We play the “what if” game of “what if I go this way and that happens… what if I go that way and it doesn’t work out…?” Am I going to get it right? What will people think? Am I going to fail? Or, even scarier, am I actually going to succeed and what will that mean? And if we can bring ourselves to make a decision, we get caught up in a nail-biting session: Did I do the right thing? Now what? Etc. etc. etc. All so exhausting!!
What about focusing on the potential wins instead? Instead of trying to be perfect and get it "right," what if we were to remember that every “mistake” is actually a ripe opportunity to learn something valuable – regardless of the outcome of our decision? This is where perspective shifting can come into play – changing your world entails changing your view on how you think about it.
Dr. Susan Jeffers, in her book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, has a smart approach to decision-making. To follow is a discussion of her two models and how you can shift your perspective to assist in your decision-making process. You get to choose either No-Win or No-Lose. Based on name alone, which already seems more appealing?
Let’s first consider the No-Win Model, where we: 1) see the world through the lens of a continuous reassessment of the situation, 2) fear the future and potential mistakes, and 3) keep looking back and berating ourselves for what we “could/should” have done differently. To top it off, this can all lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, reinforcing our own sense of doubt and lack of confidence – which we carry into our next decision to start the cycle over. The experience is tedious and frustrating, and is a big waste of energy and emotion. Even if we did end up with a "win," we lost peace of mind along the way.
Let’s next consider the No-Lose Model. Here, we look at the journey more than the destination. Rather than focusing on the "right/wrong" result, we choose to focus on the path as what is right. Regardless of the outcome, it's "no-lose." Throughout, we are given opportunities to have a new experience of life, to learn and grow, and to discover what we are about. We can toss out the “what if’s” and consider the potential and possibilities. Perspective is everything.
No-Lose Decision-Making Process
Before Making a Decision
After Making a Decision
- Focus immediately on the No-Lose Model. Affirm to yourself, “I can’t lose – regardless of the outcome of the decision I make. The world is a place for opportunity, and I look forward to the opportunities for learning and growing that either pathway gives me.” Focus on what can be gained and push away thoughts of what can be lost.
- Do your homework. Talk to the “right” people (those who support your learning and growing), seek out feedback on your plans from experts and people you trust (swallow your pride!), and get your facts straight. But don’t get caught up in perpetual research; draw a line for yourself of when enough is enough.
- Establish your priorities. Consider your values and vision and which pathway is more in line with your overall goals for your life. Remember that we are constantly evolving and it is important to consider where you stand NOW versus where you “have always stood” or where others “think you should stand.” Pay attention and don’t be afraid of being honest with yourself.
- Trust your impulses. After you’ve done all the research, considered your alternatives, and have come up with the logical choice, do a gut check. Don’t be afraid to trust what you feel, as the subconscious is often sending you messages as to what is “right” for you at a particular point in time. Reflect on past experiences of when you did or did not make choices in alignment with your impulses/instincts/gut – and how those turned out. That alone might give you the confidence to move forward, or even to go back and reevaluate. There are no right or wrong choices, just different ones.
- Lighten up. Nothing is as significant as you are making it. If the results of your decision do not go according to “plan,” so what! You can always sort it out…you always have! This is all part of the journey in life. Chill out and go with it.
If you really, really, really want to put yourself through the wringer and feel terrible throughout the process, you can choose the…
- Throw away your picture. You can’t control the outcome nor predict the future, so let go of your expectations and image of how it’s “supposed” to go. The more freedom you give yourself, and the more space you give the choice, the easier it will be for you to roll with the process and journey.
- Accept total responsibility for your decisions. If you can own your choice, you can own your learning as well. Blaming others will not offer you the ripe opportunity for growth, and will put you in a "victim mode." Even if you were operating on information from another, the ultimate choice was yours. Own it and you can own the opportunities it afforded you.
- Don’t protect, correct. Commit and follow-through with everything you can. But don’t become so fixated on the choice that you are unwilling to recognize when a course correction is necessary…or even more wisely, when it is time to choose something different. Ego and attachment can only hurt you here. Give up your desire to look good, and your fear of looking bad if you change direction. Ultimately, it is the quality of your life experience at stake.
No-Win Decision-Making Process
Before Making a Decision
After Making a Decision
- Focus on the No-Win Model.
- Listen to your mind drive you crazy.
- Paralyze yourself with anxiety as you try to predict the future.
- Don’t trust your impulses – listen to what everyone else thinks.
- Feel the heaviness of having to make a decision.
It’s completely up to you. However, the No-Lose Process seems far less painful.
- Create anxiety by trying to control the outcome.
- Blame someone else if it doesn’t work out as you pictured.
- If it doesn’t work out, keep wondering if it would have been better the other way.
- Don’t correct if the decision is “wrong” – you have too much invested.