As a lawyer, I am frequently around people making difficult decisions. This is the nature of my profession. I work with people who are in conflict or who are facing change or unexpected challenges and usually with serious consequences attached. These circumstances often bring them to a crossroads where they are forced to choose a course of action. Sometimes these people do not make these decisions well, and there is second-guessing and changing of the mind, which often results in them making their situation worse. But, sometimes they do make these decisions well, and I have noticed that there is a pattern in how these people succeed. They usually have done three things. Let me share with you what those are so that maybe you can benefit from their experience when you find yourself in a similar situation.
To begin, I have observed that people accept the circumstances under which they must make the decision. They do not fight the circumstances. They do not lament them. And, they do not use them as a reason for not making a decision. They accept there are limits on what can be known and predicted at the time they are making the decision. They do not allow imperfect information or bad timing to immobilize them or to add unreasonably to their anxiety. Those who do it really well create a decision strategy based on these limitations. They say, “Because I do not have perfect circumstances, I must take this particular action.” In other words, they limit the range of choices based upon limitations they face and this keeps them from speculation.
Second, these people define fixed markers to serve as decision points. This ensures the decision is made and that they do not linger in uncertainty and indecision. These markers often are dates or specific events. For example, they determine in advance what decision they will make if certain dates pass or certain events do not occur. This works best when they are precise about what they will do on what date. This is important because often it is easier to hope that difficult circumstances will get better than it is to make the hard decision, so it becomes enticing to allow one’s self to get caught up in the course of events just hoping that something will change. This rarely works out well, and it is bitter for them to realize that a decision that could have been made some time ago would have led to a very different set of circumstances and that the opportunity has passed.
Finally, these people realistically assess their circumstances and what it is they have to gain or lose. This enables them to decide from a basis of logic and reason rather than emotion. This ensures a better decision and one in which they can have greater confidence.
In the end, if these people can gain confidence in the decision they have made, then they feel like they are in control of their circumstances rather than being a victim of them. This protects them from second-guessing themselves later because they have a clear sequence of logical steps they went through to make the decision and can remind themselves why they made the decision they made.
I have been fortunate to learn from these people’s experiences, and I hope you can benefit from them too.