3 key elements of decision making in uncertain times

Written by Joel Malm
Published on October 06, 2020

Should we send the kids back to school? If so, online or in person? 

How are we going to balance work and childcare this year? 

Should we stay at our job or jump at another opportunity?

It’s hard enough making these decisions in normal times. But there’s so much present uncertainty, it makes the process even more stressful and overwhelming. 

Even the most decisive of us are struggling with what to do in the many different uncertain areas of our lives. And the decisions we must make seem endless.

How fear disables us

Working as a counselor and leadership coach, I’ve found that whenever someone is struggling to make a decision (big or small), it’s almost always because there is fear involved. 

Fear of making the wrong choice.
Fear of missing out on other opportunities.
Fear of not having what it takes.
Fear of over-committing.
Fear of getting it wrong and paying a heavy price for a decision.

In my book, Love Slows Down, I talk about how fear and anxiety affect our body chemistry and make it difficult to think clearly and rationally. Fear is everywhere. It’s no surprise so many of us feel paralyzed about what steps to take next. 

With that in mind, here are three key elements of the decision making process to aid you in this time of great uncertainty and fear.

3 key elements of decision making

1. Ask trusted advisors 

Call a parent or trusted friend—an advisor. 

In Proverbs 15, we are told: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (v. 22). Make certain the person in whom you confide is someone who has true concern for you, someone you can trust. 

Find a person who is living a life you admire. Their decisions led them where they are, so seek out their line of thinking. 

Ask what they think you should do. Ask what they would do in your situation. You may not like what they say, but you know you’ve got a real friend on your hands when they are willing to tell you something you don’t want to hear. 

Listen to their opinion and take it into consideration: “Wounds from a friend can be trusted” (Proverbs 27:6).  

2. Pray

Pray about what you should do.

If you will simply ask, God wants to give you insight on every decision you make. The Bible tells us: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6). 

Prayer provides both insight and peace. God wants to give you peace. He has the answer and wisdom you need—so ask him. In James 1:5, we find: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” 

After you pray, stop thinking about the topic for at least one day. Trust that you will receive wisdom and insight. When you’re tempted to keep rolling it over in your head, stop! Say a prayer, then stop thinking about it. 

Once you receive peace about the direction you should take, start moving that way. The fear won’t go away completely, but as you move toward a decision, your peace will often strengthen. 

3. Just Decide (You can pivot later)

There comes a point when not making a decision is making a decision. 

You can choose to live with the agony of indecision until a decision is forced upon you, or you can just decide and relieve the stress. 

Once you have researched and prayed, I’m convinced God will make it clear if you are about to make a wrong decision (Isaiah 30:21). 

God wants to guide you—and he will. Make the best decision you can, then stick with it. Typically, the act of making a decision eliminates our anxiety. 

And relax, most decisions aren’t final. You can pivot if you receive new information. Make the decision, put a stop to the anxiety, and continue on from a place of peace.

Believe you can

Now get out there and make some decisions, you courageous person! 

You’ve got this.  

Live perfectly imperfect

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Joel Malm

Joël Malm holds an M.S. in Counseling. His book Love Slows Down: How to Keep Anger and Anxiety from Ruining Life’s Relationships will be available from Salem Books on September 1. He and his wife Emily and daughter Elise currently live in Texas.

Read more about Joel

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