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Decisions, decisions, decisions. 

For some people, the mere thought of this word overwhelms them so much. It just feels like there’s so much pressure, responsibility, and anxiety tied to this word. We want to make the best decisions at all times, ensure we’re not making a mistake, be totally focused on the decision we make without getting distracted along the way, and hope we get it right at all times. 

In this article, I hope to share some tips that have made the decision-making process more effective and less overwhelming for me over the years. While I cannot promise that you will always make the right decisions, I do believe these will increase your chances of making those right decisions and help you better manage the cognitive workload that comes with making decisions

The Cambridge Dictionary defines a decision as a choice that you make about something after thinking about several possibilities. 

Tips that have helped me make decisions better

  1. Identifying my core values: Identifying your core values as a person is a vital process to go through; not just for making decisions, but for understanding who you are generally and how you can relate with people better. Some of your core values could be wealth, good health, rest, family, an active social life, etc. There is no definite or perfect list of what should be a core value. It is solely unique to you, your personality, and the kind of life you intend to live.

    When you identify your core values, it reduces the stress of the fatigue of making decisions. You are able to weed out, almost automatically, options that are not in line with your core values. They may not necessarily be bad options, but they are just not for you, at least, at that time.
  2. Being clear on my priorities: While priorities change as we evolve, and grow, and due to different life situations and phases, I try to be very clear on my priorities at each point in my life. This helps me make decisions that are best for me at the time, and not follow what everyone thinks or is doing blindly. It also helps with contentment. That my friend decided to go ahead with decision A, while I didn’t, does not mean that I should compare myself with said friend, or want their decision, as our priorities at that time might be different. Being clear on our priorities makes us confident in our decisions and ask for exactly what we want.
  3. Listing out my negotiables and non-negotiables: Similar to core values, non-negotiables are your values or things that are important to you that are mandatory and you are not willing (cannot) compromise on. This varies with each person and could be influenced by our faith, beliefs, experiences, personality, goals, etc. On the other hand, negotiables, while important, are simply nice-to-have. These are whatever you’d like or want, but you are willing to let go of or compromise on something(s) more important. Sometimes there is no perfect choice, so we have to compromise on a thing or two; which is fine. However, you want to be sure that you are compromising on what is negotiable to you and not a non-negotiable.

    An example that comes to mind is when I was searching for an apartment in Lagos in 2020. Initially, my requirements were that I wanted a place really close to my workplace (less than 30 minutes commute), with an annual rent that is less than two months of my net income, with no flatmates, not in a bungalow or on the ground floor of a story building, walkable distance to a bus stop, close to a traffic light and/or pedestrian bridge on the expressway, no bad cases of flooding…it was a lot! For months, I insisted that these were all really important to me then, but I did not find anything that fit all of these, so I grudgingly agreed to compromise. I separated my negotiables (like the budget, distance to my office/commute time, flatmates, walking distance to a bus stop) and non-negotiables (close to a traffic light and/or pedestrian bridge on the express, not the ground floor, no bad flooding). This helped me finally find an apartment that I stayed at and absolutely loved.
  4. Weighing the pros and cons: Most decisions are not perfect and that’s just life. There might be some cons to the decision you are about to take, however, this does not necessarily mean that you should not make that decision. You can weigh the positive and negative potential future outcomes and see if they balance out or hopefully tip the scale towards positive.

    One scenario for me was deciding to go to grad school abroad. It was not the easiest decision to make. I miss my family and friends back home every day, I’m removed from my culture, and the food. I miss important life events, school work can be difficult and overwhelming, and I’m probably not earning as much as my peers that are working in the industry. These are all cons of this decision; but hopefully, some pros like the added knowledge, new country, networks, friends, more opportunities in the future, and career growth, tip that scale in favor of the decision I made.
  5. Seeking insights from my more experienced network and loved ones: It is sometimes helpful to seek a different perspective from more experienced people around you. Although we are responsible for our decisions, in the end, these opinions can help us in weighing our options and in making informed decisions.

    Seeking insights from more experienced people around me really guided me in choosing a course to study at the University for my undergraduate studies. I was torn between studying an Engineering course, Medicine, Mathematics or Statistics, Computer Science, or Pharmacy. However, after I spoke to different people in those fields, I was able to narrow down what course I thought was suitable for me based on my interests and desired lifestyle. 
  6. Giving it time: I really believe that time is an important factor in making decisions. If you have the privilege of waiting, sometimes, giving some time to carefully assess a potential decision or just watch life play out could also help. This should not be confused with procrastination though. Time reveals a lot of things internally and even with external factors which might be crucial for making a better decision. 
  7. Praying: As a Christian, I rely on the Holy Spirit to guide me when making decisions. This is because there is only so much that I know as a human, and only so far into the future I can foresee. One thing I look out for in this regard is internal peace–not from people, not externally, but within myself genuinely–about the entire situation, the decision I’m about to make, and possible future consequences. So, I try to pray to God and seek His word and directions on decisions I’m about to make. 

Conclusion

I know it’s currently the end of the year and many of us are planning or have already made plans for the new year. Some of these plans might need us to make crucial decisions and this could be overwhelming. 

I hope these tips in this article can make the process a lot easier and reduce decision fatigue. 

Remember, we cannot always make the “best” decisions. We should just try to make the right informed decisions with all the information we can get at the moment, and hope to learn from it going forward. 

Please feel free to let me know any other topics you might want me to write about regarding navigating life. You can suggest them as a comment below or send an email to me at contactaniekan at gmail dot com.

Thank you for reading.

Aniekan.

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