How do you know you’ve made the right decision?

“Ever notice that what the hell is always the right decision?”

~ Marilyn Monroe

How do you know you’ve made the right decision?

By Andrea Novakowski

Are you familiar with that good feeling you get when you know you’ve made the right choice?
When faced with difficult decisions, how do you find your way to that good feeling?
While you are in the process of making that decision, how can you tell if you’re on the right path to making a decision that you’ll be happy with?

I’ve found that there are some very clear indicators to whether my clients are making good, solid decisions, or if they are headed in the wrong direction.

One client of mine, Max, recently decided to close a line of his business he’d opened just a year before. It had started as a side company, one that seemed like a natural fit with his existing business. His one employee, also a co-owner of the new business, was responsible for running the business and Max’s job was to bring in sales.

Before long, Max realized his employee wasn’t producing the work they’d agreed upon. Even worse, the sputtering start-up was taking time away from his core business. By the time he came to me, Max was losing sleep.

I helped Max consider how much he was willing to give up in order to fix the problem in terms of time, money, emotional energy, and what was best for his primary business. Ultimately, he narrowed down his options to three: 1) Coach his employee to perform better; 2) Close the business down; 3) Sell his share to the employee. We worked through the pros and cons of each option, which were many.

This was a hard decision for Max and he clearly had a lot at stake. How was he going to know that the decision he made would be the right one?

We’ll revisit Max in just a minute and discuss the decision he made, but before we go there I would like to share one more example of making the right decision: One of my son’s friends is in medical school, training to become a surgeon. When it was time for her to choose her area of specialization, she struggled to make a decision. Each time she thought she’d landed on something, she would second-guess herself. She found herself leaving the door open, reluctant to make a firm commitment.

Then she started her rotation in ob-gyn. She immediately realized she’d found her focus. For her, there were some clear indicators that told her she was in the right place.

What were those indicators?

How could she – or my other client, Max – tell that the decision was right.

Over the last month, I’ve been asking clients and friends that exact question: “How do you know when you’ve made the right decision?” In every case, the answer has been “It starts with a feeling” – often in the heart or the gut.

Here’s how you can tell if you made the right decision:

  • You no longer wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it.
  • It just feels right.
  • You are energized (or re-energized) to start working on the project/task/activity.
  • You quit second-guessing yourself.
  • You have no regrets.
  • You stop looking back at the past and get excited about moving forward.

On the other side of the coin, here are some indications that you may not be quite there with your decision:

  • You’ve left yourself an escape route. You’re keeping your options open.
  • Your imagination keeps straying toward other scenarios – the dreaded “what-ifs.”
  • You constantly revisit the decision process in your mind, as if you might get a different result this time.
  • You continue to ask for others’ input and opinions, seeking reinforcement for your decision.

So let’s revisit my clients.

Max decided, after a great deal of thought, to go with option #3: Sell his share of the business to his co-owner/employee. Afterward, he confided to me that it felt as though a weight had been lifted off his shoulders – a clear indicator of a decision made well.

In the case of the surgeon: As she worked through her ob-gyn rotation while at the same time considering it as her specialization, she found herself letting go of the “what-ifs.” At the same time, she felt a flood of relief. She found herself looking forward to the possibilities, rather than backward at alternative scenarios.

Decisions aren’t always black-and-white, and it’s not uncommon to arrive at a decision that may be right for you and your business, but wrong for other reasons. Sure, it looks great on paper when you lay out the pros and cons, but even though the positives appear to outweigh the negatives, something isn’t quite right.

At those times, you need to tune into your heart and your gut and hear what they have to say. Use your instincts. Deep down, what do you really want to do? What feels right?

Coaching Call to Action

Consider the decisions you’ve made recently. How can YOU tell when you’ve made the right decision? Share your response in the comments section below.