In my last blog I wrote about steps to help us figure out what we want, so today I thought I would share a technique used in disciplines like Life Coaching and Motivational Interviewing, as well as in the world of Business and Economics, to help us make informed decisions, which is a pre-requisite of taking inspired action and achieving our goals and dreams.
One of my favourite sayings is “if you don’t know what to do then do nothing”. Important decisions should only be made once we have sufficient information and all possible outcomes have been considered and weighed up. It can take time to collate this information and to process all it’s complexity, but once complete we can move forward with as much certainty and confidence as is possible. Even in a crisis, we need to weigh up options to make the right decision with whatever little time is available to us. Failure to do so will often result in regret.
Sometimes we may stall on making a decision or taking action, because on some level there is an element of fear and risk we may be trying to avoid. Left unchecked this fear can prevent us moving forward and achieving things we feel are important to us or overcoming obstacles that stand in our way. It is however worth noting the following features of FEAR:
Fear provides us with KEY information about what needs to change in order for a successful outcome to be attained.
Taking no action is a decision in itself – when we want to achieve something but make no decisions or fail to take the action needed, we are in fact CHOOSING to remain within our current reality. And that’s ok as long as we are making that decision consciously and own it.
What we need are tools to help us understand our fears, concerns and hesitations, so that we can make the final decisions and the adjustments needed to take inspired action towards what we want.
What is a Cost-Benefit Analysis? A Cost-Benefit Analysis allows us to weigh up of the advantages and disadvantages of making one decision over another. It is a systematic process that can be used in making important decisions like changing jobs, moving home, remaining in a relationship, or making certain lifestyle changes like quitting smoking or dieting etc. In fact it can be used in making ANY decision, no matter how big or small, and it is invaluable when we feel torn or stuck in progressing with a specific goal. It can be done as a formal exercise or scribbled on the back of an envelope, or a mental exercise you complete in your mind. What matters is takiing the time to consider all possibilities when weighing up our options.
A Cost Benefit Analysis enables us to: 1. Explore all the arguments for and against a specific decision or action 2. Identify the associated pleasure and pain of each option 3. Weigh up the short term and long term costs and rewards for both self and others 4. Become aware of the obstacles and subconscious limiting beliefs that are preventing a decision being made or action being taken. *Only when we know what these are obstacles are, whether practical or emotional, can we address them and overcome them. 5. Make a final decision as to what course of action needs to be taken to move forward
While this is a practical exercise requiring clear, logical and ideally objective thinking by the brain; giving ourselves permission to check in with our hearts and emotions, as well as our gut and intuition, is KEY to understanding the complex truth of what we are dealing with and making a choice that is truly right for us. Because many decisions are complicated and have consequences which reach far beyond the here and now, and affect not just ourselves, but the people around us including our friends and families.
We can spend hours, days, weeks, months, sometimes even YEARS trying to make certain decisions which feel impossible, leaving us stuck and in a state of limbo. Using a tool like the Cost Benefit Analysis allows us to apply a conscious approach in making important decisions; decisions which can change our lives and either add or take away value from them.
When we fail to make decisions, it provides others the opportunity to make the decision for us. Not only is this disempowering, but others don’t always make decisions in our best interest, which eventually causes resentment and a sense of helplessness.
We are the experts of our own lives and responsible for our own wellbeing and happiness; only we can decide what is right for us. While flipping a coin or ‘going with the flow’ has a care-free and romantic element to it (and certainly saves uncomfortable thinking, time, effort and accountability), it won’t always get us where we want to go or provide the fulfilment we seek . In fact, it would be a small miracle if it did.
While many Cost Benefit Analysis templates exist, I personally like to use an amalgamation of the one recommended by Neenan & Drydon in their book Life-Coaching: A Cognitive Behavioural Approach and the approach used by Anthony Robbins in his book Awaken the Giant Within (see above). Our entire lives can change with a single decision…what will you decide today?
If you are feeling stuck and would like support and direction in overcoming limited beliefs and moving forward with your goals and dreams, why not consider Life Coaching? For more information on what Life Coaching is see Frequently Asked Questions on the website www.themindfullifecoachuk.com. And if you would like to arrange a free consultation be sure to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.