Do you ever struggle with making decisions? Feel overwhelmed or scared about choosing one thing and moving forward? Get stuck with analysis paralysis?
This can happen especially when you are facing a decision with lots of angst and hope, that requires the courage to go against the grain and follow your own path instead of the generally accepted route. If you are thinking of unschooling, homeschooling, or UnCollege you know exactly what I mean.
But, if you don’t make a decision and move forward, well, what’s the point?
Take a deep breath and remind yourself, as the Heath Brothers say, that decisions are commas, not periods. Their book Decisive, and the WRAP process is great.
I like to do things my own way. And, when stressed I seem to write lyrics or limericks or attempt my simple version of poetry. Here is the process I use to get myself out of a decision making mess, in case it might help you. I hope you enjoy my handy-dandy little poem and these steps make it easier for you move through your decision-making process.
D efine goals & priorities
E xplore ideas & opportunities
C hallenge assumptions
I nvestigate realities
D ecide & take action
E valuate your satisfaction
I always like to start with WHY – get clear about your goals and hopes related to the decision. Consider your dreams and your values. Try to step back from your immediate concerns and set your emotions aside as you clarify your goals.
When Dale was in his senior year of high school he was frustrated and angry. He felt ready to be done and was itching to go to college. We had to pull back and say, “ Wait – sure you can think about where you could go to college RIGHT NOW, but let’s also think about everything you could do with this year. What is at the bottom of your frustration? What is it you are wanting that you think you can get at college?” This is how he ended up with his internship at Zinch.
I love generating lots of ideas and possibilities – Why not? How about? What if? This is one way to combat our tendency to limit ourselves before we are even ready to decide. Expand. Get creative!
One of the ways that life has dramatically changed is in how many more avenues there are to access information, education, training, networks, and the world. Lifelong learning beyond the classroom is all about options. Give yourself permission to try new things and change your mind.
Challenge your assumptions. You are trying to overcome what is called confirmation bias – when we only look for information to prop up our existing ideas. It’s always good to look for examples that contradict, disprove, or give you more information to base your decision upon. Challenging your assumptions, see my “raising a Thiel Fellow tips”, is a good practice to apply to decision making and all areas of parenting and life.
Investigate and get the nitty-gritty details about costs, consequences, and time frames. Let these realities help you plan ahead for potential difficulties and help you determine if you’ve taken the right path. Get some first-hand experience as soon as you can.
Look for ways that you or your child can do what I call real world research and get some hands-on experience as early as she/he can. There is no reason to wait. People can job shadow, volunteer, intern, interview and find ways to reality test assumptions. Thank goodness I had a work-study job in oral surgery during my first semester at Duke, before completing 4 years of pre-med. I passed out cold the first week on the job after seeing the first incision. I decided to rethink my plan.
Don’t get permanently stuck in analysis paralysis. I get bogged down with this a lot, so a critical step in my decision model is taking action – it is time to decide and get on with it. If after all your investigation you want to have a plan B ready to go, that’s great. Just decide and go for it.
Evaluate, reflect, and revise! Decisions are not set in stone. You can change your mind or make a new decision when needed. If it didn’t work out the way you thought it would, what did you learn to help you move forward?
For example, when we first started homeschooling we started one way, very ‘schooly’, but said we would evaluate how we were doing it on a weekly basis. We changed course after our very first day! We also said we would try homeschooling for one year and then re-evaluate and look at which options now seemed best for the following year. The documentary Class Dismissed does a fantastic job of showing a family going through this process of deciding and revising their educational choices.
In working on the ABC’s book, Carrie and I researched publishing platforms, various options for print, e-books, workbooks, a video course, and a card deck. Warning – some of us can spend too much time thinking of new ideas instead of committing and completing. It wasn’t until getting started that we learned more of what we needed to know.
Here is your rally cry:
D-E-C uh I-D-E
That is what will make you see
What your next – uh – step should be, so
D-E-C- uh I-D-E – Yeah!
What do you do to help you make a tough decision? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments. Lisa
PS Do you recognize the rhythm I used?