Decision making is intrinsically linked to our emotions. They create a physical response to information – and we may not even realise. For example, if you slam on the brakes as a car pulls out right in front of you, you have acted without conscious thought. Our subconscious mind has recognised the danger and translated it into a feeling of fear. Whilst emotions can be useful, they can also lead us astray. They encourage us to stay in relationships that aren’t right for us and careers that are no longer pushing us.

Every big choice that we need to make is often a battle between our rational and subconscious minds but even recognising which one is which is difficult because we can’t detach from those emotions. We tend to make poorer decisions when we are feeling stressed or down so how can you be sure that the decision you make is the right one? Here are some tips …

Speak to someone you trust

You have probably noticed that our brains don’t like uncertainty. When we have a question about something, we head to Google to fill in the gaps and/or speak to our friends to try and find out the answers to our seemingly impossible questions. But when you are faced with too many facts and opinions, you can reach a point of “information overload” which only makes the situation feel more confusing and complicated. Carefully selecting two or three friends whose opinion and judgement you trust, can help you to see things in a clearer light.

If you prefer to make your decisions alone, think about what you might say to a friend in your situation. What would your advice to them be? There are no crystal balls in life, we don’t know what waits for us in the future. We can only make our decision based on the available information. But whatever we do decide, it isn’t our final destination. If we move to the other side of the country and it doesn’t work out, we can move back.

Get clear on your vision

Clarity is the opposite of indecision, confusion, and hesitation. Knowing what you are working towards before you get started will help you to stay on the right path without an underlying feeling of panic about what’s next. Having a vision for your life will keep you moving through roadblocks and give meaning and purpose to what you do.

A vision board is an excellent tool which can help you to clarify your goals. On your board, you can display images that represent where you want to head in the future. The images should focus on how you want to feel as well as the material things you want. Refine the vision over time as necessary.

When a big decision comes along, you can use your vision board as a guide. Which path is the most closely aligned to your vision? Read more about vision boards.

Use a timer

We spent a huge amount of time and energy thinking about making choices. Sometimes the options are equally attractive and require us to compromise. When it comes to making the big decisions: Who should I fire and who should I hire? Should I have that difficult conversation? Do I stay in my relationship? these questions are followed by an infinite number of questions. If I am going to fire that person, when should I do it? If I am going to have that difficult conversation, should I start it in person or via email? If I am going to leave my relationship, how do I tell my partner?

Sometimes we avoid making a decision for a long time because we hope that an answer might emerge. Of course, this is a possibility but prolonging it causes more anxiety. Using a timer forces you to make a decision and move forwards.

Try it now. Pick a decision that you have been putting off making and give yourself three minutes. Take a piece of paper and write a list of all of your options. At the end of the three minutes, pick one and stick with it.