How to Make Difficult Decisions: 8 Questions to Ask Yourself, A
As therapists know, decision-making is tough: sometimes, brutally so. We all wonder how to make difficult decisions that feel integral and good.
What questions should you answer before you make a decision?
These questions aren’t “magic bullets”, taking all difficulty out of the process. But, if you can stay with them, you might find that you’re making better decisions that are more reflective of who you really are.
1. Does this situation seem familiar? Have I been here before?
I might be struggling with a decision that, on a certain level, has a very familiar deja vu feeling. Could it be that the type of decision that I’m called upon to make is just very difficult for me? Perhaps this type of decision repeatedly trips me up.
If I’ve really wrestled with this type of question before, it may hook some emotional aspect of my past experience. My past history, either in early life, or at some later point, may repeatedly get involved in the decision.
Or, I might be running into an issue that concerns personality type. Maybe I am not at my strongest making decisions that involve intuiting future possibilities, or managing a great deal of detail — or any of the other possible “Achilles heels” that can ensnare each of us when it comes to using our weaker psychological functions.
2. Where does the urgency come from?
Decisions may feel urgent to us for all sorts of reasons.
There can be objective outer factors that make us aware of the decision as urgent. Work deadlines or financial pressures would be examples. Yet sometimes we’re driven by a strong sense of subjective urgency. We can feel an inner pressure to make a decision when there is no objective outer cause for this feeling.
If nothing objective is driving my need to make a decision, it might be best to not make it right now, and take a “wait and see” approach.
If nothing objective is really pushing me to make a decision, I might want to look at the subjective, possibly unconscious roots of my sense of urgency. A complex may be pushing me to make the decision.
Example: L has been looking for an accounting job, to replace her old job. Finally she gets two offers. She feels great urgency to make the decision and get on with a new job. Yet L’s sense of urgency stems from the fact that she doesn’t really want another accounting job, but it makes her anxious to face that fact.
Sometimes, it’s right to take a decision slowly, and let your unconscious mind work on it.
3. What are my biases?
We all have biases that affect our decisions — and we’re often not even aware of them. Sometimes bias is in the unconscious. Researchers like Prof. David Amodio of New York University have revealed our unconscious biases around race and gender role stereotypes. Yet these are far from the only areas where unconscious biases exist.
Depth case studies sees such biases as stemming from complexes, clusters of emotional energy gathered around an archetypal core. Only by making such biases conscious can we gradually free ourselves from their influence, and make choices that truly line up with who we are and what we really want.
4. Do different parts of me want different things?
People often use the word “torn” when describing a major decision that they have to make. It might feel that part of me wants a certain thing, while part of me wants another.
Do “different parts of me” or “different people inside of me” want different things? This isn’t an abnormal state: it’s a fairly normal situation. The human psyche has many different elements, which sometimes want very different things. Understanding those different people inside of me might change not only the particular situation I’m dealing with, but actually the entirety of my life.
Who are the different voices inside of me? What does each of them want? How can I make a decision that all of me will be able to live with?
Questions about Decisions
Major decisions often occur during major life transitions. They also often form an important part of the midlife transition. In Part B of this post, we’ll examine four other key questions we should be asking about our descisions.
Depth case studies reveals important ways to confront and work with the decisions in our lives, and help us to make choices that honour our entire personhood.
Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst