My Recipe for Making Decisions

By: Amanda

During our young adult lives, there are many decisions to be made. It starts with selecting a college, then major, possibly an internship, job/grad school for after graduation, and whether or not to relocate. The list goes on and on, but you get the gist. Yes, this is a sea of opportunity, but it can also be overwhelming. 

Throughout my lifetime I have been notorious for being indecisive. Even a simple decision, such as what to have for dinner is something I toggle with. The larger decisions have historically been even more difficult for me. I believe I dragged my mom with me to 12 different colleges before finally flipping a coin and choosing UMD (yes, it was the best decision ever!). During my time, I have narrowed down a recipe as to how I make decisions. No, it’s not perfect, but here is what I have learned.

Image: Top of multicolored brick building with clouds in the sky
Text: Recipe for making decisions from an indecisive college student

STEP 1: ASSESS WHERE YOU ARE AT
This is the starting point of the process when it is realized that a decision needs to be made. First, start out by taking inventory of the current situation. Where are you at in life and where do you hope to go? Make a pros and cons list. Draft out ideas. Let the creativity and brainstorming flow!

STEP 2: SEEK HELP FROM FRIENDS AND FAMILY
Talk to a few trusted individuals who know you and the situation well. Explain the situation and listen to their advice. They may have an outside perspective. Oftentimes, close friends and family may be able to point out something you may not be able to see. Additionally, they may prompt you with questions that will help to open up to other ideas.

STEP 3: SEEK NEUTRAL HELP
Depending on the nature of your situation, it may also be appropriate to schedule an appointment with us, at UMD Career & Internship Services. I have done this countless times when navigating planning my career path. I am sure I will do it countless more times as I approach graduation and the numerous decisions that come with this stage of life. 

UMD also has free counseling sessions (for students) through Health Services. They often will work with students on decision-making issues. Check it out if you feel it is appropriate for you. 

Image: nature trail in woods with letterboard on ground.
Text on letterboard: The path to your goals might have some curves.

STEP 4: TRUST YOURSELF
This being said, it is important to trust your gut. At the end of the day, it is your life and your decision to make! Know that the weight of whatever decision is being faced, big or small, is something that can be handled. Take other input like a grain of salt. Take advice and tips that fit YOU, disregard the rest. 

STEP 5: USE RESOURCES
Once I diagnosed this reoccurring struggle in my life, I looked into some resources. Books, podcasts, YouTube videos – you name it, I probably have checked it out. Here are a few of my favorite resources:

At the end of the day – it is crucial to own what is decided. The best advice I have ever gotten is simply to “just make a decision, don’t turn back, and make the most of it along the way”. I think you will find that it is not about the decision made, instead, it is about making the most of whatever you decide to do and not looking back. 

Of Possible Interest:
The Grass Isn’t Always Greener, But You Should Check Anyway
Don’t Overthink It preview on the What Should I Read Next? podcast
Productivity & Wellness – all our blog posts on the topic

Read Amanda’s other posts

Decisions are Hard (How to be Deliberative)

By: Katie

Trying to choose a package of shredded cheese from a wall of choices stresses me out. When ordering food or drinks, I frequently just echo one of my friends’ orders. I over-analyze and consider each possible answer on Buzzfeed quizzes. It takes me a long time to make any decision, regardless of how simple or complex it is.

Basically, I’m deliberative. Sometimes to a fault, as in the times just listed. Other times, it’s definitely to my advantage.

Deliberative is one of 34 possible strengths you can get on the StrengthsQuest assessment, and it happens to be in my top 5. Those who have the Deliberative strength are careful, cautious, and anticipate the potential risks and obstacles associated with each decision. While they don’t always act quickly and aren’t the first ones to pipe in with their thoughts, those actions and thoughts are typically logical, reasonable, and beneficial to those affected.

Decisions are Hard

It’s a little tricky to be a deliberative person, and it’s easy to let this strength take over. Here are a few things I’ve learned about controlling the deliberative nature and getting the most out of it.

Don’t assign too much weight to the small things.

Deliberative people have the tendency to look at all problems similarly, seeing an array of solutions to be considered to reach the end goal of making a solid decision. This is a great strength to have when it comes to the bigger decisions, but for the smaller ones, this in-depth consideration isn’t necessary. It will take practice, but try to fight the urge to treat every decision as significant. For me, this means consciously reminding myself that it doesn’t actually matter if I choose a fox or an owl as my favorite animal or if I order pancakes or waffles. If you won’t remember that decision a year or even a week or month from now, it’s probably not that important.

Make lists. Make all the lists.

When making decisions, lists are the loyal, trustworthy, comforting best friends to keep by your side at all times. Need to figure out where you want to go to grad school? Make a list of where in the country you want to go, followed by the list of schools in those places, followed by the things you’re looking for in a program. Don’t know what you want to major in, but know what you’re kinda sorta interested in? Make a list of your interests and the classes you can take in those areas to help you rule out the ones that aren’t for you. Keep lists of what things you do and don’t like about the classes you take, the jobs you have, or the things you’re involved in to make sense of your experiences.  Making lists is one of the most reliable ways to soothe the deliberative soul.

Seek out all of the advice you can.

Find advisors you trust who can help you see all your options, narrow them down, and choose the one that is best for you. These people need to be patient with you and genuinely interested in you as a student and person. Whether it be an academic advisor, an instructor, a career counselor, or some other person, having someone who can help you deliberate will be invaluable in your decision-making processes. Finding people who can walk through your options with you or who have knowledge or experience in areas you know less about can provide you with the information you need to make a decision you’re comfortable with.

Find environments that allow for deliberative thinking.

Seek out places and people that allow you to think independently and make decisions on your own, but also provide you with opportunities to ask questions and learn from others. Avoid environments that require you to constantly make quick decisions or don’t allow for deeper thought. Choose to spend time with people who will be patient with you as you struggle to choose between pasta or soup, and be just as patient with yourself. Also, if tomato basil soup is an option, I don’t even know why you’re considering any other choice.

Of Possible Interest: 

Read Katie’s other posts

Photo source: Unsplash|LuisLlerena

Decision-Making, When It Doesn’t Go Well

By: David

There will always be moments in life, whether big or small, where you will have to make a decision, and every decision results in either rewards and benefits or risks and consequences.

The time limit to contemplate about these decisions ranges from weeks to a split second. When the moment of execution is present, be prepared to take action on your decisions. Despite the outcomes, it’s important to take responsibility for the successes or failures of your decisions. Now I don’t want this blog post to be a traditional life lecture about responsibility and decision making, but I’ll talk a little bit about the two since it’s been on my mind recently.

What did you do right?  

To start off in a positive light, your decisions will always have the potential to turn out successful. In this case, you were able to plan and execute everything right or you were able to take action and luck swooped in to save the day. Either way, you’re able to celebrate with cheer and joy because everything turned out A-okay! When my decisions result in success, I always take the time to reflect about all the positive things that went right and served as a stepping stone for the end result. In addition, I zoom in on the process and the small things that guided me to success. As an executive board for APAA (Asian/Pacific American Student Association), I always ask my members for feedback when an event results in huge success. I like to go into detail and know what works so that I can do something similar or throw a variation to it to make things more interesting for future events. To conclude, don’t just celebrate your successes when you make a right decision, but also reflect on it so that the positivity can stay with you for future decisions.

Where did you go wrong?

There are times where you make impulsive or thoughtful decisions that bring more consequences than benefits. Earlier, I had mention that the concept of decision-making has been on my mind recently. To keep a long story short, I made an impulsive decision to overrule a team-building activity with sports that resulted in upsetting a large number of people. After much reflection, I was really shooting myself in the foot for making such an impulsive decision. Though I felt terrible about it, I was able to use it as a learning experience. Here’s the process that I went through for me to see it as learning experience:

  1. What is done cannot be undone –  yes, I might’ve made a decision that wasn’t the best for everyone, but it’s not like I had a time machine to go back to the exact moment to change my decision. All I could do was suck it up and accept the responsibilities. When realizing this, I finally came to peace with the past and forgave myself and moved forward.
  1. “Look on the bright side” – during my minor period of guilt, the only thing I focused on was how upset people were, but the thing that never came to mind was how much fun people actually had. I was so focused on the negativity that the positivity never came to mind.
  1. Moving forward – once I was in the right mind, I finally made the decision to see the experience as a learning one and moved forward. There wasn’t much I could do to make things better and there were minor positive impacts that came along with it, so the best thing I could do was to continue forward.

In a nutshell, the decisions you make will not always go the way you want it to, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t use it as a learning experience. When thinking about the things that went wrong, it’s important you reflect well enough, but ultimately in the end it’s important to come at peace with the past, see the positive impacts, and move forward.

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