How to Make Decisions

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Decide and feel good

Being unable to make decisions will lead you to feel like you're in a rut.  And this isn’t just me talking from experience (although I could), neuroscience has proven that not being able to make decisions affects in a negative way the brain circuits responsible for wellbeing (Dr Alex Korb “The Upward Spiral”).

So, how does well-being relate to decision-making? Anxiety is a key factor which influences people’s emotions and can also affect them physically.  We are faced with more decisions to make and options to choose from than those from previous generations. Current research shows that mulling over a few options may weigh heavily on your mind, which could cause exhaustion and unnecessary stress.

The benefits of decision-making

When you stop procrastinating and you start making decisions, these are the benefits you will enjoy:

  • focused attention and enhanced perception

  • increased enjoyment

  • increased dopamine

  • utilisation of habits

  • perceived control

  • reduced levels of worry and anxiety

On top of it all it will help you make more decisions – and thus creates a virtuous cycle.

In a nutshell, once you get started there is a chance that you will feel better about yourself and exercise more in control of your life.

How it worked for me

I embarked on my own personal development journey about 2 years ago. I have to say I didn’t really know what to expect for the first retreat I attended.  I didn’t go with a plan. I was just curious.

The first thing we did was to pick 3 areas of our life we wanted to work on and we then started to work on our goal. We spent the whole week working on setting up a plan of action to achieve our goals.

By the end of the week, I definitely had the clarity that I didn’t have when I arrived. I had a plan for the next 6 months and it felt great! I had picked one specific thing in each of the following three areas of my life: health, wealth and relationship.

Not all went to plan but the goal I had set for myself in the health area was to quit smoking and I did achieve that. On June 21st it will be 2 years since I stopped smoking and this has had an impact in all areas of my life, not just health.  

Since then I regularly take the time to review my goals, check that they still resonate with me or tweak them.   

Doing this regularly has given me a sense of direction that I was lacking before and it helps me keep my work-life balance in check, ensure that I look after all areas of my life, and not focus on just one.  

Let’s get you started

Before I dive into the details of how to make decisions, I should mention that this is applicable to any type of decision, big or small. It could be that you have thought about learning how to play the guitar for years without doing it, or it could be about adopting a healthier lifestyle. What you choose to act on does not matter. What does matter is that you make a decision and take action.

  • Make a good decision, not the best decision

Do not let yourself become overwhelmed with the details and the pros and cons of each option. Just make a decision and you will slowly start feeling the benefits.

  • Take a step in the right direction

The decision-making process isn’t complete until you start implementing the decision you have made. So once you have made the decision, take the first step towards it. If you have decided to go for a walk, just start by putting on your trainers.

  • Figure out what is important to you  

Studies have shown that focusing on your values reduces the brain’s stress response. So focus on what is really important to you. What makes you feel happy? What achievements are you proud of? What qualities do you want others to see in you?

Take some time to think about the answers to these questions, write them down and keep them somewhere you can see them regularly. Personally I have the list of my values on a board in my bedroom so that I see them when I go to bed and when I wake up.

The matter of finding your values can in itself be overwhelming the first time you think about them. If you are struggling you can take a free test online on the website of Dr Demartini

  • Decide for something you want, not against something you do not want

The point here is to focus on something positive, not negative. Thinking about something in a positive way activates the right circuits in your brain and help you feel more positive generally.  

  • Create specific long-term goals

If you start thinking about what is important to you and your values, your goals should come to you easily. As explained above I always have 3 main goals around health, relationships with others and wealth and I adjust them regularly.

Emilie profile pic.jpg

Intellectual Property lawyer by day, blogger and life coach by night. Having suffered from depression on and off over 20 years, Emilie has done extensive research on the subject and worked out a system to manage depression without medication through having a healthy lifestyle. She shares her experience and tips on her blog

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