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What do you do when you’ve got that really big decision to make?

Do you take time out and perhaps sleep on it?                                                                              

Do you ask a friend, your partner or a colleague for their advice?

You may well have done all of the above. But what about when you don’t have the luxury of time, or others to ask? There are many instances where we have to make a significant decision – now.

We make around 30,000 decisions a day. OK they may not be all big or that important (and if the concern is whether to go for a regular or a large Latte, it’s not that big a decision).

In our daily work we make lots of decisions, fast.

“Do you want it or not?”

“I need your decision now! I haven’t got all day you know.”

“Are you in or out? There are plenty of others who will take up the offer if you don’t.”

When we feel rushed into something where we haven’t had time to consider all our options, we can feel a bit cheated. No one likes feeling that amount of pressure because it undermines our confidence that the decision was right. It’s like dealing with the over pushy car salesperson keen to make his commission who is less concerned about whether you’re happy with your new car purchase or not.

But weighing things up carefully, considering all the pros and cons, can all feel a bit hard and confusing. No wonder we feel exhausted from our mind going round and round in circles.

One way to overcome this impasse is to step away and stop thinking about it.


Though it sounds counterintuitive, stepping away from a problem we’ve become bogged down in provides our brain the breathing space it needs to work out the best solution.

Better still, you don’t have to leave the problem for too long – around two minutes should do.

When we are too focused on a making a choice, (and especially if it has a significant emotional component) we’re missing out on alternative route to bring us to our destination of choice.

Using insight is a valuable tool we can use to help us make the right decision, more of the time. We gain our insights from accessing our mighty subconscious.

The modern workplace demands high performance thinking.

One strategy we can learn is to how to develop more insightful thinking and how to quickly flip between analysis and insight.

So next time you’re stuck on a difficult decision there are 3 things you can do:

1.    Take a rain check and sleep on it. Your mind will work so much better when you are cognitively refreshed.
2.    Ask others for their advice and gather as much information as you can to come up with a decision based on logic and analysis.
3.    Step away and divert your thinking to something else and allow your brain to come up with an insight.

So, was it a regular or large Latte this time?

How do you make those really big and important decisions in your life?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/23379857@N00/3698516141/”>tomswift46 ( Hi Res Images for Sale)</a> via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, podcaster, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.


  • Christine Johnson says:

    Regarding your article on making difficult decisions – hubby and I find that to remove ourself from the home, either on a weekend break or even just our outdoor spa, we can communicate so much better and usually come up with an answer that is a win-win or the one that eluded us in the past. Some really big decisions have come about this way and not regretted later.Thanks for all your thought provoking articles.

    Kind regardsChristine Johnson

  • Keith S says:

    Thanks for the interesting article, Jenny.

    I have found that the more important the decision, the stronger the emotions that go with it. And that makes it harder to decide. So, in order to minimise wrong decisions at work, I’ve trained myself to step away from the computer and take a short walk. To the water cooler or to the bathroom. And as I leave my desk I silently tell myself that the issue will be resolved shortly. And then I forget it for a couple of minutes. Time after time I’ve found the solution pops into mind as I sit down to the PC again.

    The really big issues are’nt so quick to solve. For these I’ve found – being a visual thinker- that the best way to reach a decision is to draw a mind map detailing all the options, pros and cons. It seems to work better if I draw by hand, not on the computer. I am a designer, and I spend all day at the PC, so I’m not sure why that is. I suspect the brain processes thoughts differently when the whole arm is involved in sketching, rather than just a hand as is the case when you type. Is that perhaps the case?

    Looking forward to your next article!

    Keith S

  • Dr Jenny Brockis says:

    Hi Keith,

    Thanks so much for your comments.

    Interesting! So you are intuitively already stepping away when you have identified a decision that has to be gotten right. Distracting yourself from the problem, especially when there is significant emotional component allows your limbic system to settle down. As emotions settle, thoughts automatically become clearer, plus you’ve given your mind the space to use your subconscious to check out all those quiet thoughts that otherwise get drowned out by our noisy focus thoughts.

    And yes , you are entirely right The brain does process information differently when we hold a pen compared to using a keypad. For the moment, the pen is mightier than the laptop – though as our brains get rewired, that may not hold true for future generations.

  • Dr Jenny Brockis says:

    Hello Christine,

    Thanks so much for your comment.What a wonderful solution – changing your environment to find the solutions to those important decisions – I think I might try that one next time ourselves 🙂

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