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Once upon a time there was a donkey that was very hungry, but it was also very thirsty. Luckily, he was placed between a pile of hay, and a bucket of fresh water.
The problem started when the donkey could not decide what to do first, he did not know whether to eat or drink first. He was paralyzed not knowing what to do, and unable to choose between the two options, he died of hunger (or thirst).
This paradox is known as “Buridán’s donkey“ and explains this hypothetical concept between two decisions that need to be made.
Like the donkey, we also enter a kind of “analysis paralysis” where we prefer not to make any choice until we are completely sure.
This situation is quite common — we have all ever felt uncertainty about a decision, especially if this decision involves more people, or if it changes the course of our future.
Very often these decisions bring with them some kind of fear: fear of regret, failure, or simply the unknown.
The good news is that our lives are full of decisions, small and big, important, and everyday, conscious and unconscious.
Remembering that we are always making decisions relieves fear a bit and trains your ability to decide without paralyzing you. However, the best way to make decisions is simply by asking the right person: yourself.
Some of these were designed by Sussie More, an expert coach on the subject. The goal is for you to answer each of the 11 questions in writing and honestly. When you finish, you will be able to reach the best conclusion for you and, at the same time, train your ability to make better decisions later.
1. How long have I thought about this?
Sometimes we get caught up in decisions that just aren’t that important. One way to filter these decisions, and reduce the stress they entail is by evaluating how long we have thought about this.
2. When I think about that topic, what do I feel?
Fear or anguis? Stress or anxiety? Do not forget that our decisions have physiological and emotional consequences, therefore detecting these sensations in time can help you to know whether or not you are on the right path.
3. Will this decision affect my life in five years?
Visualize your life a few years ahead, and think if this decision will change your plans. If it really does have an impact on the future, it is important that you do not take it lightly, and deeply evaluate your thoughts and motives around this decision with the rest of the questions.
4. How committed am I to this change?
Important decisions lead to important changes, and many times we are not so committed to dealing with them. In this question, I advise you to evaluate your commitment on a scale from 1 to 5 (number 5 being the highest level of commitment).
5. What other options do I have?
Locking yourself into a thought makes you blind to other options available around you. It is only when you write down all your possibilities that you can clearly visualize more options at your fingertips, and then decide better.
If you found more options to this decisive maze, then it is time for you to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each of them. It’s a handy way to filter only the options that suit you best and discard the rest.
6. What is the worst that can happen if I don’t make this decision, or if I make a mistake?
This question helps you face fear. Sometimes things are not as serious as we imagine them, and the worst scenario becomes extremely unreal.
While at other times, this question helps us to raise the level of importance and keep our eyes open to decide the best possible. Remember that stress is not a bad thing at all, it keeps your nervous system “on” and ready to act.
7. Is this the right time?
To answer this question, take a breath and focus on the present tense. Look around you and evaluate your life on this date.
If you consider that it is the right time to make this decision, you will not regret it in the future. Answer honestly, especially because, many times, we live waiting for the perfect moment for almost everything.
We hope that the conditions are ideal to take the first step, but remember that the perfect moment does not exist, and that personal growth begins when we are not completely ready to take action.
8. If this is not the right time, then when?
Be very objective and realistic with this question, try to give it a concrete time and a defined context. Answers like “when I have less stress” or “when I have less responsibilities” are not the best because the future seems very blurry and you will only get more confused.
Instead answers such as “when I start my next project in 2017 ” or “when my account has $ 1,000” are answers that give you perspective and decision.
9. Can any past experience help me?
Let your experience guide you to make the best decision and analyze the following: Have you made a similar decision before? What did you feel after making that decision? Is there something you could have done differently?
10. After deciding, how will I feel?
Without a doubt, this is one of the most important answers. Your happiness, health, and well-being have to be a priority, so if the consequences of your decision do not achieve it, or even drag negative results for your life, you better think about it a little more carefully.
Remember that making decisions is not black and white, you just need to invest enough time to search deep down for the correct answer.
I leave you with a phrase for reflection:
“Choosing one path means abandoning others. If you intend to travel all the possible paths, you will end up not traveling any ”- Paulo Coelho