The more I delve into great decision-making, the more I realise the importance of alignment and self-awareness. If you want to make better decisions: know thyself!
It’s easy to think that a great decision is a choice of the best option available to us: “what do I think this might be?” But great choices take into account so much more than just good ideas.
In the corporate setting: they don’t just get the best immediate result for the bottom line or take into account your financial interests or marketing plan.
To make better decisions, find your compass.
There are many challenges to making great decisions, but some of them can be avoided with the right tools. Most of the tools I mention are ones you already know. Hopefully, you’ve already done this work. Better yet, you update and view this regularly. These tools to knowing yourself are values, passions & vision.
If you don’t have some of this work done before you need it, making a great decision in a time of crisis is much harder, requires greater thought, and will need more effort.
When, on the other hand, you already know yourself, you bring more emotional intelligence to the decision-making process. Hopefully, before you start, you already have identified and regularly work with your personal (or corporate) values, your passions, your vision, and your goals and dreams.
Any decision should not only meet the criteria of being a great idea that is well thought through but should also fulfil your wants and desires, giving priority to what is truly important to you. Do your decisions reflect the importance of your relationships and connection to others? Finally, to make better decisions, you need to consider your needs, motivations, safety and security, and even your identity.
These tools ensure you are true to yourself in every decision you make. They allow you to live in authenticity and alignment.
There are three words that I want you to keep in mind as you look at your personal alignment and great decision-making:
- creativity, and
The challenges of decision-making:
There are many challenges in decision-making. One that we often overlook is that we focus exclusively on the decision before us, rather than recognising that it’s not just about this one issue. What might look like a potentially small decision will ripple through our life.
If you say “yes” to this – what are you saying no to?
Show me where you spend your time & money, and I’ll tell you what your priorities are!
Nonetheless, in a lack of awareness and mindfulness, you make on-the-spot decisions, failing to take into account all the impact this might have in your life. Perhaps you say yes to overtime, thinking about the financial benefits and yet forgetting your promise to yourself to practice self-care.
When you truly know yourself, you consider the overall impact of even the small decisions.
Confusing problem-solving and decision-making
I’ve written on this challenge before, how we often try to solve the problems and challenges that will arise if we make a certain choice and therefore fail to decide.
If you get caught up trying to solve the “how”, you may fail to decide on the “what”. In that indecision and anxiety, you do not decide at all. With this lack of commitment to an outcome, you fail to overcome the obstacles.
Living up to other people’s expectations
Many of us, especially women, are people-pleasers. When faced with a choice and decision to make, we give too much weight and credence to other people’s expectations of us and “I should”. Perhaps the path of least resistance is to give in, choosing in favour of their wants and desires, rather than your own.
This is particularly easy if you don’t actually know what you want. If you haven’t got a clear idea of your vision and passions, you won’t take time to consider the long-term repercussions of a choice for yourself.
Today, the invitation is to do the work and start with what really matters.
To make better decisions: start with what really matters.
If you truly know yourself, you will find your compass within. Your self-awareness and mindful consideration allow you to make great decisions.
Ask these three basic questions:
- What are your values?
- What are your passions?
- And what is your vision for your life?
A variation of these three questions works just as well in a corporate setting: what are the company’s values, what is the vision of the company and how does this translate into the goals and objectives?
Every decision that you make – no matter how big or how small, whether it’s to participate in the choir or it’s to change careers – should align with these three things.
If you don’t already have your values and your passions and your vision identified, how do you know that the decision you’re making is the best possible one for your life? How do you measure or categorize what is a good or a bad decision?
Values are the starting point of knowing what is important. For some people, this may be family, honesty, ambition and success. For others, it will be adventure, experience, authenticity and curiosity. They are personal and intrinsic to each one of us.
If you’re interested in identifying your values, complete your details and choose submit to get the worksheet and instructions.
I have to thank Bonnie Muenz for helping me identify my passions, and then reminding me each year to check and update them! These are the aspects of my life that I want to pour my energy into and it takes many forms.
Simply put, my five passions are:
- building a legacy,
- financial freedom,
- travel & adventure,
- spiritually grounded, and
- health and fitness.
Each of these passions has multiple tiers and levels. This blog post, for example, is tied to building my legacy and impacting the lives of people around the world.
Likewise, I’ve learnt in the school of hard knocks that if I am not spiritually grounded, I am not the best version of myself. If I ignore my health and fitness, I don’t have the energy and stamina to lead the life I want to have.
Knowing your passions helps you choose your priorities.
Your vision and direction
The final question of inner alignment is your vision. There are many different ways of approaching your vision:
- your vision board
- a vision statement
- mission and vision
- plans and goals.
In the end, it’s not about how you create it. What is important is that you have it, because it provides you with a compass pointing you in a particular direction that you want to grow.
With each decision that you are faced with, ask yourself whether it keeps you on course or takes you off course.
Does this decision help me build the road that I want to travel?
The specifics of decision-making
Only after you have the clarity of direction and a compass, can you get into the specifics of decision-making.
1. To make better decisions – always start with the heart:
No matter what the decision is, acknowledge your wants, dreams and desires. Forget, for a moment, about rational limitations and what “can” or “cannot” be done.
WHAT DO YOU WANT?
What is your ideal, desired outcome from the decision before you?
Allow your compassion – for yourself as well as for others – to guide your choices. Take into account your feelings, emotions, hopes and dreams. What would you choose to create an optimal outcome?
Consider your values, your passions and your vision. What guidance and wisdom can they provide you with?
2. Create opportunities, possibilities and imagine
Taking a blank page, allow yourself to brainstorm, mind-map or dump ideas. Taking into consideration the facts and considerations that you know, what options present themselves?
Allow yourself to think outside the box. Also consider who you might ask for guidance, support, mentoring or ideas. Do you know someone who has done this before or something similar? Who do you know that might have better ideas?
This is a moment to consider whether you need professional advice, such as a lawyer, accountant, financial adviser, doctor, career adviser, entrepreneur, scientist, architect, or another professional that has experience of the kind you are looking for. Who might have more ideas to offer you alternatives?
3. Remember your needs
In any decision, remember to take care of your needs. It is not enough that you decide in favour of your wants and desires or that you choose a good idea. If you overlook your needs (professional, financial, emotional, security and safety, or even growth), you will not feel fully satisfied with the outcome.
Allow yourself time to consider all of your needs, not just the most obvious ones.
4. Replace expectations and “I should” with compassion
A source of great unhappiness and lack of fulfilment is living up to other people’s expectations, rather than living life authentically. A beautiful solution to this, taking into account the wants, desires and needs of those that you care about is to replace their expectations with compassion.
If you truly loved yourself and them: what would you choose?
What outcome provides the greatest joy and satisfaction to everyone involved?
Compassion allows you to choose tough love when it’s required. Rather than feeling railroaded and giving in, proactively choose to love yourself and others. How do your choices reflect how much you care?
Compassion will allow you to be true to your values, passions and goals. To make better decisions, seek the option that aligns with who you are.
5. Choose to perform on your stage: priorities
Closely tied to expectations and pressure from others is getting roped into performing on other people’s stages. If you don’t have clarity about your passions and vision, you will accept working to fulfil another person’s vision.
Even professionally and in business, you need to be clear about what business you are willing to let go of to focus your attention and energies on growth in the direction that you have planned. Plans may change, but this should be intentional. Otherwise, you find yourself spread too thin.
It’s easy to get exhausted and find yourself with a short fuse because you are struggling to juggle too many responsibilities.
When you are invited to participate on someone else’s stage, look clearly at your values, passions and vision. Does this project, opportunity or request take you closer or further from your path?
For example, one of your values might be connection. Will your connections and relationships grow if you say “yes”? Are you performing on your stage while supporting and helping them, or are you putting your priorities on the back burner while you assist?
Quite often, being asked to participate with another person will allow you to stay on your path. But be clear whose stage you will be performing on. Pour your time, compassion and energy into the right places.
6. Be authentic
The final question to ask yourself in any decision is “is this who I am?”. The best decision aligns with who you are and want to become.
Sometimes, we feel that a decision has us between a rock and a hard place. Sometimes, we have to choose the more painful option, because it aligns better, in the long term, with who we are and want to become. The easy way out is not always the right choice.
To make better decisions: exercise compassion, creativity and courage
Every decision you make gives you an opportunity to exercise your compassion, creativity and courage. To make better decisions, do the inner work that allows you to know yourself. Then, you can courageously choose your path of alignment.
Who knows where this adventure called life might lead you.