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What to Do When You Just Can’t Make the Decision

What to Do When You Just Can’t Make the Decision

How often have you dithered while making a decision, not knowing which is the correct choice? Life puts us at crossroads many a time and choosing one road over the other by carefully balancing the pros and cons of each, listening to that gut feel and not letting others influence your decisions is very important – if you want to be happy with your lot in life… Decision making is an important skill that we all need to move up and forward, in our career as well as in life.

But Why is Decision Making So Tough?

Frankly, on any given day, we often end up making hundreds of small and maybe insignificant decisions. When to get up, to exercise or not, what to wear, what to eat, where to go, how to go and much, much more? These decisions are made in a split second and are easy enough to figure but because they don’t really affect the outcome of anything per se – our breakfast choice, as long as it healthy and filling enough, does not alter the future of us or the world.

This changes when the decision has been made complicated by external factors. What you wear to the office on a usual day is not much of an issue, but when you have that all-important interview lined up, then your outfit becomes an important decision-making process. If you have difficulty in making decisions, and agonize over your choices for days to come, wondering whether what you did was right, you need to stop. [1]

While we would never advise you make split-second decisions and just plunge in without weighing the pros and cons – you do have to make the decision quickly and concisely and remember these thoughts.

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  • More thinking is not always good thinking.
  • Learn to trust your intuition or gut feel.
  • Give a deadline to decision making.
  • Accept that you cannot always have it all; you might have to compromise a little.
  • Finally, is a decision you took ultimately proves to be wrong – remember that life does hand you lemons sometimes.

How Do I Improve My Decision Making Skills?

Knowing that you have a problem with decision making is a good step. Recognize the signs – if you can’t even order dinner for yourself, then it may be time to polish up your decision-making skills, stiffen your spine and trust what your gut is telling you…

The 10/10/10 Rule To Make Tough But Necessary Decisions

Suzy Welch is a business writer for various respected publications and she invented a simple tool that can help us decide either way, how to move ahead. [2]. Called 10/10/10, and described by Welch in a book of the same name, it advises that we think about the decision we are about to make on three different time frames: How will we feel about it 10 minutes from now? How about 10 months from now? How about 10 years from now? This tool basically helps us see things with a fresh perspective and makes sure that regret is not part of our life – if we can foresee that a decision we make now is likely to leave us with regret later, it means that you head down another road that foresees a happier future.

Face Your Fears And Then Move Forward

A lot of time, decision making paralyzes us, so to speak because we are afraid of the outcome. We fear the result our decision will bring and if basically are so anxious about it, analyzing it to the nth degree so much so we end up frozen in anguish. The key to getting out of this deep freeze is to face and name those fears. Write down the worst things that could happen with the decision you are about to make – for instance, you have a big problem with your spouse and want to air out your grievances. But you are afraid that this will lead to a big fight or even a separation down the road.

The next step is to see – can you cope up with that worst scenario? If it does come to a separation or even a divorce – can you cope with being single, can your children? Think about it long and hard and you might see that while your fears and the worst-case scenario are tough, they just might be manageable as well. [3]

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Stuck? Write Down the Pros & Cons

TED Talker Ruth Chang has a devised a simple way to expedite those decision-making skills. She says you write down the pros and cons of the decision you are about to make for there are no correct or incorrect choices. As people, we are subliminally dictated by our desires and need, even if we ruthlessly tamp them down. This solution is very effective when we are stuck with two choices, and both seem good. Stuck between two marriage proposals, two jobs or two schools for the kids… [4]

If you list out the pros and cons of both your options, you will see the pros of one getting longer than the other – usually, your innate desire or your gut will be making the decision for you. Go with your gut and just leave everything else to the cosmos.

Be Careful of Miswanting & Making Decisions Based on it

Experts say that we end up making the wrong decisions simply because we end up confusing our likes, with our wants. As human beings, we are subject to our emotions and feelings. But feelings don’t really tell us where they come from – and since we often misunderstand their source, we end up not knowing what we liked about our situation in the first place.

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Also, we may want something – and end up confusing the yearning with actual liking. So we may want to see the Louvre, but do we actually like it? We don’t know. We may want a new look… Do we like it? Don’t know…

So sometimes, our decisions should be based more on our likes, than our wants. For instance, we may want to take a trip to an exotic locale. But we know that we like being in the beautiful solitude of the hills, rather than the hub-bub of a Caribbean island. The decision should then be to go to the hills – for that is what we like… [5]

Escape From The Paradox Of Choice

Many years back, decision making was easier than what it is today. Why? Because it did not involve so many choices. Buying a shirt was easy because all you had to do was choose the size and the color. Now if you go to buy a shirt – you got to choose the type, the fit, the buttons, the fabric, the cut, the stitch, the pattern, the collar, the color, the size, and the micro-size.

As Barry Schwartz puts it so eloquently in his TED Talk [6] – we have so many choices today, that each of our decision, be it good or bad comes with the unique flavor of regret – since we end up thinking maybe A, B, C or X, Y, Z was a better choice than the D I chose. And this happens everywhere – in our jobs, the sandwich we buy, the ice cream flavor we finally choose or even the car or the latest pieces of tech we so adored, but now wonder about…

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The solution is to keep it simple – choose 2-3 alternatives, turn a blind eye to the others and go with your gut. As for the rest, let the world carry on dithering – you have made your decision, be happy with it. There’ll always be people who think of you the fool, for the choice you make. The point being, if you are happy, why should you care at all?

Featured photo credit: Medical Daily via images.medicaldaily.com

Reference

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Last Updated on August 20, 2018

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1]Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2]Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3]Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4]Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5]Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6]The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7]Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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