“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were too afraid to have and the decisions we waited too long to make.” ― Lewis Carroll
“Ego says, “Once everything falls into place, I’ll feel peace,” Spirit says “Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place.” – Marianne Williams
I love Pinterest, the virtual space where you upload, manage and share ideas and images. The categories or themes that you create to sort and save your media are called pin boards (Pinterest is a collection of virtual bulletin boards). Not only can you search for and save a plethora of media for almost any topic imaginable but you can also follow other “pinner’s” boards who share common interests. Based on your boards and your follower’s boards, Pinterest sends daily messages to your inbox, suggesting other topics that your fellow Pinterest pinners are pinning that might be of interest to you too! Needless to say, one can spend a lot of time navigating this social network. One morning I noticed, after already spending far too much time “mindlessly” searching for information on ‘mindfulness’, that there appeared to be no end to the pins on the topic. Every time I appeared to reach the bottom of the Pinterest page, the page refreshed and the darn grey bar on the right margin elevated part way back up the side of the screen, and MORE pins appeared. I was frustrated because I had been at the computer far too long, yet I was driven and slightly anxious to find that “perfect Pin”. To make the whole process even more ludichrist, I was feverishly collecting all of this information but really, not reading any of it! It seemed to me it was no longer good enough to only have one or two ideas on my topic, I wanted them all, no longer looking at the quality of the pins, but rather the quantity. It dawned on me then that this infinite overabundance of data is part of our culture today. Searching for information has changed fundamentally in the last 20 years since the birth of Google. It allows us to easily access SO much information with immediate gratification. As consumers today, we want to make very informed choices so we research and collect data. We want to make the best choice possible so we research a lot. However there is an overwhelming number of experts and ideas on everything, giving us too much to weed through and thoroughly understand. It is no wonder that many people find decisions overwhelming to make at times. They say that knowledge is power, however, perhaps our insatiable quest for the best data is actually making our decisions more difficult to make? So my question then becomes, how can we get off of this information frenzied treadmill, especially when we are trying to make a decision. Looking at this, through the lense of both a teacher and a life coach, perhaps there is a process we need to go through in order to feel less overwhelmed with making decisions. As a teacher and a librarian, I often shared an information gathering model called the Student Inquiry Process from the Ontario Library Association with my students. In this model of research we break the process into 4 components, Exploring , Investigating, Processing and Creating. Adlerian Life Coaching has a similar process including Insight/Issue, Choice/Commitment and Action/Accountability. If we look at decision-making as a process using the two models above as markers, perhaps the making of decisions will become clearer.
1. Breathe and give yourself space to focus on and be clear about your issue If we give ourselves time to breathe, we may open a space allowing us to be clear on what information we are looking for in the first place! (Maybe, in our frenzied pace, we don’t even realize that we have a decision to make!) Perhaps because there are so many options, we put so much pressure on ourselves to make the right decision that it becomes overwhelming. Ask yourself what is the goal, the reason you are making the decision in the first place, and what is the problem that needs solving. The author, David Welch, of Decisions, Decisions: The Art of Effective Decision Making, explains, “People who aren’t self-reflective are going to end up making bad decisions because they don’t really know what they want in the first place.” Personally, I find that journaling helps me focus on what the decision is to be made. Whether you are considering a career change, a new relationship or choosing a paint colour for your home, decisions can often be paralyzing if we do not know where we are stuck.
2. Ask questions about your issue, explore and brainstorm ideas, look at your choices It is important to ask questions, brainstorm ideas and have discussions with others around our decisions. Different perspectives from a variety of reliable sources can open new thought doors. The more information you gather, the more alternatives and paths of actions you have to consider when making your decision. However, you must also be aware of the amount of time spent in this phase. An overload of information can leave you confused and misguided. This is where you could be trapped in the “Pinterest” bottomless sinkhole of information.
3. Narrow down and eliminate choices Narrow down and rule out ideas from your brainstorming list. Ask yourself how your decisions will affect you, both today and in the future. Evaluate the pros and cons of each choice and prioritize your list. Also, it is important to consider who you are making the decisions for. Dr. Marcia Reynolds, who has her doctoral degree in organizational psychology, wrote an article for Psychology Today and noted, “It’s hard to make a decision when you are emotionally wrapped up in other people’s opinions.”
4. Process your information, take a stance and make a commitment Now that you have narrowed down your choices and gathered all of the pertinent information, it is time to make a decision. Remember your goal, the reason you are making the decision in the first place and trust your instincts. Remember, it is YOUR decision and it is the best decision that you can make with the information that you have at this point in time.
5. Take Action and create your plan Now that you have made a commitment, it is time to implement your decision or put your plan into action.
6. Evaluate and be accountable to yourself. It is always important to reflect and make sure that your decision has worked. If you recognize that the decision was not the right one for you, you may have to go back to an earlier step in the process. We all make hundreds of decisions every day. Not every decision needs to be analyzed with such scrutiny, but when we become overwhelmed or even paralyzed in the decision-making process by the gluttony of information available today, it probably is worth breaking down the process using these simple steps to reach a decision.