The Decision-Making Process: How to Get it Right?

Let’s play a little word association game here. I’m giving you a ‘choice’. How will you reply? This article is for those who think about ‘stress’, ‘impossibility’, ‘challenge’ or ‘trouble’. Why does the decision-making process seem to be so difficult for us? Why do we have a dilemma in our minds every time it comes to making a choice between two or more equally attractive or unattractive options? There are some rules we have to follow and some mistakes we always make. Take a look at the list and try to analyze your own algorithm of making decisions.

Probably, the biggest mistake which makes it really hard to choose is fear of the consequences. I understand the importance of thinking carefully before doing something. And I don’t doubt the fact that we have to weigh all the pros and cons before we make a crucial choice. Yet we often have the feeling that the decision before us is a life-changing one. Once we cross the line, we’ll never be the same. Have you ever noticed this feeling? It’s true in 5 out of 100 instances. Ask yourself: what will be your attitude towards the issue in a month? In ten months? In ten years? When it comes to lack of self-confidence, therecan be too much of it.

Don’t limit yourself. Often, we see only two options when there are plenty of ‘in-between’ ideas available. For example, you don’t have enough time for both working and studying. What is the first thought that comes to your mind? Right, what should I cut out of my life: job or university? Thinking deeply about it, all you feel is depression and anxiety. You have no idea how to make a choice between your education process and providing a source of income. But hold on a second, do you reallyhave to choose and refuse one of these important parts of your life? Later you’ll realize that it’s possible to ask some lecturers for a home task so that you can skip a few classes, and you can also talk to your boss, explaining that you don’t have to be in the office all day long as you can work remotely. The problem is that you don’t see all these alternatives when you’re scared, panicked, and sleepless.

When you want to buy an expensive mobile phone or haute-couture dress, don’t get stuck between «buying» and «not buying», yes or no. Maybe you don’t need the fashionable dress you would never wear more than once. Or there are other phones which are cheaper yet have similar technical characteristics? Think more broadly.

And focus on the difference between «I want» and «I need». Sometimes our desires fit our demands perfectly. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen often. Usually we see only one possibility, which we’re dying to get. However, the ‘Rolling Stones’ band was right: “You can’t always get what you want.” But must we always get what we want? You’ve been working hard for a year, and now you finally have a holiday. You need to take a rest by the sea. You want to fly to the Maldives.  But if you buy a ticket to the Maldives, you will spend all your money. Does it have to be the Maldives, are you sure? Wouldn’t it be better to buy a last minute tour, enjoy the beach and sun there and save some money for the end of summer? Exactly.

The necessity of choosing between something pleasant (what we want) and something important (what we have to have) is always a big issue. It might seem less serious than the choice between your job and university or between your parents and boyfriend/girlfriend when they don’t like each other mutually, yet we face these choices every day. You want to go to the party Wednesday evening, but you have to get up early the next morning. You want to get a few extra hours of sleep, but you have to attend classes. These decisions depend on your understanding of your situation, nothing else. You know that you might be in trouble if you miss your lectures, right? And you also understand that your boss wouldn’t be happy to see your sleepy face Thursday morning. Draw your own conclusions. What is more important: hanging out or working hard enough to earn more money or an extra day off? What can you refuse – and what can’t you live without?

Don’t put off indefinitely taking decisions about the choices in your life. There’s a saying in Russia – kinda dumb – but still I like it. “I’m a girl. I don’t want to decide anything, I want a new dress”. You can change ‘dress’ to whatever you like: a bowl of ice cream, a cup of cappuccino, etc. I personally prefer to lie in my bed, watching television without being interrupted by anyone (except my cat, obviously). But . . . remember the “Rolling Stones” line? When you postpone making a decision, you prolong the feeling of depression and sadness which comes with uncertainty. Don’t hurry, thoughtlessly immersing yourself in one option. Analyze all the benefits and disadvantages, and then do what you should!

Mark your priorities. For example, you’re choosing a new apartment. You see about ten different flats, and you have a feeling that you like them all, being incapable of making a decision. Think about what is the most important to you: living close to your job/school/metro station? Having a low rent or nice neighbors? Good view, maybe? At least two rooms? Being in a positive relationship with the apartment owner? Make a list, put all these key points in order. That’s the easiest way to make sure your mind makes the decision, not your heart.

Try to imagine the possible bad consequences and let them set your limits. You want to start your own company. If it doesn’t make a profit in a year, stop investing your time and money in it. If your new boss asks you to work overtime over a weekend, quit the job. If you feel unhappy but obligated in your relationships, go to a family therapist. If you don’t think it helps, try to take a break.

Also I strongly recommend reading an amazing book, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Workby Chip and Dan Heath. This is a must-read book for those who need a guide in decision-making processes in different spheres of life. Another favorite example of mine is the Mr. Nobodymovie. Its plot is based on the story of old man who looks back on his life, thinking about the consequences of his actions, and what might have happened if he had behaved differently. Jared Leto’s acting is amazing, and this drama will make you analyze your own critical junctions, I promise.

Sometimes we can’t make a choice because we’re under pressure from fear. We don’t want to take responsibility, we don’t want to be guilty if something goes wrong. We’re emotional, often exhausted, often feeling weak. Close your eyes and try to count how many decisions we actually make every day. We choose what to wear, what to eat, which way we’ll go home, what we’ll tell and what we’ll write. You don’t even notice that your life path is full of choices and decisions and some of them lead to crucial outcomes. You’re strong and powerful. No one knows your life better than you do. So try to avoid these mistakes and remember important rules, listen to yourself, and don’t forget that your main aim is to be satisfied in the end, no matter what you choose.

Photo: Shutterstock

Support us!

All your donations will be used to pay the magazine’s journalists and to support the ongoing costs of maintaining the site.


paypal smart payment button for simple membership

Share this post

Interested in co-operating with us?

We are open to co-operation from writers and businesses alike. You can reach us on our email at and we will get back to you as quick as we can.

Where to next?

Socialization and Career Development

Many organizations now see the value in providing employees with formalized networking events to help them hone the soft skills essential to career advancement.