The act of making a decision can be the most excruciating process. Weighing up the costs, the pros, the cons, hoping that you’ve made the right choice and that the decision you’ve laboured over is not going to backfire on you, leaving you to live with regret.
Given how difficult it can be to make a decision, many people avoid making decisions. But the very act of not making a decision is still making a decision. Understanding how our brains work, though, may help you.
It all depends on how familiar and complicated the decision is for you. Every day we make decisions – to have a cup of tea now or later, brush our teeth starting on the top or bottom, or what to have for breakfast. Because our brain is used to these decisions, it’s a simple rinse and repeat process. No one lies in bed trying to work out how to move their legs to get out of bed in the morning. Or whether to boil the water first for a cup of tea or put the teabag in the cup. It is something you do all the time so you don’t even think about it.
If the implications of your decision have more significant consequences, your brain has to work harder. It has to stop and think about options and outcomes. Some people make lists outlining pros and cons. Others ring a trusted friend or pay someone for advice. Some tend to overthink – that is when analysis paralysis sets in. When the decision-making process gets complicated and we overthink every detail, we get in our own way, then the fear and doubt set in. What if you make the wrong decision? What will people think of you? What will happen?
The amount of information, choices, and uncertainty has increased in our modern world. Daily, we are bombarded with over 34 gigabytes of data, including news, ads on social media, videos, articles and others. As adults, we make about 35,000 decisions every day. ‘Digital everything’ and the internet of things is growing and not about to slow down anytime soon. With more information comes ambiguity and the need to make choices. No one really knows what is going to happen, and for those who are already frozen in the throes of decision making, there are far too many options.
Our brains can only cope with so much information. Despite the volume of data coming our way, our brains have not changed that much. We can only retain a certain amount of information at one time. Once we start adding things, we cognitively just can’t deal with it.
So what do we do? How do we keep progressing and make decisions to move our lives along?
Many tools can help to make the decision-making process less painful. A tool you may not have considered is prompt cards that can inject another view or disrupt your complicated and cyclic thinking. Wait! Before you dismiss them as flaky, they can be a legitimate decision-making tool used in business and educational settings. Because the challenge, as we established above, is when we try to make a new or complex decision, using our individual thinking alone, the process can become messy and overwhelming.
These cards help you step away from the confusion and overwhelm of the decision-making process by giving yourself advice from someone else’s perspective. They help you think differently by considering the problem from a different angle and to get out of your own head.
This is especially the case for cards that feature well known or successful people. Imagine having access to Oprah or Richard Branson; sitting across from them to get their take on your situation. When you have to decide what employee to take on, what new CRM to buy, or which new product or service to add to your business, you can shuffle your cards of trusted advisors and ask questions.
No one can make decisions for you but if you get creative in the decision-making process, you can make it a little easier and less painful.