A Coaching Power Tool Created by Melanie Alexander
(Life Coach, CANADA)
Decisions, decisions, decisions! What to choose? Being decisive is a decision that we can make for ourselves. Seems odd but we have the freedom of choice and the power to live our life in the way that we want to. Generally, people who are decisive progress forward in their lives with success and confidence. Keeping in mind that being decisive does not mean that we make the ‘right’ choice 100% of the time, but if failure or mistakes occur, we have the ability to learn from them and grow. It is the step of making the choice and being confident and secure that from all angles we believe it is the ‘right’ choice that matters.
Throughout life we all make many decisions and after a while certain decisions become second nature to us and it no longer takes us a long time to come to a final choice. For example, deciding what to wear each morning becomes a repetitive decision that requires little to no effort or planning. As we go through life, we can forget how to make the right or wise decisions and begin choosing the easier of the choices and life continues as is. When we are presented with a great opportunity, faced with a challenging situation or something that requires immediate attention being decisive works to our benefit. If we have not practiced it, it does not always come easy.
Whether a decision is considered complex or simple, both of these require us to make a final decision that will determine an end result. We have two options, you can be decisive or indecisive. The dictionary defines decisive as, “a person having or showing the ability to make decisions quickly and effectively,” indecisive is just the opposite. We can’t progress in life being indecisive forever, this would result in making poor or no decisions at all. Working towards becoming decisive will improve our decision making skills and initiate growth.
When we are being indecisive we are not taking responsibility for our actions and we are letting things get out of our control. Some people are indecisive because of the fear of making the wrong choice, fear of the responsibility to follow, fear of taking a leap of faith, unwilling to make the decision for a larger group or family, uncertainty of the consequences, unsure of their options and/or many other reasons. Sometimes we even think that the situation will resolve itself if we let time pass and then we will no longer have to make the decision. But, if we shift our mind set from indecisive to decisive, we can actually feel a sense of power and confidence. Caroline Leaf, a cognitive neuroscientist with a PhD in Communication Pathology specializing in Neuropsychology states that, “if your thinking is toxic, then your communication and behavior are toxic, and vice versa.” (1) With this insight and the knowledge that we have the capacity to change our thoughts, we have the power to shift our perspective and mindset to a positive decisive state of thought and behaviour. We can do this by asking ourselves the right questions and, by understanding our roadblocks. We can be decisive and come up with a decision that is the best option for us.
Another way to think of decision making is to make a decision that is wise. Wise is defined in the dictionary as “having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right; possessing discernment, judgment, or discretion.” The ultimate objective in shifting our mindset from indecisive, is to making wise decisions.
To do this, it starts with asking yourself this simple yet profound question that senior pastor, leader and speaker, Andy Stanley says so perfectly, “In light of past experiences, current circumstances and future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing for ME to do?”(2)
When a decision needs to be made about an opportunity, invitation or particular situation, if we take a brief look at our past experiences, current circumstances and future hopes and dreams the decision can confidently be made and implemented with a lot more ease than before. While in the coaching relationship we typically do not look at the past, in this case it is good to understand what in the past is similar to this decision and what we did then that worked and didn’t work that can assist us in this situation. Also, if we take a look at current circumstances such as work, family, health, age, relationships, responsibilities, available time etc. this can immensely help us make wise decisions. And finally, with the knowledge of our future hopes and dreams we can make a wise decision based on these choices being a catalyst in progressing us towards them.
Interestingly enough, this type of analysis or breakdown of decision making can work in simple or complex situations. For example, if you are deciding whether or not to move to a different country for work, which would be a life altering decision, you can ask yourself this question. If you look at past experiences, you can decide if this move would fit your lifestyle, if you adapt to change well etc. If you look at your current circumstances, you can see if your relationship status would allow it, if you have children, if you have family or friends that you don’t want to leave etc. And finally, you can look to the future and see if this decision will move you towards your future hopes and dreams by looking at your travel desires, future home or location to settle in, future family and spouse, etc. After analyzing a decision like this, an individual can become confident in their choices. It also goes for simple decisions such as, should I purchase this article of clothing at the store? If you look at past experiences, you can see if you already own this item, if you have purchased it in the past and have worn it a lot or it sat in the closet, etc. If you look at current circumstances, you can see if you have time to try it on and see if you like the item, if you have the money at the moment to purchase it, or if you need it for an event coming up, etc. And finally, you can look into the future and see if purchasing this item moves you towards your future hopes and dreams by looking at if this item will improve your self-esteem, if you want to be portrayed in the way that the item would represent, if purchasing this item would put you behind in your bills or take away from the savings towards larger items you need or want, etc. By looking at a complex example and a simple example we can see that this tool has the diversity to explore and support a variety of different opportunities, invitations and situations.
Let’s take a look at how this tool can be used in a common situation. Imagine this: Jessica had worked for a company for many years and hated it for the majority of that time. She would look on the internet on a regular basis to see what other job opportunities were out there or what other qualifications she could get to change companies, make more money, or even how she could try to enjoy her 9-5 job more. She dreamt and talked about the best situation she wanted to be in. She would complain about her current job to family and friends and even colleagues that shared her anger and frustration. She spent years in this position and didn’t know a way out. She sat at her desk day in and day out and despised everything about her current situation. It came to a breaking point, for her sanity and for her future she needed to stop being indecisive, make a change and do something. She had hit rock bottom. She needed to stop aimlessly planning or hoping for things to change and make a decision. She needed to make a decision that would change her life for the better and she needed to implement this soon.
Jessica’s situation is not uncommon. Many people dislike their work and hope that one day, if they stay their long enough, they will be promoted to a better position. Without even knowing what this ‘better position’ may be, they sit and wait for that day to come. They don’t realize that they are fully capable of making a decision on their own, being decisive and taking control of their destiny. Rather, they just wait, thinking nothing they do will change things.
Imagine if Jessica was decisive and was able to make a decision, she would not have to hit rock bottom and her future would be a lot brighter.
By asking a simple yet profound question, “in light of past experiences, current circumstances and future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing for me to do?”, she is able to analyze the entire situation and make a wise decision. After practicing this technique she can become more decisive. Through this exercise she is able to see that in the past she has not liked her job and things hadn’t changed so she was not going to stay in it and she was going to make a change. She looked at her current circumstances and understood what salary she needed to make, what location she could take a job in, if she needed full-time or if she could take a contract, if she could/ needed to go back to school to get more education to improve her readiness for a more rewarding job. And then finally, she was able to plan and look into the future and make a wise decision for the ‘now’ that would bring her closer to her future hopes and dreams. With these three viewpoints she can make a wise decision and implement action.
Once Jessica analyzes and answers this question she is able to progress forward with confidence, security and enthusiasm in a positive direction. Even though she has completed a deep analysis of the situation, she will never be 100% sure of the result until the result is obtained. With this in mind, she would need to take her self-awareness and ability to learn from failures, mistakes or road blocks to keep her motivated and her head held high.
In the coaching relationship, the coach assumes that their clients are the experts of their lives. We are not to give them advice or guide them towards what we feel is the best solution for them. We can however ask open-ended powerful questions to give them the confidence and clarity they desire. Typically, our clients will be so emotionally invested in the decisions that they have to make that it makes being decisive that much more difficult. With this in mind and when we notice our clients really wanting to move forward or make a decision on something, we can encourage them to make the wise decision for themselves. We can support them in unleashing the decisive mindset within by asking this powerful question, “In light of past experiences, current circumstances and future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing for you to do?”
With this question, we can guide them through each stage and allow them to explore self-reflection, self-discovery and ultimately unleash the “wise thing for them to do”. From this discovery, they can then put the structures and action steps into place to implement the decision that was made and therefore achieve the result they desire.
Some general questions to encourage exploration throughout the tool:
- What is holding you back?
- What learning is to be had in this?
- What does your ‘gut’ say to do? Is it different from your rational thought?
- Do you want to be decisive?
- What experiences did you recall when reading this Power Tool?
- What is the number one thing in your life right now that you have been indecisive about and needs to see some action or positive decisive decision making?
- When thinking of the number one thing, ask yourself this powerful question: “In light of past experiences, current circumstances and future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing for you to do?”
Think of why you haven’t taken action on this particular situation and try and think of ways to not get ‘stuck’ in this position again in the future.
- What action steps are you going to plan to see the results you desire?
- What structures are you going to put in place to make sure you implement this action?
Caroline Leaf http://drleaf.com/about/
Andy Stanley: http://yourmove.is/full-episodes/