Tips for Effective Decision Making


Decision-making has never been easy for me. Due to a personality constantly drawn to new experiences, I often seek the next great adventure, magnifying a pressure to not miss out on the next best thing. This creates a self inflicted expectation to make the perfect decision, historically paralyzing my ability to make decisions with ease and confidence. Throughout my journey, the process of decision making has resulted countless times in unnecessary stress and emotional turmoil. Due to these experiences, I’ve reflected and learned several tips along the way that make my current process of making decisions simpler and more effective. I’d like to share a few tips with you.

One helpful article describes decision-making “not only about sifting through choices, but sifting through your needs and fears. Ultimately, decisions are steps towards creating the life you want.” This summer, when navigating a complex life decision, I overheard a co-worker say, “I find it helpful to tell my clients, ‘I hope you make choices out of hope, not out of fear.’” That comment plastered itself to my heart and mind. It created freedom, It offered a new framework to think about a decision in a way that felt empowering in my processing and honoring to my internal experience.

Decisions, big and small, exciting or scary, can create a chaotic whirlwind of emotions, feelings, facts and questions. Below list several ideas I’ve found useful to make sense of a cacophony of options and possibilities:

  • To determine what is motivation out of fear and what is motivated out of hope, it is helpful to first center oneself through rest. Rest and quiet can give a sense of settledness, providing a basis for productive introspection. Engaging in mindfulness, taking deep breathings, self-care, finding solitude in beauty and taking a break for daily duties exemplify avenues to center oneself. Anxiety potentially induced through decision making can create unnecessary noise and cloud simple truth and facts. It can make a simple decision seem confusing. Rest can bring a sense of clarity and understanding not found in exhaustion and stress. How do you find rest? Where is your space to re-center? What rejuvenates your mind and being?

  • List priorities: What are your values, core beliefs, desires and practical needs? Values, needs and goals may change through seasons of life. The vocational goal of participating in an unpaid internship may be worth the value of work experience. Saying no to moving across the county may be founded in a need to be close to local family. Buying a home down the street could highlight the need of space and a growing family. What are your needs, values and core beliefs that shape and influence your life?

  • Determine what is motivated out of a “should”, a “want”, a “need” and a “desire.” Lean into the freedom to make a choice based on your desires, differentiating personal hope and desire from expectations of others. What is your desire or need and what is fueled by an external source?

  • Consider using practical methods to sort through emotional and factual data. Create a list of pro/cons, create plan A, B and C and potential associated outcomes, begin to make small steps toward a decision and reflect on how it sits in your gut…. What tools do you find helpful to categorize and order information? What resources, relationships, experts or professionals help make sense of all perspectives of a decision? What trusted individual, tool or method has been useful in past decision making?

Perhaps a final freeing notion is the reality that there may not be a perfect decision. It is OKAY to not be in control, to not know it all, and to not have every detail figured out. And even if the decision goes all wrong, all is not lost. It is an opportunity to reflect and learn about larger emotional, relational and practical needs underlying a decision, providing relevant data to consider, and integrate in new opportunities, dreams and life goals.


Victoria Barrett is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor passionate about coming alongside you in your journey toward a life of greater healing, joy and abundance. Victoria uses various expressive and creative therapies to aid her clients in healing from trauma, adjustment disorders, attachment issues, anxiety, depression, and more.

Victoria also loves adventure in the great outdoors, in cooking, in traveling and in discovering good live music.  Click here to learn more about working with Victoria.

Victoria Barrett, MA, LMHC