When the war started last February, many people and companies froze. The future is so hard to predict that it is difficult to understand what to do to move forward. In the spring, investments in startups were hardly happening, and many companies couldn’t close their investment rounds. Meanwhile, ordinary people were also struggling, afraid of the coming economic crisis.
However, it’s tiring to be constantly worried. Some decisions need to be made so we can live and move forward. Below, you will find some tips on approaching decision-making during stressful times.
Decision-making is not easy
In decision-making, you never possess all the possible information — otherwise, it wouldn’t be a decision-making process but a deduction. You’ve likely noticed that the more options you have, the more difficult it is to make a decision. If you have been active in online dating, for example, did you continue to swipe left thinking that each upcoming candidate would be just the perfect match for you? Another example that we’ve probably all encountered is spending more time trying to choose a movie on Netflix than actually watching one. The reason is FOMO — the fear of missing out.
In decision-making, you never possess all the possible information — otherwise, it wouldn’t be a decision-making process but a deduction.
When we have too many options to consider, we start to have doubts — what if we make the wrong choice and miss a better opportunity? A common manifestation of this fear is when we are afraid to miss a good party on Friday evening because our social media channels suggested too many of them. After a painful choice of one specific event, we still keep thinking that it could be much better at another party — which doesn’t help us have fun at the current one. The solution against FOMO would be artificially limiting your choices. In their book Designing your life, Bill Brunett and Dave Evans claim that the best choice can be made when we have three options, not more. If we have more than three, the struggle of choosing will be real.
Another solution would be to limit situations where you must choose. Otherwise, you might end up feeling decision fatigue: difficulty making choices and a poor quality of decisions because of the number of decisions one needs to take. Some daily decisions we need to make are what kind of clothes to wear, what to have for breakfast, what to listen to on the way to work, what to buy in the grocery store, and what to do during free time. Aggressive marketing around us does not make the decision process easier. Nowadays, we have too many options compared to our ancestors in all aspects of our life. Such an overabundance of choices makes our life harder.
The best choice can be made when we have three options, not more.
A solution here could be prioritization; limiting your choices and areas where you need to make decisions, keeping only the most important for you. You can choose a toothpaste and toothbrush type once for a long time instead of freezing in front of the corresponding shelf in the shop over and over. The main idea here is to secure your mental resources for important decisions.
However, even if we make a decision, sometimes we get into the next trap – regretting it and start to wonder if we should make a different one instead. The reason for this is our tendency to overthink. The overthinking brain is a scourge of modern times. Often instead of acting with the feeling of relief after a decision is made, we are paralyzed by overthinking. The challenge is to stick to this decision and start to act upon it. Observe your thinking and stop yourself when you’re about to jump into reconsidering all the choices you have made.
How to make well-rounded decisions?
- Draw a circle in the middle of a paper and put your name in the middle of it
- At the top of the page, write down the decision that you need to make in a question format
- Draw five arrows from the center where your name is: emotions, physicality, intuition, motivation, and logic
- Think about your question using each of the lenses one by one:
- For example, what are your emotions if you accept this career promotion? And if you reject?
- How does your body feel if you say no to this interesting project? How does the body sensation change if you say yes?
- What does your intuition say to you if you ask yourself the question from the top of the paper?
- Do you feel energy filling you when you think about this idea? Or did you feel a lack of motivation?
- What does your analytical mind suggest in this case?
- Compare your answers from all five dimensions. Do you see a common holistic answer? Alone, our brain is not enough to make a well-grounded decision. With the help of feelings, intuition, and body sensations, the chance of making the right decision is much higher.
This tool was inspired by the exercise “Rate your pathways” in The Source: Open Your Mind, Change Your Life by Dr. Tara Swart but substantially modified by me.
So if you are an Aalto student or a Finnish student with study rights and you still didn’t decide which course about well-being to take — you can now decide to enroll in the Good Life Engine course.