When I’m coaching a person, I will assist her in various ways: paraphrase her, ask her questions, give her information, point out various aspects. But there is one thing I will not do, even though a lot of my clients would like me to: I will not make decisions for them. In the end, it will be up to them to decide how to think, communicate and behave in various contexts.
When it comes to making decisions, I notice that a lot of people approach this process like a 7 year old, looking for the adult to get him to make the decision. They rely too much on others in deciding stuff. The only thing is, the adult is you. And as an adult, you are responsible for making your own decisions, since only you are responsible for your life.
Others and Your Decisions
Other people can play an important role in your decision making. But it is not the one of making the decisions for your. Basically, any decision process goes though 3 major steps:
Gathering information which is relevant for making the decision;
Analyzing and comparing the information, based on various criteria;
Actually making the decision.
Where other people can really help you is in the first step of the process. They can give you information which increases the odds of you making a good decision. They can share personal experiences, opinions or facts which you may not know.
Other people can also help you with the second step, by pointing out things you are not taking into consideration when comparing options, or faulty logic. This is something I do quite a lot in my coaching. But when a person tells you “do this” and you simply do it, then we have a bit of a problem.
Let’s say for example, that you got two job offers, in two different companies, and you have trouble deciding which one to accept. You can talk to people you know in those companies, to learn about the environment and the people there. You can talk to a career consultant to find out the potential for development of the industries the two companies are in. But what you don’t want to do is to ask another person to choose for you.
When it comes to making decisions, my experience is that most people tend to go into the extremes: they either rely on others to make any decision and they almost never make decisions on their own, or they become global decision makers, who not only decide for themselves, but also decide for other people: they choose the college for their daughter, the car for their wife, the career path for their employees, and so on.
Both patterns are fundamentally toxic, giving people too little or too much responsibility in life. And both patterns tend to exist because they feed on each other. So? How do you learn to make your own decision?
You get away from people who tend to make decisions for you, even if you don’t ask them to. These people usually mean well, but they will cripple you self-reliance.
When other people tell you what to do, you don’t simply follow their command, but instead ask them why they believe that is the best decision and get their perspective. Then you use the information to judge things for yourself.
You stop asking other people what to do every time you have a dilemma. You either don’t ask others anything and just decide on your own, or you ask them for information and feedback, instead of the actual decision.
You learn to take risks. Each decision you make has a potential risk because it can not be the best one, and sometimes it can even be the worst one. What makes a mature person is the ability to accept this risk, decide and act despite of it.
You start small and scale fast. At first, you pick decision which present low risks but which you usually tend to pass on to others, and you make them on your own. As you become comfortable with making these decisions, you gradually move on to more important ones.
The good news is that your ability to make effective decisions is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. As you practice making your own decisions, you learn to gather information more effectively, to analyze and compare data with more wisdom, to become more confident in your ability to choose what is best for you.
The big decisions
For almost any person I know there is one big challenge in making decisions: those key life decisions. I’m talking about quitting a job, starting a business, moving to another city, getting married, getting divorced and so on. It is mostly with these decisions that we refuse to deal, and we ask other do decide for us, which we believe have more expertise or wisdom than we do.
Even if this is the case, these are precisely the decisions you truly need to make yourself. Because they define your life. And you don’t want to live a life defined by others do you? The fact they are very important only means it’s a good idea to consult others and get the most valuable information you can, not that you should get someone else to decide for you.
Bottom line, your ability to make decisions on your own, to assume the consequences, good or bad, and to learn from them is what makes you a mature person. When you know you can always rely on yourself, you experience a sense of personal freedom which most people only dream of.
Muhammad Daniyal Khan
is a communication coach with an attitude-based approach. He helps others to improve people skills they find relevant and get top notch results.