Working With Choices

Despite our skills, experience or expertise we can still make a meal out of making a choice!

Here are some common reasons why people struggle to make choices, and some tips for making them easier.

1. Too few options (double bind)

Many people fall into the trap of believing that a choice of two represents a real choice when, in fact, it often presents a dilemma. If you are offered the choice of an Indian meal or a Chinese meal, when you actually don't like either, then this isn't much of a choice at all. And if you were to consider only two possible solutions to a problem, you could risk missing the best option of all.

On other occasions you may feel you have no choice. This is often a matter of perception as we are making choices all the time, even when we don't realise it, and choosing to do nothing is still a choice.

When you find yourself having to choose between two alternatives, neither of which is sufficiently motivating or, worse still, you feel you have no choice in a particular situation, seek out additional possibilities by asking "How else could we do this?", "Where else could we go?", "What else would I prefer to eat?" Expanding the number of options available to you helps you see the whole picture and increases the likelihood of finding an alternative that is most appropriate.

2. Too many options

On other occasions we seem to be faced with so much choice that we become overwhelmed and are unable to make the simplest of decisions, such as choosing a meal from an extensive menu, selecting a colour to decorate the home or deciding upon a course of action to resolve a problem at work. Or, we take the advice above too far and continue to seek out new options and defer making any decision.

Focusing on too many options can result in a lack of progress or, in too little time or attention being allocated to each.

When faced with too much choice it helps to prioritise the options based upon your goals and criteria that are important to you. If you were choosing a new home you would probably have an idea of what you wanted and what was most important e.g. location, garden, pool, school, price, amenities, décor, etc.

And remember, not choosing one option today doesn't mean you can never have that in the future, you just need to choose what you want first, or at this particular moment in time.Exercise:

As you think about a choice, or choices, you are about to make or will make in the future notice how you think about the situation and how you would illustrate it. If you have an image that is something like a mind map illustrating all the possible alternatives, in no particular order, try the following exercise.

a. Create a mind map of all the choices you have now.

b. Start to prioritise based upon your goals and criteria and create a list with the most important at the top.

c. Check the order by comparing one alternative against another. Ask yourself: "if I could have 1 but not 2 would that be OK?" - and continue through your list until you are satisfied with the order.

d. Write out your new list.

3. Use your imagination

Another reason for feeling uncomfortable with choice is when we base our decisions on too little nformation and limit our thinking to the present or the past rather than considering the future consequences of our choices.

In order to evaluate options effectively it helps to use all your senses to visualise each choice and future pace by imagining the outcome of these choices.

So, before choosing what colour to paint your walls, imagine in your mind's eye what it will look like, and how you will feel when it's finished, creating a vivid image of the result. Or, when choosing what to eat in a restaurant, get a sense of what the meal will look like, how it will smell and taste and how you will feel when it arrives. Whilst words and data might offer a sound basis for some business decisions, they often fall short when describing a meal.

Imagine you've already chosen, act as if you're already there, and in your mind's eye, get a sense of everything you see, hear and feel. Make this image as vivid as possible and notice, now that you have it, whether or not it's what you really want and does it have a positive feeling associated with it.

4. Trust Yourself

How many times have you gone ahead with something when deep down you knew it wasn't the right thing for you? At some level we usually know which is the best choice even when we're not consciously aware. Trusting your intuition and feelings can be an important aid to making choices simpler.

Think of a time when you made a choice that you weren't happy with for some reason. As you think about that time now notice the feelings you experience.....Now remember a time when you made a great choice and were fully convinced.....and notice these feelings. Your sense of congruence and incongruence is likely to differ and it pays dividends to only make choices when you feel congruent.

Congruence:

True congruence occurs when your choice or decision supports your beliefs, values and goals. It is a state of feeling sure, knowing what you want, being definite and trusting yourself.Incongruence:

Incongruence is the state of having reservations and not being totally committed to a decision. You may feel confused, hesitant, and unsure or lack conviction.

Personal Congruence signal - It is useful to be able to recognise your own personal indicators for congruence and incongruence as this can be a valuable indicator of your own commitment and confidence, and could save you mistakes and money!

Where you notice feelings of incongruence before making a decision this might be a signal to check that the outcome is what you want, or whether additional information is needed. Ask yourself, what else do I need to be convinced?

The above extract is taken from our e-book Working With Choices.

This e-book gives you an insight to some of the thinking patterns that lead to indecision, inertia and procrastination whilst offering some tools to help overcome these obstacles.

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