It’s a challenge making decisions when you don’t have all the facts.
The old adage, “Do the best you can with what you’ve got”, is a nice, but hardly comforting sentiment.
After all, not just any decision will do. We want to make decisions that advance us toward something – some idealized future state or goal.
Some things that help me:
First, gain as much clarity as you can about the end destination. Describe this better state intimately if you can.
Use that description to imagine your path forward from where you are.
Who must you become to achieve this vision?
What must you do?
And equally important – who must you avoid becoming? What must you not do?
The answers to those questions determine your guardrails.
On one hand, you’ve defined your ideal and components of it.
On the other, you’ve defined a set of activities and behaviors which will either increase the difficulty of or altogether disqualify you from reaching your goal. Which is often easier than listing out the activities and behaviors that will help you.
In between those two states are behaviors and activities that could help you advance – or not – but won’t hurt your progress.
Sure, that might be useful at the abstract planning level. But what about decisions in isolation?
Here’s another tip that works for me:
When considering a decision, don’t ask “Will” this help me? Rather, ask “Could” this help me?
Language matters. “Will” offers determinate outcomes. It closes off your mind from possibilities. While asking “could” activates your creative faculties.
The truth of the matter is that you’ll almost never be able to predict definitively how one choice might play out over time. (Within reason, of course, you can safely assume how eating a bottle of rat poison might impact your fate.)
Occasionally, you’ll be forced to choose among two options. Both may seem positive. But you may be uncertain which one will help you more.
Here’s what I recommend:
Don’t lose too much sleep over the decision. Early in your life and career, say yes to everything that’s not a hell no. If one decision excites you more (or challenges you more), pick that.
As you gain more leverage, you can adapt this to say no to everything that’s not a hell yes.
Rather than fret over the relative value of two decisions, focus more on avoiding stuff you hate.
So long as you are moving in a direction away from what you hate – and away from behaviors that disqualify you from your “end prize” – then you can safely advance with confidence.