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How to Make a Calm Decision

There’s both art and science to getting it right, whether you’re deciding on a career change or putting a problematical employee on probation


by Kara Baskin

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Yes, we all know that anxiety has all sorts of negative ramifications. The latest research indicates that it leads to poor decision-making—something that can be highly detrimental on the job. Carla Goldstein, chief external affairs officer at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, explains how to approach even the toughest decisions with calm.

1. Be mindfully fit. “We think so much about physical fitness. Mental fitness is important too, as opposed to waiting to react when a crisis happens,” Goldstein says, noting that major companies like Apple and Google offer mindfulness training, such as meditation. Mindfulness helps us to center ourselves, so when it’s time to make a big decision we’re not swayed by emotion or fear. “If we’re not mindful, we make choices that are personal instead of tied to institutional imperatives; we tend our own ego needs,” she warns. 

See also: Simplify Your Life, Calm Your Mind

2. Take time. Not all of us are master meditators. That’s OK. If you need to make a major decision, create time and space for yourself to think about it. “The goal is to be proactive, not reactive,” Goldstein says. Sometimes it’s just pausing a moment before replying to a provocative comment; other times, it’s taking a 15-minute walk before delivering a controversial directive at a meeting. Again, the goal is to disentangle the issue at hand from your own emotions.

3. Don’t automatically write off the jitters. “You have to be able to sort out your relationship to anxiety,” she says. “Sometimes anxiety really is intelligence. It can warn us when we’re about to make a bad decision. But sometimes we’re having an emotional response to something we’d rather not do.” The more mindful you are, the less likely it is that your anxiety is driven by pure emotion.

4. Get informed. If you need to speak to an employee about poor performance, don’t be afraid to ask questions that unpack your assumptions. Maybe the employee is having family or health issues. Inquire about your adversary’s well-being before forcing yourself into a tough choice. “Many difficult decisions can be avoided through direct and ongoing communication,” she says. 

See also: Calm Your Mind in 20 Minutes Flat 

5. Talk to confidantes. “Weigh and test your options with people wiser than you,” she suggests. Maybe you’re making the choice harder than it has to be.

6. Be direct and compassionate. If you do need to communicate a difficult decision, be direct. At the same time, she says, be vulnerable enough to change your mind if your opinion is altered during the course of the conversation. “Many people don’t want to lose face,” she says. “You have to be willing to change your decision if something comes to light that gives you a new understanding of the problem,” she says.

Photo Credit: Thomas Barwick/Getty