How to help others make decisions

Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She’s also a psychotherapist, the author of the bestselling book “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do,” and the host of The Verywell Mind Podcast.

Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments.

Knowing how to make good decisions—like what to wear to a job interview or how to invest your money—could be the key to living your best life. And being able to make those decisions in a timely manner and feeling confident about your decision-making skills could save you a lot of time and hassle.

Fortunately, everyone can take steps to become better decision-makers. If you want to become a better decision-maker, incorporate these nine daily habits into your life.

Get Advice From The Verywell Mind Podcast

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares a tip that can help you make better decisions.

Take Note of Your Overconfidence

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Overconfidence can easily make your judgment go awry.   Studies consistently show people tend to overestimate their performance as well as the accuracy of their knowledge.

Perhaps you are 90% sure you know where the office is that you’re visiting. Or maybe you’re 80% certain you can convince your boss to give you a promotion. If you’re overconfident about those things, your plans are likely to go awry.

It’s especially important to consider your confidence level in terms of time management. Most people overestimate how much they can accomplish in a certain period of time. Do you think it will only take you one hour to finish that report? Do you predict you’ll be able to pay your online bills in 30 minutes? You might find you’re overconfident in your predictions.

Take time every day to estimate the likelihood that you’ll be successful. Then at the end of the day, review your estimates. Were you as accurate as you thought?

Good decision-makers recognize areas in their lives where overconfidence could be a problem. Then they adjust their thinking and their behavior accordingly.

Identify the Risks You Take

Familiarity breeds comfort. And there’s a good chance you make some poor decisions simply because you’ve grown accustomed to your habits and you don’t think about the danger you’re in or the harm you’re causing.

For example, you might speed on your way to work every day. Each time you arrive safely without a speeding ticket, you become a little more comfortable with driving fast. But clearly, you’re jeopardizing your safety and taking a legal risk.

Or maybe you eat fast food for lunch every day. Since you don’t suffer any immediate signs of ill health, you might not see it as a problem. But over time, you may gain weight or experience other health issues as a consequence.

Identify habits that have become commonplace. These are things that require little thought on your part because they’re automatic. Then take some time to evaluate which of them might be harmful or unhealthy, and create a plan to develop healthier daily habits.

How to help others make decisions

Micromanagement is one of those deceptive business techniques that might appear productive, but that can really create a toxic business environment. It decreases management productivity. It frustrates employees. And it can hurt business revenue.

Conversely, empowering employees to make decisions for your business:

  • Frees up managers
  • Increases employee effort
  • Boosts engagement throughout the workforce

A study of more than 7,000 employees found workers who felt a low level of empowerment had an engagement level at the 24 th percentile, compared to employees with a high level of empowerment who had an engagement level at the 79 th percentile. Engagement matters, because businesses with highly engaged teams outperform peers by nearly 150 percent in earnings per share, Gallup research reports.

Employee empowerment is directly tied to results. A study by Zenger Folkman found 4 percent of employees are willing to put in more effort when empowerment is low, while 67 percent are willing to go above and beyond when empowerment is high.

So how do you empower your team to make decisions for your business? Here are five ways.

1. Work Toward a Common Goal, But Not a Singular Path

Employees will feel empowered from the start of any project when you make the decision-making process collaborative. State a goal. Then ask questions to gain input on how to navigate the course to getting there.

An early brainstorming session among team members clues employees in to effective paths to take. You may have a vision for how you want something executed, but your team members may have more creative and efficient ways to complete a task.

Be open to new ways of doing things, since that is how your team will grow. Don’t discourage different opinions or ideas. Be blatant about your encouragement of “thinking outside the box,” so employees embrace innovative problem-solving and task completion.

2. Create a Strengths-Based Culture

When employees are able to use their strengths at work, their confidence builds and they’ll feel more empowered. Gallup research shows employees who use their strengths daily are 8 percent more productive and 15 percent less likely to quit.

When you’re delegating tasks within projects, do so based on employee strengths. Don’t assume you know all the strengths of your employees, though. Meet with each employee and ask them what they view their strengths as. You may discover ones you hadn’t considered before.

A better understanding of your team helps you lead them more effectively. You can give them more opportunities to shine by empowering them to tackle tasks and projects suited to their strengths. Then, invest in training and development to help them improve their understanding of concepts where they’re lacking.

How to help others make decisions

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Many executives manage teams that span five generations: The Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z. Download our free eBook, “The Executive’s Guide to Leading Multi-Generational Teams,” for practical advice on how to communicate with, motivate, and manage each generation.

3. Reinforce Positive Behavior

When you let go of micromanaging and empower your team, honest mistakes are bound to happen. That’s OK. If mistakes happen, don’t punish employees. Make them teachable moments, with constructive feedback that helps employees understand what led to the mistake and how to avoid making it in the future.

Rewarding positive behavior can be far more effective than punishment. Positive reinforcement is an effective way of teaching and is a way to get those positive behaviors to be repeated. When you notice progress or a job well done, let your employees know. You can do this through:

  • Verbal acknowledgement
  • Written email
  • Public recognition in front of the team

Gallup research has found that employees say the most meaningful and memorable recognition comes most often from a manager, more so than recognition from peers, customers or even high-level leaders and CEOs. Make recognition more powerful by making it:

  • Personal
  • Specific
  • Timely

Don’t wait until an end-of-the-year banquet to bestow recognition. If you wait, your employee might have left your company by then because they were never recognized.

How to help others make decisions

4. Open the Lines of Communication

Micromanagement is hovering and nitpicking and creates a culture of mistrust. You want to avoid specifying how every little detail of a project should be executed, but you also need to be available to your team. When you delegate, state the confidence you have in team members to execute, but also offer yourself as available to help with questions that come up.

Some decisions within a project will be more significant than others. These may be ones that your empowered team members may still want to consult with you on. When questions come up, instead of providing your way of doing things, first ask the employee about their ideas. You can always advise to avoid doing something glaringly incorrect or that will cost your business in time and money, but try to encourage the employee where you can.

Again, be proactive with positive feedback. Frequent feedback is especially important to millennial workers, Gallup research found, but only 15 percent of millennials agree they routinely ask for feedback. Provide feedback even when it’s not asked for. Set up regularly meetings with team members to check in. Enquire about progress, provide positive reinforcement and offer development and training for areas workers want to improve upon.

5. Be an Encouraging Mentor

If you want better performance from your team members, you need to walk the talk. Model positive behavior yourself. A Zenger Folkman analysis of 19,000 employees found high employee empowerment significantly correlates with a positive work environment.

Make mentorship a priority. Create a culture where your team members feel respected and valued. Ask your employees about their career goals, then provide strengths-based tasks and training and development opportunities to help them get there.

Mitigate conflict within a team by addressing it quickly. Get the parties who are involved together to identify a compromise they agree to. Have a positive attitude at work, and recognize employees who do the same.

Want More Tips for Effective Leadership?

Empowering your team is just one piece of the effective leadership puzzle. To learn how to lead across generations, download our free e-book, The Executive’s Guide to Leading Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.

How to help others make decisions

Timing affects everything we do in life. Learning to understand where God wants us in every season of life is essential.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “Everything on earth has its own time and its own season” (CEV).

God has a plan for the transitions in your life and ministry—whether you’re considering a move to a new church or transitioning to a new phase in your current ministry.

You’ve likely heard that I’m transitioning to a new season of my life and ministry. I’ve always considered Acts 13:36 one of my life verses. “David served God’s purpose in his own generation” (CEB). I’ve had the opportunity to serve not just one generation at Saddleback but multiple generations.

But I announced in June that it was time for Saddleback to begin looking for my pastoral successor, who will serve the next generation of our church family. Since I’ve been the senior pastor of Saddleback since the beginning, this will be an incredibly significant change for myself and our church.

I know I’m not the only pastor navigating tough decisions right now, so I thought it might be helpful to share with you my process for making this decision. I’d encourage any church leader (or lay person) to follow these five steps as they make major life decisions.

Enlist the prayer of other people.

Everything starts with prayer. You’ll never know whether the time is right for a major change unless you talk to God about it. But we shouldn’t be the only ones praying about it. The Bible tells us to enlist others in the effort. Paul describes this in Romans 15:30: “Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me” (NLT).

That’s one reason I’m writing this now. I’d like to ask you to be praying for Saddleback as we search for the church’s next pastor. We need God’s wisdom. God clearly tells us in the book of James that if we need wisdom, we need to ask God for it. So will you pray with us in this search?

Seek the counsel of wise friends.

When you’re making a major decision, you don’t need the counsel of everyone, but you do need wise friends to help you. You can’t depend upon your own perspective. We don’t always see everything clearly on our own. That’s why Proverbs 11:14 tells us, “Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances” (The Message).

To be safe and not sorry, seek the advice of the people you know—and look for the wisest among them. Proverbs 12:15 reminds us, “Fools are headstrong and do what they like; wise people take advice” (The Message).

Be quiet and listen to God’s Word.

Of course, when you’re making major decisions, you need to hear from the wisest person you know—God. You need wisdom from God’s Word during these important transitions. We all struggle from time to time with hearing God. When that happens, it’s often related to two reasons. First, you’re spending too much time plugging into other voices in our culture and not enough time being quiet. You can’t hear God’s voice because he doesn’t shout, unlike the rest of the world.

Second, you’re not spending enough time reading God’s Word. We need to stop looking for God to write his will in the clouds when he has already written it in the Bible. Psalm 119 describes what this looks like in verse 59: “I have thought about my life, and I have directed my feet back to your written instructions” (GW). We compare our lives—our past and our present—to what the Bible says it should look like.

Consider what you do best.

Look honestly at your spiritual gifts, personality, experiences, passions, and abilities, and consider if you’re in a place where you can be most fruitful. At Saddleback, we call this collection of traits your SHAPE, and it’s been an incredible tool for helping our congregation discover how God has wired them for ministry. We have an entire class dedicated to walking our members through this discovery process.

It’s a process all leaders should walk through, including pastors, to discern where and how God wants us to serve. The Bible tells us, “God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings” (1 Peter 4:10 TLB). God gave you unique abilities to not only help yourself, but to also help others, so it’s critical that you do it well—so you can help more people!

Take the time to make the right decision.

A good decision is always better than a fast one! Don’t get in a hurry. Don’t get frustrated. God is never in a hurry. You can trust him. We live in a culture that honors and adores fast decision-making. If it’s God’s will today, it’ll be God’s will tomorrow. The Bible tells us, “It is foolish and rash to make a promise to the Lord before counting the cost” (Proverbs 20:25 TLB).

We need to let God set the pace as we’re making these important changes. The Bible tells us God is perfect. He never makes a mistake. Since God is perfect, his timing is always perfect. We have to trust him to set the pace as we make these tough decisions.

How to help others make decisions

The bigger picture is clearer when it’s not about us.

Whether it’s about someone deciding to pursue a new job, or ask for a raise, or someone simply mulling over which ice cream flavor to choose, we seem to see the best solution with a clarity and decisiveness that is often absent when we face our own quandaries. A new study looked at how people make decisions for themselves and for others. What it found was twofold: Not only did participants choose differently when it was for themselves rather than for someone else, but the way they chose was different. When choosing for themselves, participants focused more on a granular level, zeroing in on the minutiae. But when it came to deciding for others, study participants looked more at the array of options and focused on their overall impression.

The bigger picture is clearer when it’s not about us.

Why is it easier to see the best solution to other people’s dilemmas than our own? Whether it’s about someone deciding to pursue a new job, or ask for a raise, or someone simply mulling over which ice cream flavor to choose, we seem to see the best solution with a clarity and decisiveness that is often absent when we face our own quandaries.

People have a different mindset when choosing for others: an adventurous mindset that stands in contrast to the more cautious mindset that rears when people make their own choices. In my research with Yi Liu and Yongfang Liu of East China Normal University in China and Jiangli Jiao of Xinjiang Normal University in China, we looked at how people make decisions for themselves and for others. We were interested in the process and quantity of information a decision maker uses when choosing for others versus choosing for the self. We wanted to know: Is more information searched in the process when people choose for others versus for themselves, and does the way they evaluate that information change based on whom they are choosing for?

To test our hypotheses, we performed eight studies with over a thousand participants. Throughout the series of randomized tests, participants were given a list of restaurants, or job options, or dating profiles — each with detailed information and then participants were asked to make choices for themselves or for someone else based on that information.

What we found was two-fold: Not only did participants choose differently when it was for themselves rather than for someone else, but the way they chose was different. When choosing for themselves, participants focused more on a granular level, zeroing in on the minutiae, something we described in our research as a cautious mindset. Employing a cautious mindset when making a choice means being more reserved, deliberate, and risk averse. Rather than exploring and collecting a plethora of options, the cautious mindset prefers to consider a few at a time on a deeper level, examining a cross-section of the larger whole.

But when it came to deciding for others, study participants looked more at the array of options and focused on their overall impression. They were bolder, operating from what we called an adventurous mindset. An adventurous mindset prioritizes novelty over a deeper dive into what those options actually consist of; the availability of numerous choices is more appealing than their viability. Simply put, they preferred and examined more information before making a choice, and as my previous research has shown, they recommended their choice to others with more gusto.

These findings align with my earlier work with Kyle Emich of University of Delaware on how people are more creative on behalf of others. When we are brainstorming ideas to other people’s problems, we’re inspired; we have a free flow of ideas to spread out on the table without judgment, second-guessing, or overthinking.

Upon reflection, these results should feel familiar. Think about the most recent time you asked for a raise. Many people are initially afraid to ask (employing a cautious mindset); however, these same people are often very supportive in recommending to others (such as their friends or colleagues) that they ask (employing an adventurous mindset). When people recommend what others should do, they come up with ideas and choices and solutions that are more optimistic and action-oriented, focus on more positive information and imagine more favorable consequences. Meanwhile, when making their own choices, people tend to envision everything that could go wrong, leading to doubt and second-guesses.

How can this research be applied? First, we believe that it suggests that everyone should have a mentor, or a blunt friend who can help people see and act on better evidence.

We should also work to distance ourselves from our own problems by adopting a fly-on-the-wall perspective. In this mindset, we can act as our own advisors—indeed, it may even be effective to refer to yourself in the third-person when considering an important decision as though you’re addressing someone else. Instead of asking yourself, “what should I do?” ask yourself “what should you do?”.

Another distancing technique is to pretend that your decision is someone else’s and visualize it from his or her perspective. This can be very easy when thinking of famous exemplars, such as how Steve Jobs would make your decision. By imagining how someone else would tackle your problem, people may unwittingly help themselves.

Perhaps the easiest solution is to let others make our decisions for us. By outsourcing our choices, we can take advantage of a growing market of firms and apps that make it increasingly easier for people to “pitch” their decisions to others. For example, people can have their clothes, food, books, or home decor options chosen for them by others.

Our research underscores a basic human desire: we want to feel like we’ve made a difference. We are wired for connection with others and an interesting part of making decisions for other people is that it is possible to have a bigger impact. Since managers and leaders are tasked with making decisions for others on multiple levels—everything from daily minutiae to personnel conflicts to long-term strategic planning—our results point the way to helping these employees find greater degrees of creativity, effectiveness, and fulfillment in their work.

Leadership is about making decisions

Posted by: Team Tony

How to help others make decisions

When you make a decision and truly commit, you can overcome every obstacle. By committing to a decision, you are making a statement. You’re telling the world, “This is how it’s going to be.” Knowing how to be decisive projects confidence and charisma and is a trait of true leaders.

We often get so caught up in the desire to make the right decision that we end up making no decision at all. Learning how to be more decisive , however, takes effort and a level of commitment all its own. How many times have you thought to yourself, “I’ll do this,” only to second-guess your decision, eventually backing away from making a decision at all?

How to help others make decisions

Can I learn how to be more decisive?

Yes – the good news is that decision-making is a skill you can practice. Like any other skill, knowing how to be decisive comes more naturally to some people than others. If you find yourself procrastinating, overanalyzing or deferring to others when it comes time to make a decision, there are a few steps you need to take – starting with your own mindset.

1. Overcome your fears

Here’s a secret: If you’re wondering how to become more decisive, you’re probably held back by fear. Any decision, no matter how small, means a change of some sort, which could lead to a significant difference in our lives and the lives of people we care about. This fear of change can consume you and be destructive , paralyzing you right when you need to be most decisive. How can you break this negative pattern? Be open to change instead of fearful of it. Acknowledge that life itself is always changing, and that by making a decision, even when you’re uncertain about it, you are taking control of your own life.

2. Stop overanalyzing

You’re not alone – no one is completely certain of everything all the time. Those who have learned how to be a decisive person are just as uncertain or nervous as you; they’re just willing to make the choice . Maybe the decision they make turns out to be the wrong one. So what? They can learn from a wrong decision, and they usually learn quickly. A poor decision leads to a better one down the road, whereas no decision at all leads to stagnation. Nothing is going to get better. It may not get worse, but you certainly won’t improve matters by sitting where you are and doing nothing. Over time, failing to make a choice becomes a choice in itself.

True leadership comes from the ability to make decisions even when you aren’t sure if they’re right. If you want to lead – at work, in your life or anywhere – you have to be ready to be decisive even when you have no idea what the right path is. So stop overthinking and start practicing being decisive!

3. Find a mentor to show you how to be more decisive

Often what’s keeping us from making a decision is that we feel like we don’t have all the information we need. One thing that can help you stop overanalyzing and feel ready to make a decision is to collect that information. Don’t be shy about asking questions, reaching across the aisle and seeking out different opinions. The more information you have, the better prepared you are for all outcomes.

The best leaders seek constant and never-ending improvement, including in their decision-making skills. A mentor is always there to answer your questions, help you take all the information and experiences you’ve gathered and shape them into valuable skills you can use in the future. Finding a mentor is a must for those who want to learn how to become more decisive.

4. Visualize the outcomes

Visualization is often used in setting and achieving goals, and you can apply the same concepts when you’re learning how to become more decisive. Go through each option you have and visualize what can happen for each. Don’t just think of negative outcomes – think of positive outcomes, as well as neutral ones. Make a mental “pros and cons” list for each option. This strategy will not only help you make a final decision, but will actually condition your mind to make decisions faster in the future.

5. Make smaller decisions

The only way to know you’re making steady progress toward the life you want is to harness the power of decision. It’s a muscle like any other, and sitting around without putting it to work will not help it – or you – improve at all. But when you commit to strengthening this muscle, you commit to learning how to be more decisive. Soon enough, you’ll know how to be more decisive without even thinking about it.

Try giving yourself a time limit when you’re making a big decision. Often, our early impulses are our best ones, and we often know what we want to do after just five to 10 minutes. However, if a decision truly does feel big, don’t get stuck. Be decisive by breaking that decision down into smaller decisions. You can even create a decision tree that takes you through every step, forcing you to pause, consider each smaller choice and not give in to fear . Thinking of a big decision as a series of smaller ones takes the pressure off so that you can choose wisely.

6. Don’t try to be perfect

We’ve all heard the expression “done is better than perfect.” This can be especially true for decision-making. Successful people in every field have to master how to be decisive every day. They have the same obstacles as you; however, they’ve learned to avoid the pursuit of perfection – sometimes, “good enough” is perfect. Perfect is just another way that fear controls your choices.

Instead of focusing on perfection, ask yourself how this decision relates to the big vision you have for yourself. Which option will get you closer to that goal? Can you accept the consequences if everything doesn’t go as planned? When you stop thinking of them as life-or-death and think of them as stepping stones and learning experiences, the urge to make every decision perfect will fade.

7. Set a bold goal

Now that you have recognized your fears and have strategies to overcome them, you’re ready to move forward by setting a bold goal. Think of something you have always wanted to achieve for yourself. Chances are fear was holding you back. Make it your mission to move forward boldly by being decisive and setting yourself up for success .

Perhaps you want to double your sales, but you’ve resisted setting the goal because it felt impossible. Now that you have released fear, you are free to recognize that you just need the right tools for the job . Maybe that means hiring a new marketing director or reexamining your current strategy. Whatever you consider, use the tools you’ve learned about how to be decisive. Remember, when you back your new decisions with action, you will unleash alignment . If you can commit and sustain that commitment, you will find it more rewarding and less daunting to be decisive.

Discovering how to be more decisive is life-changing – and it’s a skill that you can master. Commit to greater decisiveness and a more fulfilled life by attending Unleash the Power Within . Then apply these seven concepts to your own life, and watch your decision-making abilities have a positive effect on your career, relationships and more.

How to help others make decisions

Free Book Preview: Unstoppable

Leadership is mentally and emotionally demanding. Not only will you need to temper your emotions to keep your team inspired, you’ll also be the point person for almost every hard decision your business makes.

You’re the one who has to make the call, and the one who has to deal with the consequences. It’s no wonder that depression affects entrepreneurs more than the average population.

Sooner or later, you’ll be forced to make a tough call; it might mean firing an employee you’re personally close with, or making a risky strategic change for the business or ending a long-term partnership.

Fortunately, there are some strategies you can use to make these decisions easier, both in terms of finding a better option and resisting the stress and burdens that come along with it.

Try using these tactics the next time you’re forced to make a hard decision.

1. Reduce decision fatigue.

Decision fatigue is a documented phenomenon that sets in when you make too many successive decisions. Even small decisions, like picking what to wear or ordering a meal, can accumulate the stress of decision-making and make approaching bigger decisions more stressful.

You can reduce decision fatigue by spending less time on small-scale decisions. Build habits that are repeatable, and let other people (like your assistants or coworkers) decide things that don’t have much impact on you or your business.

2. Take yourself out of the equation.

According to the New York Times, one of the best ways to make decisions is to remove yourself from the picture altogether. Imagine that this isn’t your company: Instead, pretend that it belongs to a friend, and you’re advising him or her on what to do.

Describe the situation, out loud, as if the people and organizations involved were total strangers. If your friend came to you with this story, what would you advise? Oftentimes, it’s easier to see the answer when we’re removed from the situation, because the stakes are lower — but the answer is just as good.

3. Create a firm deadline.

A big problem many entrepreneurs have with decision-making is being decisive in a timely manner; in other words, they procrastinate. This calls to mind Parkinson’s Law: Essentially, the amount of time it takes to do a task swells to fill the amount of time allotted for it.

If you give yourself a month to make a decision, you’re going to take a month. If you give yourself a day, you’re going to take a day. Obviously, you don’t want to rush decisions with major consequences, but you’ll also want to set a strict timetable so you don’t procrastinate too long, wasting time and mental resources in the process.

4. Limit the factors you use to make your decision.

The paradox of choice is a perplexing case of human psychology. The more options you have to consider, the harder it is to make a choice- — and the less satisfied you are with that choice once you make it.

You can compensate for this by limiting the number of options you have to choose from, and the number of variables you consider when choosing between them. For example, you could narrow your choice down to two vendors, and decide to make your decision based on cost only, or only on the quality of the working relationship.

5. Quantify your options.

As a business owner, quantifiable decisions are easy to make. For example, if your marketing strategy makes more money than it costs, it’s worth keeping. So, if you want to make your net hard decision a little easier, try reducing everything to quantifiable variables.

This may take some extra effort up-front, but the best answer will be obvious when you’re done. For example, if you’re stuck between hiring two candidates, start rating them on different factors, like experience, value and culture fit. Ultimately, the candidate who racks up the most points is your winner.

6. Focus on long-term thinking.

It’s tempting to think about the short-term repercussions of your decisions as a worst-case scenario, but try thinking about the long term instead. If the current decision you’re making is the wrong one, how will this affect your life in three years? What about five years? Most bad decisions can be recovered from in the span of a year or two — even the big ones — so don’t beat yourself up over the worst-case possibilities. This is also a way to distance yourself from the equation.

Procrastinating isn’t a good idea. Delegating is possible in some situations, but generally not advisable. If you want to be a successful leader, you need to learn how to handle tough decisions rather than avoid them.

In short, learning to make effective decisions may take some practice, but decisiveness is like any other skill: the more time you invest in it, the better you’ll become.

How to help others make decisions

“To thine own self be true.”

No one knows the real you but you. Sometimes it is true that we don’t know ourselves. That’s because we’ve lost ourselves, or maybe because we never knew ourselves to begin with.

I grew up a long time ago on a hill on Bentley road in Puyallup, Washington. I was a very quiet, shy, and reserved little girl. Today, I am a forty-two-year-old woman. I am still introverted, but I am learning to be more assertive.

As a co-dependent people pleaser, I grew up with a lot of self-doubt and shame. I didn’t have a sense of self at all. I was like a leaf that the wind blows away, and I needed to be more of a tree with deep roots, grounded and rooted in love.

Growing up, I received a lot of conflicting and negative messages from my family, such as “you are loved but you are flawed.” I was hungry for the approval of others.

I learned not to trust my ability to make a good decision because the people in my life did not validate my view of reality. My brother used to tease me a lot. I tried speaking up about the mistreatment, but my parents didn’t take my complaints seriously.

They did little to address the situation because of their high levels of shame. It just got swept under the rug, and so I got the message that it wouldn’t matter if I spoke up, because those in authority would not protect me.

It took me a long time to see that I could have a different opinion than other people and still be loved and accepted.

When I did make a decision, I got the impression that people are in your life to change your mind, and guilt and shame were good tactics to achieve that.

This has made it extremely difficult for me to make and stick to decisions.

If you think you aren’t qualified to make a good choice then you’re going to be afraid to make any choice.

I have often run around asking multiple people, “What should I do? What should I do?” I invited them to give me input. But then I was angry with them for “telling me what to do.”

What I was really telling myself is that my opinion didn’t matter. I valued other people’s opinions far above my own. I disowned myself. Somewhere in my mind I thought that they must have known better. After all, what in the world could I know? I grew up believing that if you think you know something then you are very proud.

But there is no shame in speaking from a place of truth.

You do know something and that is not a bad thing. In fact, you probably know more than you think you know. But thinking you don’t know anything keeps you from taking the good advice you would give yourself. And it keeps you dependent on other people.

People seem to lose respect for people who are wishy-washy and can’t make their own decisions. In other words, people who can’t think for themselves are also people who don’t respect themselves because they don’t respect their own opinions.

It takes a lot of courage to stand up and take personal responsibility for your life and actually “own” your decisions.

I have let others play the scapegoat by allowing them to be my decision makers. For example, because of my lack of assertiveness in my marriage, I was handing over my brain and responsibilities to my husband.

I think it was because of fear but also laziness on my part. But no one can really be happy this way. You won’t be happy, and the other people won’t be either when they hear you blame them for your choices.

Ask for advice if you feel you need it, but take it with a grain of salt. In the end, you are the one who needs to live with your decision. The gurus won’t be the one with the consequences of your choice.

Don’t be so afraid of making mistakes. Fear of the choice being “bad” keeps you stuck. Accept that you are human. As far as I know, all humans make mistakes. The only ones that won’t give you grace are the ones that have no grace for themselves. So lighten up a bit.

I know some truths that I need to stop denying and start accepting. That unsettled feeling in my gut is there for a reason.

It’s time for me to stop sweeping things under the rug and start having the courage to speak up. I need to tell myself that I am relevant and my opinions matter, and that by standing my ground I can be a positive force for change, because I have something to say that someone out there may need to hear.

I have come to the conclusion that I need to trust my best judgment, stick to my decision, follow through, and let the cards fall where they may.

I think the important thing to realize is that life has a way of working out. Even if we make the worst possible choice, we still have the freedom to make adjustments.

So let yourself try what feels right for you, and don’t worry about making the “wrong” decision. One of the best things I have learned is that the world is a place to explore, and it will embrace you if you embrace it.

How to help others make decisions

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Life is full of choices. Some are easy, such as what to have for dinner (cheeseburger thank you), and others, more serious, like, for instance, choosing a career. Regardless of how important a decision is, good decision skills are useful in life, especially if you feel indecisive about something and it’s getting you down. Get tips on how to make good decisions, and find out what to do when you can’t figure out a plan.

This can help if:

  • you’re working through a problem
  • you’re facing uncertainty
  • you’re struggling to make a decision.

How to help others make decisions

Why good decision making helps

People make decisions all throughout their day, most of which are straightforward and don’t require much thought. However, when situations are more complicated and have longer term impacts, it’s easy to feel unsure or hesitant.

When faced with a tough decision it’s common to feel:

  • overwhelmed
  • stressed or anxious
  • wound up
  • pressured
  • confused
  • distracted
  • tired

Because indecision can have a negative impact on how you’re feeling, it’s important to learn strategies for making positive decisions in tough situations. While you may not be able to guarantee the outcome of a decision before you make it, at least you can know you put a lot of careful thought into it.

Tips for making decisions

Step 1. Don’t let stress get the better of you. It’s easy to feel stressed out and anxious when you’re facing a tough choice. You might tend to rush your decisions without thinking them through, or you avoid making a decision at all because the stress has put you off your game. If you’re feeling anxious about a decision, try to manage your stress so that it doesn’t cloud your thinking. Go for a walk on the beach. Hit up a yoga class or hang out with friends.

Step 2. Give yourself some time (if possible). It’s hard to think clearly under pressure, and sometimes your first idea isn’t always your best one. Give yourself the chance to sit on a problem for a while so that you can process your options and feel confident about the course of action you choose.

Step 3. Weigh the pros and cons. When faced with a big decision, sometimes we lose sight of the big picture. Write a list of pros and cons for each course of action and then compare them. Sometimes the cons aren’t nearly as bad as we imagine them to be, or the pros might make your options more obvious.

Step 4. Think about your goals and values. It’s important to be true to ourselves and what we value in life. When you factor into a decision the things that are important to you, the best option might become obvious. At any rate, you’re more likely to end up with an outcome you’re happy with.

Step 5. Consider all the possibilities. Making a decision can result in several different outcomes and not all of them may be obvious. When considering each option, don’t just list the positives and negatives; write down any likely consequences.

Step 6. Talk it out. It can be helpful to get another person’s perspective on your issue, particularly if they’ve faced a similar decision in their own life.

Step 7. Keep a diary. If you feel like you’re on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, it might help to keep track of your feelings by writing them down.

Step 8. Plan how you’ll tell others. If you think someone may have a bad response to your decision, think through what their reaction is likely to be. Put yourself in their shoes to help you think of a good way to manage the situation.

Step 9. Rethink your options. If you’re up against a lot of pressure over a decision, or there are some new factors to consider, look over your options again. You might decide that your original decision is still the best one, but give yourself the option of changing course. If a decision no longer feels right for you, go through these steps again to figure out a better solution.

If you’re having a tough time

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with negative feelings because you’re facing a tough decision, it’s important to look after yourself. Take some time out to relax or do something you enjoy.

If you’re finding your indecision over a situation is affecting how you get on day to day, it’s a good idea to talk to someone you trust, or visit a counsellor. They’ll be able to help you work through the process of decision making, and guide you through different strategies.

What can I do now?

  • Work on your problem solving skills.
  • Talk to someone you trust about your situation and see if they have any insights to offer.
  • Learn about building good coping skills.

Explore other topics

It’s not always easy to find the right place to start. Our ‘What’s on your mind?’ tool can help you explore what’s right for you.