It is not uncommon to find ourselves in a situation where our heart tugs in one direction while our head pulls us in another. This becomes even more difficult when the risk and uncertainty is high. How do you make hard choices? Here are five things to know:
1. Clear mind is critical: The first prerequisite of decision-making is to have a clear mind. When emotions are running high it is time to step back and calm down first. Anger, fear, grief, greed, jealousy, hate, ambition, and other emotions prevent clear thinking. Do yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises for a few days or weeks to calm down and think through your options.
2. No decision is also a decision: Know that not deciding and procrastinating is also a decision. Sometimes we have to choose between unpleasant choices. Rather than taking an unpleasant decision we choose to do nothing, which could be the worst decision.
3. Know difference between risk, uncertainty, and ambiguity: Risk is the probability of something unpleasant happening. When the probability is high we say that risk his high. But if probability is unknown then we have uncertainty. Sometimes the situation is so murky that it is impossible to even determine possible outcomes, let alone figure out their probability. This is ambiguity. Before taking a decision know your situation clearly: Are the possible outcomes known? Do you know the rough probability of each outcome?
4. Talk it through: It is extremely important that you talk about your situation with friends, mentors, family, and colleagues. Do not be afraid to take people into confidence and discuss your situation. You may discover new options that you never knew existed. You may be overestimating the risks of some options. Some risks may have workarounds that you did not know about. Remember the other person sees the situation more clearly as they do not have the emotional involvement you do, and may have more experience.
5. Can you hedge your bet? Not every decision is an “either/or”. Sometimes you can go in two paths simultaneously. You may work on building passive streams of income full time while you work on your passion part time for example. Sometimes the best choice may be to begin work to open up new paths and choices.
If the decision is important, then you may want to write things down: What are the choices? What are the unknowns? How do you plan to mitigate risks for each choice? (Even the ones you are not gung-ho about) What are the timelines? In which direction is your heart pulling you? What happens if things don’t work out? What are the worst-case scenarios? Write things down, discuss things, revise your document and read and reread it till you understand all aspects of your situation. Sometimes the heart may be pulling you along in the right direction after all. It may be that the head may need a bit convincing and a bit of a nudge by mitigating some of the risks. Or sometimes the head may force you to think through your options and delay the call of your heart for now.
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