Life Hacks

How to Not Make a Stupid Decision

Tim Denning Decisions

Photo by Nguyen Linh on Unsplash

Decisions change your life.

***Plays Billie Eilish’s “Duh!” line on repeat from her song Bad Guy***

A decision is where everything starts from. A decision means to cut off from all options and decide on one path. Decisions are firepower.

The challenge is that making decisions is hard. There are many things that rob us of clarity and try to make us choose a terrible option.

If you can get better at making decisions, I can promise you that you’ll discover a level of power you didn’t know you had. You’ll become unstoppable.

I have had to get pretty good at making decisions in my life. I decided to leave behind a business I loved that took seven years to create. I decided to walk away from three romantic relationships. I decided to leave several jobs. I decided to get help for mental illness. I decided to change my life when everything looked dark.

What did I learn? It’s easy to make a stupid decision.

This reminder came after a young woman sent me a message asking for advice on making a career-defining decision. Through her story, I quickly saw the traps that led me to make several stupid decisions. She wasn’t stupid; she was blinded by fear, other people and the need to people-please.

You can easily avoid making a stupid decision.


Detach from the consequences and choose the option you want.

This has been the most helpful strategy in my life. Trying to predict the consequences is stupid. You’re not a fortuneteller who has mystical powers.

The solution is simple: choose the option you want.

If there were no consequences then what decision would you make? Make that decision. You’ll be happier when you choose the decision you want.

Let go of your reputation

This young lady told me that her reputation would be ruined if she didn’t make the right decision. Here’s the thing: 50% of people are going to hate you when you walk into a room, for no reason at all.

As hard as you try to craft a perfect reputation, people are going to find new and inventive ways to fault you. Reputations have become precious. Personal branding gods have preached far too often that your reputation is everything. I disagree. Your reputation is ridiculous. It’s a figment of your imagination.

Make decisions based on what you want. That’s it.

Your reputation is up for debate behind closed doors and who has time to worry about that. People I’ve worked with over the years have called me an ass many times. They’ve called me lazy. They’ve called me rude.

Guess what? I don’t care. Yes I write on social media and do the best I can while making plenty of errors in judgment. Yes I work four days at a 9–5 so I can write and reach millions of people. Yes I will say no to requests that don’t make me say hell yes or come at a time when I’m experiencing overwhelm.

All these knives in the back of my reputation could be perceived as true or lies. I don’t have time to sit and debate reputations. Critiquing people is a petty sport I don’t have time to play. I’m am wrong a lot and so are you.

What is missed is this: How you treat people is what shapes your reputation, not the decisions you make.

You can make a decision and be a legend about it. You can show people incredible love while also telling them “sorry Fred but I can’t accept your job offer as I have another one that aligns closer to what I want. It has been so fun to meet you. Would you be down for staying in touch and sharing our favorite books once in a while?”

Tell me you’re going to hate a legend that makes a decision like that. You’re not. Get over your reputation.

Other people’s wants

The young lady told me that a recruiter was aggressively telling her his wants. She tried to please the recruiter rather than make the best decision for her.

Other people want you to do lots of stuff. They have fantasies and dreams for your life that will make them rich and happy. Don’t do it. Fulfill your wants, not theirs.

You’ve earned this life. You beat a lot of sperm in a race to become human and step on life’s stage. Sperm trophy winners don’t give in easily.

Let them be disappointed

There is a good chance there are going to be winners and losers based on your decision. Let the losing side be disappointed. Remember the losing side has been in your situation before. They have had to make a decision and disappoint people too. So, secretly, they feel your pain and they get it.

Let them be disappointed with your decision. It’s not your problem. You’re making the decision that is best for you and your life. That’s the hero idea of this story.

Don’t choose based on uncertainty

She told me she was feeling uncertain and that’s why she made the decision to make the move.

If you feel uncertain it’s okay to sit this decision out. The recession might be bad but that doesn’t mean you have to make a proactive decision because of it. You can stay where you are for now and sit silently. You can wait for the storm to pass and watch Netflix with a warm blanket.

If you feel overwhelmed, perhaps, sit this one out. Wait until you feel more certain. The answers will come to you when you’re ready.

You owe people nothing

“One life,” remember?

You can’t do this human on earth driving a Tesla thing again. Don’t forget that. You owe people nothing other than to pick the best option for you.

You won’t get to your deathbed and go “I’m glad I made that decision and kept Jan happy so that I never got to see my kids again.”

You owe it to yourself to make the best decision for you while you have air in your lungs and family to look at and be grateful for.

Don’t let money be a driving factor

Part of her decision was driven by money. The thing is you can always make more money. I can give you an extra $1000 right now. It won’t stop you from feeling like crap when you make a decision you know will ruin your life.

You can have the best sports car or the most luxurious house and still feel like you made a bad decision. There are trillions of dollars floating around the planet that you can suck up with your mind’s vacuum cleaner full of ideas.

Money is the worst way to make a decision. Money lies to you and makes you think you’ll be better off. But if the option you choose forces you to give up a crapload of your free time or your family or your happiness or your enjoyment of life, is it really worth it? Not on your life.

Your bank balance won’t be read out at your funeral.

Forget about what is “good for your family”

She gave me another reason for making what she knew was the wrong decision deep down. She said it will be “good for my family.”

What is good for your family is making choices you can be proud of.

The children or your partner won’t think your decision is good if it means you never do work you love ever again. The best decision for your family is the best decision for you.

Consider the uncomfortable option

The desire to be comfortable is often why we make crazy, stupid choices. Just because a decision is going to be hard, hurt, make you feel like vomiting, and keeps you awake at night, doesn’t mean it’s the wrong one. In my experience these feelings are typically followed by a decision that changes my life.

When I had to face my fear and fly on a plane by myself while hoping not to have to ask the pilot to leave the plane mid-air with a parachute, it was uncomfortable. The fear was crippling. Then I got off the plane when it was all over and felt incredible. In fact, I have never stopped getting on and off planes ever since. I now love the uncomfortable habit of flying on airplanes and landing in foreign airports. Who would have known.

Comfort can lead you to decisions that leave you feeling empty. If you always make the same decision, you’ll keep getting the same results.

Maybe comfort is lying to you in your dreams and robbing you of joy.

Sleep on it

I find that sleeping on a huge decision reconfirms it.

If I wake up feeling like the decision I made yesterday is the right one, I make it. Sleep puts your fears and concerns to rest, temporarily.

Your decision simmers around in your brain while you sleep and explores your experiences to see what is right for you. Your brain, when you sleep, is working after hours in your favor to help confirm or deny your decision. Let your brain do its work while you sleep.

Wake up. Brush your teeth. Revisit the decision. And see how you feel.

Guilt is a terrible way to decide

Don’t make a decision because you feel bad for someone. They will find a way to feel bad regardless. It’s worse if you end up feeling bad for the rest of your life.

Decisions are not permanent

Making a decision does cut off the options.

What is often forgotten is that you can almost always revisit those options again later. So make the difficult decision. See what happens. If you’re wrong about your decision, then revisit the options.

You chose the wrong job. Can you not go back out there to the lunch buffet of careers available and take another one off the menu? Of course you can.


Final Thought — 

Get Good at Making Decisions

You’ll be making decisions for the rest of your life. Becoming an expert at making decisions will cause your life to be easier.

Become a master at saying no. Learn to disappoint people. Get good at getting what you want. Be a legend of a person in the process. Get over your reputation and trying to people-please yourself to an early grave of broken dreams.

You get good at making decisions when you know what you want. Think about what you want. Remind yourself daily. Write down what you want. Tell people what you want. And then work your butt off to get what you want.

Eventually, if you focus on what you want and make it the center of your attention, you will get it.

Along the way you might just discover that what you want isn’t what you wanted after all. That’s a beautiful scenario — lean into that experience.

Tim Denning
Tim is a thought leader in the personal development, entrepreneur and startup fields.Outside of blogging, Tim works for a large organisation helping fast moving technology companies come to Australia as well as helping Australian tech companies go to the world.

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