10 February 2021

The 10 Minute Decision to make the best decisions at work


Lawyers are hedging their bets and advising their clients to weigh what is being offered against the possibility of a WHOLE CLOTH finding that they were wrong

Lawyers almost always come to me in the throes of a decision that they’re trying to make. 

They’re super smart, so they’ve got all kinds of fancy reasons for debating, and thinking it over, all circling around making SURE they get to the right answer.

This is partially because the justice system is set up to pit right against wrong, and the outcome of a case means the winner was “right” and the loser was “wrong.” This is why so many cases settle, plea out, what have you… 

Lawyers also HAVE to get it right because they play out worst case scenarios in deciding, and believe that the wrong choice COULD have dire consequences. IF ONLY they could see into the future to know which outcome will end up being the right one… sigh.

Our instinct, here, is to POSTPONE the decision as long as possible. Think about it as much as we can, wring our hands a lot, seek counsel in others’ opinions, and make a bunch of pro/con lists

Then, when the decision turns out well, we perpetuate the idea that thinking for the LONGEST possible amount of time was the best thing for us.  

NO wonder we have such a hard time turning our brains off.  We think keeping them on all the time WORKS so well!

Here’s the thing: MOST of the time, the decision that we end up making is the one we were FIRST inclined to make. Whether that decision was to do what we want OR to do what feels most safe - what we end up doing is usually the thing we first thought we’d do.  

After, approximately, the first 10 minutes of “thinking it over.”

Whatever length of time is spent thinking after that… by and large… is totally superfluous.  It’s time we spend talking ourselves into going after our deepest desires OR talking ourselves out of it, from fear.

Want my 10-minute decision making process? Here it is:

(1) What do you want? Many of us don’t start here. We start with all the reasons we “shouldn’t” or “can’t.” Looking at what we WANT, and answering this question honestly, helps us see our own shame and guilt around just saying YES to ourselves.

(2) Why AREN’T you just choosing that? This is so important to look at.  When you know what you want, and you’re saying no… why? WHO are you saying no for? When you think it’s for someone else, know that it’s ALWAYS for you and how YOU want to think someone else feels because of your decision.  

(3) Look at all the reasons you listed in #2. Do you LOVE those reasons for doing/not doing something? Keeping others happy OVER ourselves, trying to control/barter for others to DO things in exchange for what we do, etc., are illusory rewards. That’s ALWAYS true.

(4) What do you, 5 years from now, say about this decision? This helps you see the decision from the rear-view mirror. Often, we think that our decisions are MUCH bigger than they really are because we are IN the eye of the brain storm. When we zoom out to later in life, we can see how minor MOST of them actually are. I love also asking: when I have exactly what I want, how will I think about THIS decision? What you learn from answering this question can be LIFE changing.

Decisions are how we live – they MAKE our lives.  I don’t mean to suggest that they’re unimportant, I just ask you to consider this:

The time we take deciding is time we spend NOT living and learning. We are living on pause as we decide.  

With a decision made, we gather useful data and grow TOWARD what we want.  

LISTEN: you WILL make mistakes. You will decide the “wrong” thing. You will have to re-evaluate and try again. But that’s LIFE, and trying to game out every decision to ensure against that possibility just keeps us stuck… 

And I want YOU, counselor, to live a glorious, unstuck, decision filled LIFE.  

Rachel Coll is a certified life coach and lawyer, licensed to practice in MD and DC. She coaches lawyers and other ambitious professionals on their lives and relationships. Rachel is a bi-weekly columnist with Impact Lawyers and is here to answer your questions. To have your question answered or problem addressed, please email RachelElizabethColl@gmail.com.

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