Do you ever agonize over decisions for days or even years? Do you wait until the last possible moment to make the decision so you can keep your options open? Do decisions stress you out? If so, today’s episode of the Christian Habits Podcast will help.
We’ll be talking about how to make decisions peacefully. I’ve also included a chance to renew your mind at the end of the podcast with the decision questions from The Renewing of the Mind Project for a decision you’re currently struggling with.
Following are the 11 tips we’ll be discussing in case you don’t have time to catch the podcast.
11 Tips for Making Decisions
- Recognize that there are no perfect decisions. Often we head into a decision not just wanting to make a decision, but wanting to make the best decision possible: the perfect decision. Because there are no perfect decisions out there, we take forever to make the decision. After all, we’re sure that if we just wait long enough the perfect solution will present itself. It’s critical at the beginning of the decision making process to recognize that there are no perfect decisions. Each choice will have its advantages and disadvantages. That’s why the next tip is so important.
- Limit your options. One of the reasons we have such a hard time making decisions is because we have too many options. If you can narrow down the choices, it will be easier to make the decision. For example, when my friend Lauren and I used to go over to each others house after grade school, one of us would choose three games to play. The other person would narrow it down to two, then the person who started would eliminate the other. It was an easy way to decide which game to play.
- Make a deadline for the decision and try to stick to the deadline. This is huge. Often we put off decisions for years that could easily be made much sooner. When we do that, we have constant low-grade stress hanging over us because the decision is always there in the background. If you don’t want to make the decision now, just say, “I’m going to keep going as is and then revisit this decision in a year.” Then don’t think about it until next year. Which leads to the next tip.
- Set a timer and only think about the decision when the timer is running. Too often we wear ourselves out thinking about the decision for hours on end. To avoid this energy drain, set a timer. You have x number of minutes to think and pray about your decision. When the buzzer rings, time’s up. No more thinking about the decision until your next decision-making session.
- Use helpful tools and ask friends or mentors for advice. Here are a few things you can do in your decision-making sessions: Make a pro and con chart. Answer the decision questions from the Renewing of the Mind Project. Ask some friends for advice. Ask yourself, “What’s my gut feeling?” These are all helpful ways to gain input. You can also use the decision making template or problem solving worksheet that I often use, which you can find at this link: Resources from Freedom from Procrastination Bible Study.
- Pray for a set amount of time. If it’s an important decision, you may want to make a commitment to pray about it for a few hours. I did this with the last book I wrote. I made a plan to pray for three hours before I chose the topic of the next book. I did this in 15 and 30 minute increments, often while walking. I felt far better about my decision than I usually do (and also didn’t quit writing it halfway through like I often do) because I took so much time to pray about it. That said, it’s possible you’ll pray for three hours and still not have a feel for what God wants you to do. This leads to the next tip.
- Recognize that God doesn’t always care what decision you make. God gave us free will at great sacrifice to Himself. Why? Because He knew we would use our free will to hurt others and ourselves. If He knew we’d use free will to hurt ourselves, and maybe even walk away from Him, why would He give it to us? I think He gave it to us because He didn’t want us to be perpetual teenagers. He wanted us to be free to make our own decisions. Often He’ll have some boundaries for us but will give us free will for us within those boundaries. So for example with marriage, He tells us not to marry an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6:14), but He never tells us to make sure we marry the exact person He wants us to marry. I’ll expound more on this in the podcast.
- Renew Your Mind: When we take the time to renew our mind, we’re taking the time to see the situation from God’s perspective. Doing that often helps us realize that it’s really not that big of a deal what we decide. And for the important decisions, renewing helps us remember that life is about God–not about making perfect decisions. If you want some questions to help you see your decision from a biblical perspective, try the Decision Making and God’s Will questions. (We’ll be using these questions at the end of the podcast to renew.)
- Find out why you’re so obsessed with the perfect decision. When I renew, I often find I’m caring more about something than God wants me to care about it. If we’re stressed out by decision making, usually it’s because we want something: fun, success, comfort, approval, or even the best decision possible. The more we learn to make life about God, the less we’ll worry about perfect decisions. This leads to the next step.
- Remember that you don’t need to make perfect decisions (and have a perfect life) to be happy. Often we feel like we have to make the perfect decision so we can have the best life possible. But here’s the truth: The best life possible is a life lived with God–loving Him with all your heart, soul, and mind. And after that, loving your neighbor as yourself. And joy comes from walking with the Spirit, not having a perfect lifestyle, perfect spouse, perfect job, etc! That’s a super hopeful truth. Go ahead and make your best decision, but then let it go, knowing that you don’t need perfect decisions to have a great life.
- Make the decision and hold the outcome with open hands. Once you make the decision, embrace it! Dwell on the good of the choice you actually made. For example, if you decided to marry one person, don’t think about how great that other person was that you used to date. Following are 4 things to accept, which will help you embrace your decision.
4 Things to Accept About Making Decisions
- You can’t make everyone happy. Yes that’s sad, but true. Different people want different decisions. Try to ask, “What would God want,” since He’s the best person to make happy?
- You can’t always know God’s will. It’s important to ask God what He wants but we also have to face the fact that we can’t always know what He wants. I’ll expound more about this in the podcast.
- There are no perfect choices. Often we want the best decision possible, but here’s the truth: there are no perfect choices. I’ve come to realize that usually there are a few 90s but rarely a 100. Each option has a different 90 and a different 10. Choose your 90. (I talk more about this in the podcast.)
- Your decision may not turn out well. If it doesn’t turn out well, that doesn’t necessarily mean you made a bad decision. You just made a decision with what you knew at the time, which was incomplete knowledge. You also made a decision at your then-current maturity level. You might make a different choice now. Thankfully we know that God causes all things to work together for the good to those who love Him – so we can sit back, breathe a sigh of relief, and thank God that He can redeem anything!