Decide: 5 ways to stop second guessing yourself

Some years ago I remember standing in my kitchen, staring silently at my boxes of cereal, trying to decide which to have for breakfast.  Was it a Frostie’s morning, or was it more of an Oat Crunchie’s day?  Or maybe granola?  I stood there for 5 minutes, until – utterly frustrated – I marched out of the house and went without.

Fortunately I’ve learned to make decisions more quickly and more easily now, and when I notice that second-guessing and doubting starting to kick in, I kick it right back.  So here are 5 ways to stop second-guessing or, of you prefer, 5 ways to make confident decisions.

1. Test them against your values.

So many times we have to make decisions without a framework and no way to judge between two choices.  When faced with a tricky decision it’s often a good idea to line up your choices and ask “Which one of these most honours the things that mean the most to me?”

The decision that’s most in line with the things that mean the most to you – your core values – will be the best decision for you.  That might not be the simplest or most practical, but because it fits with who you are and what’s most important to you it will always be the best decision for you.

2. Trust your gut.

When I was growing up I used to love rainy Sunday afternoons watching Columbo, especially the bit at the end where he’d sidle up to the Bad Guy, say “Just one more thing” and then proceed to blow apart the bad guys alibi.  Just brilliant.

What Columbo had bundles of was a great trust in his intuition.  In every episode, from the very moment he first meets the bad guy, he knows ‘whodunnit’ – and he always trusts that.

So look at what your intuition tells you is the ‘right’ decision for you.  Forget about all the “What if’s” and the myriad, tiny details – what is your gut telling you?  Listen to your intuition, it knows what it’s talking about.

3. It just doesn’t matter.

My decision between breakfast cereals wasn’t a biggie.  Whichever one I chose, there were never going to be any huge consequences and the ripples from that decision wouldn’t have been felt much further than the end of my spoon.  Sometimes it just doesn’t matter which way you go.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in second guessing yourself, going round in circles and over-complicating things, when – if you get right down to it – it just doesn’t matter. Going round in circles is only going to make you dizzy, so stop it.  Ask yourself this question – if your future happiness wasn’t dependent on your decision (and it isn’t, by the way), which way would you go?

4. Have enough information.

Go and get the facts before you make a complex decision.  By all means weigh up the pro’s and con’s so that you can get an understanding of what’s behind a choice.  But be careful – there’s a huge difference between knowing enough to make a choice, and knowing everything to make a choice.

When you feel yourself pursuing every fact or every piece of information before you make a decision, stop yourself.  Ask “What do I really need to know to make this decision?” and focus your efforts on getting the best information relatively quickly, rather than pursuing all of the information you could get your hands on given a longer period of time.

5. Respect your doubts.

We all naturally shy away from change, and we’ve developed a whole bunch of tricks that make it easy for us to avoid making decisions and stay exactly where we are.  That part of you is often called the “Gremlin”, and it’s the part of you that would rather avoid making decisions altogether rather than run the risk of making a bad one or screwing up.

Your Gremlin is not the same thing as having doubts, which are valid concerns about a possible course of action, or reasonable concerns about what might be in store. Your doubts can help you prepare for change and get ready for what could happen.

Your Gremlin is adept at feeding on your doubts and using them to get you to stay put, so knowing the difference between your Gremlin and your valid doubts helps you clarify what’s real and what’s imagined, what’s relevant and what’s irrelevant.

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