because my brain doesn’t go in circles churning out the same thoughts and ideas again and again; instead, when the idea is out on paper (or computer) my brain starts churning out new ideas and solutions 🙂 It might not be for everyone, but I find that this is a great way for me to gain clarity on what path I want to take in my life.
How can these decision-making processes help you decide what to do in your life?