Thursday, February 2, 2017

Make better decisions and overcome FOMO in 3 easy steps

I recently had a discussion with a mentee, seeking guidance on which life path to take. It was clear she had FOMO (fear of missing out).  For months and months, I watched her agonize, analyze, and debate what I like to call “good problems”

Should she attend a prestigious business school –or- forgo business school and instead, take a promotion at her job which comes with a 3 year assignment abroad in Asia?

Both options are great and will dramatically change her life. Each choice provides amazing experiences and opportunities, helping her significantly expand her network. So...which path should she choose?

If you were in her shoes, what path would you choose?

No matter where you are in life, eventually at some point you will be faced with critical decisions that could change the course of your life.

Decisions are kind of a big deal.

But how do you know if you are making the right choice? Herein lies the ultimate dilemma of many of us, for fear that we will either a) miss out the opportunities of the other option or b) make the wrong decision.  When we view decision making from this lens, life becomes complicated, stressful, and lead to ill perceived regrets.

 In order to make key decisions, arm yourself with a well-defined process to confidently structure your thoughts:

 Step 1. When making a decision, make sure you do not fall into mental traps. Being aware of the process of how you make decisions is extremely important in order to unearth your biases. The HBR article “The Hidden Traps of Decision Making”, provides detailed, helpful theories of how the brain can sabotage the choices made. Some example “traps” the article illustrates:
  • Anchoring traps lead to giving more weight to the first information we receive (i.e., getting the promotion with the Asia assignment first before receiving the acceptance letter from business school may make the promotion appear more attractive)
  • Status quo traps leads to maintaining current situation even if better alternatives exists (i.e., it took a lot of hard work and years of effort to earn a promotion, therefore that maybe considered better even though business school may offer exponentially better opportunities in the long run)
  • Sunk costs traps leads towards making decisions based on mistakes of the past in a desire not to waste time and money (i.e., taking 2 years out of professional career to attend an extremely expensive program is not worth the income loss and risky depending on the state of economy)
Knowing the various mental traps we face is important because you uncover your biases and make decisions from a more objective, grounded position.

Step 2.  Weigh the pros and cons of your decisions with other trusted individuals, but ultimately be accountable to your decision. This is where a personal board of directors can be valuable. Once you have weighed the pros and cons of the options of your choices, socialize your thinking with a select group of trusted individuals….but not too many voices. I like to run key life decisions by a handful of 3-5 people comprised of close family members and longtime mentors/confidantes that know me well enough to provide brutally honest feedback. Some people may use more or less.  Once you have socialized your options, weighed the pros and cons, it is up to you to make the final decision. Own it. Do not make decisions based on how you think others will perceive you or what seems to be the more popular, accepted path.

 Step 3.   Use a combination of logic and instinct when making decisions…but once your choice has been made, do not catch FOMO. Stand behind your decision with 1000% certainty. This is the most important step and typically where decisions fall apart. Someone takes a lot of time thinking through options, socializing the thinking, did research, and then makes a decision...only to begin second guessing that decision less than one minute after the decision is made!! FOMO can be paralyzing and cloud judgment. We can drive ourselves crazy doing this…it’s a no win situation and just not worth the stress. Stop second guessing yourself.  Learn to trust the process of the decision making process. Trust your instincts.  Remember that in life there are no true right or wrong choice; all decisions create a culmination of life experiences or body of knowledge. Trusting your instincts and making solid decisions help create easier journeys. There are no true wrong answers or failures, just life lessons. 

When you have a systematic approach of making decisions combined with gut instincts and accountability, it empowers you to drive towards actionable next steps quickly with more confidence. Create all decisions with greater certainty and you will always win.

What are some other ways that you make decisions in your life? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Post originally printed on LinkedIn.