How to move from chaos to calm: 5 steps to making easier choices

Choose!One of the most common self-sabotaging habits out there is indecisiveness.

For a business owner, the number of choices to be made each day is truly staggering. What are my top three priorities for today? Is this prospect likely to turn into the Client From Hell? How do I make it right with that client I disappointed? The list goes on and on.

It’s way too easy to get yourself into full-blown crazy-making mode when trying to deal with all these choices, especially the ones with major consequences for your business’ success or failure. So how do you shift gears from chaotic, swirling, back-and-forth mental chatter to a calm and confident progression down a choice-making path? The following steps will help.

 Courage + commitment + action = achievement.

  1. Choose to believe that you’ll derive some type of benefit no matter what choice you make.

    I was first introduced to this concept of “no-lose decision-making” in Susan Jeffers’ classic book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. If you’ve never tried it before, I think you’ll be delighted at how much less stress you experience when you take this approach to dealing with the many choices facing you.

  2. Remember that, in the big scheme of things, very few choices are truly irrevocable.

    For most entrepreneurs, talking about their business is like talking about their child. We baby it, we nurture it, we think it’s the most adorable one out there. For all those reasons, we don’t take decision-making lightly when it comes to our little one.


    The fact of the matter is that you’re probably going to be able to bounce back—one way or another—from most, if not all, of the business decisions that turned out to be not so great after all. The world is full of stories about people who didn’t experience long-term financial success until they’d lost two or three businesses. If they can do it, why not you?

  3. Set a time limit for making the choice.

    An unmade choice is like a leech: It will slowly suck the life right out of you.

    By all means, give yourself time to make a decision. The trick is to use that time to weigh your options so you can make the best choice possible, not to simply postpone making your choice. Decide how much time to give yourself, tell a trusted friend or colleague what your time frame is, and ask him or her to hold you accountable to it.

    Once you’ve made a decision, you will be out of limbo and can begin handling what comes next. Whether that ultimately means handling some negative fallout from your choice or basking in the rewards of it, you’ll still be more effective and confident than you would have been had you allowed yourself to remain paralyzed with indecision.

  4. Get clear on whether you tend to make “head” or “heart” choices, then honor that process.

    First of all, let me say that I don’t intend those to be fighting words!

    I don’t believe that anybody relies 100% on their intellect or 100% on their emotions when making a decision; I believe everyone uses some of each in his or her decision-making process.

    Having said that, I also believe that some people will feel most calm when using logic to make a choice, while others put more trust in their instinct (or intuition, or gut sense). It’s not a case of one being “right”; it’s a case of honoring the method that’s proven itself to work best for you.

    If you primarily make head-based choices, you might do well to create lists of pros and cons when faced with a significant decision. If that’s not working, I strongly encourage you to check out a copy of Richard N. Bolles’ What Color Is Your Parachute? from your local library and make a copy of the prioritizing grid to be found there. For those of us slightly anal-retentive types out there, such a grid provides a way to compare multiple criteria so that you can feel confident about which truly is most important to you.

    If you’re primarily a heart-based decision-maker, you might do well to go into a quiet space (out in nature is particularly wonderful) and spend some time feeling the various reactions your body has when you contemplate the different choices you might make. A feeling of physical distress often accompanies thoughts of the decision that is not right for you at this time.

  5. Suck it up and admit that you’re not infallible, then give yourself permission to be less than perfect.

    Despite your best wishes, intentions, and actions, you will inevitably make a sub-optimal decision.

    So what?

    In the worst-case scenario, you’ll have learned what to never, never, never do again and will have an excellent opportunity to practice humility. In the best-case scenario, you’ll have acquired a fabulous story to share when you’re earning lots of money sharing your hard-earned lessons with other business owners.



Do you have any particularly effective ways to stay calm while making decisions? Have you identified any behaviors that make it harder for you to choose between two courses of action?

Or do you more often feel like a deer in the headlights because there are so many choices that you end up overwhelmed and paralyzed? If that’s the case, maybe it’s worth spending 30 or 40 minutes together on the phone to see if my paralysis-busting services are a fit for your situation.

I don’t know if we’d do good work together, but I do know that, at the end of that get-acquainted call, we’d both be confident that we’d made a good choice—whatever it might be. I invite you to choose your course of action now: Don’t arrange the call (a valid choice) or arrange the call (an equally valid, although perhaps scarier, choice). Which will it be?

(BTW, thanks to Satish Krishnamurthy for posting the go/stop image in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)

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