Big Decisions start out by masquerading as seemingly simple questions:
Maybe we could market it this way?
Perhaps I could take that direction?
I wonder if this would work better with a partner?
Next? Bucketloads of research. The weighing up of endless lists of pros and cons. And the creation of highly detailed resource allocation spreadsheets.
The result of these deliberations always ends up with a definitive answer: “I don’t know which option is the Right One”.
Next, Cyclone Doubt comes and ideas, options and kitchen sinks start flying all over the place with no idea which way to go.
Big Decisions usually include substantial investment of resources. So the fear of making the Wrong Decision becomes disabling. Suddenly, continuing whatever I was doing seems a much safer decision than risking everything going wrong – even if the results are fair to middling.
But once Cyclone Doubt blows in, sticking with the “safe” way ceases to be an option. If I try it I end up guilt-stricken over the lost opportunities and disappointed in myself for not stepping up and taking the risk. My confidence takes a knock along the way.
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Here are the two strategies I employ to get me through when faced with Big Becisions.
1. Apply emergency thinking
Recently I’ve found myself in a couple of emergency situations and when the crisis has passed I’ve been astonished by the clarity of my thinking under pressure. I knew exactly what had to be done and I did it.
While I don’t want to live my life bouncing from emergency to emergency, the experience has taught me that to make Big Decisions, I need to tap into emergency thinking – without the emergency!
I’ve realised that the only difference in my thinking at the time was how sure I was of the outcomes I was working towards: I wanted to live and I wanted my family to be safe.
I was completely immersed in meeting those basic physiological needs of life preservation and safety. And importantly, there was a visceral emotional connection with the outcome – I would do whatever necessary to reach my goal.
Next time I’m faced with a Big Decision, re-acquainting myself with my values and needs will give me the crystal clear focus I’m looking for. The questions I need to ask myself are “What is the outcome that I want?” and “What needs to be done to make this work?”
2. Hold a clearness meeting
Even then, I know there are some Big Decisions where tapping into my needs and values still might not cut it.
I’m thinking of situations where I may not have all the information I need or the confidence to proceed with my preferred choice. That’s when I set up a clearness committee.
Clearness meetings were originally developed by the Quakers as a way to help an individual or couples get clear about the decision to get married. They are often used in community groups, and are also ideal for soloists who don’t have work colleagues to turn to for support.
A clearness meeting isn’t about getting business advice. It’s about using the support of those who care about you to help you connect with what really matters in life. It is a structured (and usually facilitated) meeting where up to six friends, colleagues or family members gather together to help you make a decision. Rather than telling you what to do, your friends ask you questions that help you gain clarity.
Similar to a Business Action Group, a clearness meeting uses the resources and wisdom of the group to help you with your decision. But while the BAG is about meeting regularly and helping each other, a clearness meeting is a one-off meeting that is all about you and your decision.
What I especially love about clearness meetings is that not only do you come away with a decision (or at least some clarity around your next step) but you realise you’re not alone. You’re surrounded by a group of people who believe in you and what you’re doing, and you know that they’ll support you no matter what you choose to do.
Got any tips to share that help you make Big Decisions? Please help the rest of us find clarity!