I remember breakfast time one morning, some 7 or 8 years ago. I was standing in front of an open cupboard in my kitchen, my eyes flicking between a box of Frosties and a box of Cornflakes, trying to decide which to have for breakfast. I stood there for 5 minutes, until - utterly frustrated - I slammed the cupboard door shut and went without breakfast altogether.
I've learned to make decisions quicker and easier now and it's something that I'll often work with clients to improve. Here are my 5 ways to make confident decisions. Oh, I decided on cranberry granola this morning, by the way.
1. Test them against your values.
Your values are the building blocks, cornerstones and foundations for who you are, and are the things in yourself, others or out there in the world that are most important to you. Know your values and you get the chance to express them, and when you do that all it means is that you're expressing who you really are, way down inside. It feels pretty amazing.
So how do your values fit into decision making? Simple. When you're faced with a tricky decision you can line up your different choices and ask "Which one of these most honours my values?" The decision that's most in line with your values will be the best decision for you (even if it's not the simplest or most practical), because it fits with who you are and what's most important to you. Told you it was simple.
2. Be like Columbo.
When I was growing up I used to love rainy Sunday afternoons watching Columbo, and loved the bit at the end where he'd sidle up to the Bad Guy, say "Just one more thing" and then proceed to blow apart the bad guys alibi. Genius. What Columbo had in spades, other than a penchant for cubans and raincoats, was a great trust in his intuition. In every episode, from the very moment he first meets the bad guy, he knows 'whodunnit' - and more importantly, he trusts it.
What does your intuition tell you is the 'right' decision for you. Forget about all the "What if's" and the details - what does your gut tell you? Learn to listen to your intuition, it knows what it's talking about.
3. It just doesn't matter.
My decision between Frostie's and Cornflakes wasn't a biggie. Whichever I chose, there were never going to be any huge consequences and the ripples from that decision wouldn't have been felt much further than the end of my spoon. The point is, sometimes it just doesn't matter which way you go.
It's not just tiny, silly little breakfast-related decisions either - with bigger decisions it's easy to get wrapped up in second guessing yourself, going round in circles and over-complicating things, when - if you get right down to it - it just doesn't matter.
Going round in circles is only going to make you dizzy, so stop it. Ask yourself this question - if your future happiness wasn't dependent on your decision (and it isn't, by the way), which way would you go?
4. Have enough information.
By all means look at the facts before you make a complex decision. By all means weigh up the pro's and con's so that you can get an understanding of the 'science' behind a decision, but be careful. There's a big difference between knowing enough to make a choice, and knowing everything to make choice.
When you feel that happening, stop yourself, get a change of environment and ask yourself "What do I really need to know to be able to make this decision?"
5. Doubt vs The Gremlin.
Everyone has a part of themselves that doesn't like change, a part that uses every trick in the book to avoid making decisions so that you can stay exactly where you are. I call it the Gremlin, and it's a part of you that would rather avoid making decisions altogether rather than run the risk of making a bad one or screwing up.
This is a world away from having doubts. Doubts are valid concerns about a possible course of action, or reasonable concerns about what might be in store. Your doubts are there to help you prepare for change and prepare for what could happen.
Knowing the difference between your doubts and your Gremlin helps you clarify what's real and what's imagined, what's relevant and what isn't relevant.
I use these myself - different strategies for different decisions at different times - and I always find something that works.
Steve Errey is the author of the Truly Confident Living Home Study Course. He's a confidence coach with hundreds of clients under his belt from all around the world, articles in magazines on both sides of the Atlantic and regular expert slots on television and radio. Earlier, he was a Project Manager in e-Business, travelling the world helping organisations deliver on the Internet promise. He has been through redundancy (when the Internet bubble burst), depression and a debt management plan. Steve is also writing his first novel.
Visit his website and blog at www.theconfidenceguyonline.com.