Confident Decision-Making When the Path is Unclear
Updated: Aug 13, 2022
Anyone else struggle with making decisions? My habit of second-guessing, comparing pros-and-cons, and repetitive polling of others' opinions surfaces in nearly every decision from making a career move to ordering off the dinner menu. It's something my autonomy-seeking toddler seems to have no problem with currently, while I waffle over what to make for dinner and holiday plans and should I keep the shoes or return?
We're facing the kind of decisions today that hold a little more weight than the dinner menu or December agenda. These are the decisions that require sound judgment, wisdom, careful thought, and sometimes, boldness. Made any of those recently? These are the decisions that we want to grapple with intentionally and seek to answer the question of how can I confidently make the right decision here?
Meet the Players
Whether you're reflecting on the past, anticipating the future, or staring a potentially life-altering decision in the face today, it's worth exploring the factors that play a role in how you approach decisions. As the the famous ancient Greek saying goes, "know thyself." Who you are, what you stand for, and where you come from are all active players in the how and why you make the decisions you do.
The fabric of who you are most certainly plays in role in how you make decisions. One research study found that traits of openness and conscientiousness contribute to confidence in decision-making, meaning these characters are often open to new experiences but exercise appropriate caution and focus. Agreeableness -for all the people-pleasers out there- can actually lower that confidence, as these individuals are more easily influenced by others. Likewise, some are logical thinkers, looking for practical ways to problem-solve while others are driven by emotions, feelings, and personal experiences.
ASK: What do I know about myself and how this impacts how I approach decisions? How does knowing qualities about myself help to better understand my struggle with ________?
Goals and Values
How you make big life decisions is largely predicted by your own morals, values, and goals in life. Obviously. It's important to recalibrate back to your core foundation here BEFORE making a potentially life-altering decision, reminding yourself what your priorities are and what you're willing to compromise. Red flag if this decision -whatever it is- doesn't align with core values.
While I do have goals in career advancement, my family is prioritized (a core value) and that restructures my thinking and certainly affects decisions I make that might impact both of these things. Remember what you stand for and make sure the path you're plotting aligns with your personal mission statement.
ASK: Does choosing ______ coincide with who I am, what I believe, and how I want to live my life? How would this decision advance my goals, values, personal mission?
We are individually marked by diverse cultures, ethnicities, life stages, socioeconomic factors, and the list goes on. These things weave together our unique identities and will come into play when approaching a tough choice. Again, pretty obvious. It's important to be aware of how your personal and past experiences are playing a role in a difficult decision. Consider first if you are limiting yourself or someone else because of one negative experience or, on the contrary, diving into something with limited judgment because of one positive personal experience. Your history should not be the sole defining factor of a future decision.
ASK: How is my personal experience with ______ impacting me now? If _______ had not happened, how would I approach this situation?
Knowing Our Ways and God's Will
Now, we're not going to venture too far down the theologically-bumpy road of understanding God's will. Not today. BUT for the believer, it is impossible to bypass this subject if you've agreed that you are not your own and submit to a Higher Authority.
Decisions can be a pitfall when everything becomes a possible sign from God. Maybe some flashing lights or a few clouds come together to confirm this is the right direction. While I certainly don't doubt that this kind of special revelation does happen, sometimes following His direction is simply taking the next logical step. Many times in my life so far a nudge to do something didn't come with a blaring sign pointed at where to go next. Instead, it required a quiet search for wisdom. It meant sharing longings of my heart with God and people close to me, surrendering my own plans (I'm still very bad at this) and then moving forward with trust that the path would become clear (Proverbs 3:5-6). Tune into the Spirit's guidance as you contemplate decisions and you'll be surprised in the outcome (Romans 8:26.)
Reminder: You can't step outside the bounds of what has already been established by the Author of the story. We still have a responsibility to use our brains and be diligent with the tasks set before us, whether that be a special command He's given you personally or the words expressed in the Bible to all of us. BUT how refreshing is it to know that when I'm seeking to honor Him, I can't mess up the plan? I am NOT in control, and while I still at times battle for steering power, I'm never going to be left with the overwhelming burden of directing my own life. Thank God.
When Plotting Your Course...
Even if you have a track record of making great choices, are able to handle decisions with grace, and communicate on a stellar level, it's okay to struggle with that fork in the road. Life is packed with these things. This is yet another reminder to make use of the resources we've been given- open communication with the Creator, His guidebook to us, and each other! Tap into these things and it may not be easy but it will be easier.