Fear & Other Tough Stuff: making decisions

A client and I were recently talking about how to make a no-lose decision. It reminded me how much I’ve benefited from Susan Jeffer’s approach to decision-making outlined in Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway

We’ve been taught to be very careful about making decisions.

Very careful as in highly anxious, second guessing ourselves, nearly paralyzed with indecision.

We believe a wrong decision will deprive us of something. That to choose wrong means we’ve made a mistake or failed. That in order to make a “right” decision you have to predict the future and control all kinds of outside forces.

At a choice point

Jeffers talks about this type of no-win decision-making and being at a choice point:

“Your heart feels heavy about the choice you have to make. You feel somewhat paralyzed as you think about the consequences in life-and-death terms. You stand at the threshold of the decision, lamenting and obsessing: ‘Should I do this or should I do that? What if I go this way and that happens? What if it doesn’t work out the way I plan?’…At this point you might notice that you are driving yourself crazy.”

The no-lose approach

The No-Lose Decision takes a different approach. You’re standing at the same choice point, but this time you trust yourself to handle whatever comes your way.

You recognize either choice—Path A or Path B—is right and will be rich with what Jeffers calls “goodies”.

“Opportunities to experience life in a new way, to learn and grow, to find out who you are and who you would really like to be and what you would like to do in this life.”

Either choice is right. Either path will present opportunities. Whatever the outcome—even despite the outcome—it’s no lose.

Here’s why this is so critical: Many approach decisions as if there’s only one right answer. And they better be very, very careful to choose correctly or catastrophe awaits and a good life is forever doomed.

OK, maybe that’s a bit overstated, but sometimes it really does seem like that’s the thought process. I know it used to be for me.

Decisions were heavy

Years ago when the question was, Should I go to grad school? the thought in the back of my mind was: Choose carefully because this decision will make or break you. Talk about pressure to make the right decision!

Years later when the decision was whether to start my own business, again it was as if there was only one right answer. I just had to figure out what it was. I needed to weigh the pros and cons very carefully and play detective to try to figure out whether Yes or No was the correct choice. I felt like I was missing the crystal ball needed to make the decision.

The adventure of Path A or Path B

By the time I got to other decisions, such as whether to sell my usability consulting business, pursue life coaching full-time, downsize from a 1400-square foot house to a 733-square foot apartment, invest in Myers-Briggs training, license What Matters Most 365 for other coaches to deliver… by the time these decisions presented themselves, I was a firm believer in the No-Lose approach to decisions.

Yes, I did my research, considered my values and priorities, and carefully weighed my options, but in the end when I made the decision to go one way and not another, I was clear either path would include “goodies”.

Are you facing a decision that has you laying awake at night? Or one you’ve exhausted yourself from flip flopping back and forth on? Perhaps it’s time to practice the No-Lose approach to decision-making.