The Power of Decision-Making (or How to ‘Just Do It’)

When you type the keywords power and decision-making into Google, you will get virtually billions of results. Some of the first hits will be high-profile books, the TED talk by Benedikt Ahlfeld and even scientific studies. Decisions seemingly run our everyday life and have the power to turn it around. Yet, I find myself struggling to make them all the time. 

One of the comments on decision making that has always stuck with me was by Neil Pasricha in ‘The Happiness Equation’. He counted all the decisions he made in one day (it ended up being a whopping 285) and concluded that in order to be happier, you had to make fewer decisions. It makes a lot of sense – just think about how long it took you to get dressed this morning. How long did you ponder over what shirt to wear or what to have for breakfast? It’s mentally exhausting. As a solution, Neil came up with the “Just Do It Scribble”, a way to automate, regulate, effectuate or debate all decisions in his life. He essentially argues that by differentiating decisions based on the time it takes to complete them or the task attached to it combined with how important it is, you can significantly reduce the amount of decisions you make in a day.

‘Just do it’ is a sentence that well resonates with all of us. It’s a mantra we have been told over and over – not only but definitely notably by mega-brand Nike. The story behind the slogan is certainly worth a read (it started with the last words of a murderer) and has shaped the entire brand and marketing since. Yet, it’s gone much further than that – it’s a way of life for many.

Just do it. Why is it so effective? It’s a simple phrase, yet it takes one crucial step out of the journey – the decision to start it. How many times have you wanted to try something and pondered over the how and when? How many times have you abandoned the thought before even starting? If you’re anything like me, many. The decisions behind the ‘I want to do this’ got the better of me. How? When? Why? Where? It gets overwhelming and it’s easier not to start. Yet, when you approach it differently and tell yourself to ‘just do it’, it takes the pressure off the decisions. It doesn’t matter as much how or why – you JUST do it. Simple as that.

I’m going to say this here – I hate making decisions. I’m extremely indecisive and a perfectionist which makes a disastrous combination when it comes to going one way or the other.  My grandma always tells me to make a list of pros and cons for everything I might want and then make a decision based on that. This is actually a really good way of approaching those decisions that Neil Pasricha coined ‘debate’ decisions – high in importance and in time. Decisions like your career path or where you want to move. You need to debate and research and really think about them. Make lists, talk to friends, debate with an expert – do what you have to.

But what about all the other decisions? The ones that aren’t as crucial but still keep you from living the life you want (at times at least). How can you trick yourself into making these decisions – how can you really apply the ‘just do it’ mentality?

I remember a few years ago I asked my therapist this. She replied with a question: ‘What’s the worst that can happen if you make that decision?’. It was a weird way to think about it. We tend to avoid thinking about the worst. However, this is the easiest way to put any decision into perspective as well as decide if your decision might be a ‘debate’ one or not. Say you want to try a new hobby – what is the worst that could happen? You could embarrass yourself in front of people you will likely never see again. You could waste the money spent on the session. You could not enjoy it. None of these would be the end of the world. Even if the worst comes true, you are now able to go on with life knowing this hobby just wasn’t for you. It’s better than spending hours mulling over whether you should try it.

I wish I had a life-changing solution to leave you with here. I don’t. There are countless articles telling you how to make bigger, better decisions every day. And yet, we all still struggle with decision making.

I think what scares us about decision making is the power behind it. We all know that one wrong decision could ruin our life. The thing is, you will never know until you do it. You won’t know if a decision is the key to your dream life or the complete opposite. You simply won’t know. So, just make that decision. 

Nothing is scarier than living your life scared.

What do you do when you can’t seem to make a decision? Or does it come easy to you?

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