We live in a time where the number of options available to us is so numerous that the sheer magnitude of options can leave us feeling lost while trying to make sense of what a best course of action should look like.
You will have experienced this with your children or even yourself where you are standing in front of a display shelf filled with so many options that any choice will leave you wondering if there wasn’t a better choice than you could have made and this may lead to an acute case of ‘Fear of missing out’, also known as FOMO.
Today’s young people are faced with even more choices than we could ever have anticipated. Carefully marketed products vie for their attention and the incredible growth in new occupations can leave them absolutely dumbfounded in the face of having to choose a product or a career, not knowing what the other options may have held. This can lead to ‘Analysis Paralysis’ where the person faced with the information overload feels totally cornered and unable to make a decision out of the fear of making the wrong decision or missing out.
In extreme cases, people may feel anxiety at the prospect of making a decision that could emotionally overwhelm them. It is because the overwhelming amount of information is too much for the brain to process and it is like a landscape full of invisible holes that strike fear into the heart of the one who must choose. This fear can be alleviated if it is placed on paper with a logical decision-making process that can define the boundaries and a course of action.
One of the first techniques to clarify a decision is to make a Decision Balance Sheet to list the pros and cons of each option. This could clarify some decisions as the cost may outweigh the gain or vice versa.
The psychologist Leon Mann pioneered a decision-making process for adolescents called GOFER. Each letter represents a step in the decision-making process.
Goals: What do I want to achieve in my life and does this option fit with it?
Options: What are the options available to me or things I can do?
Facts: What is the reality of my situation or what do I need to find out or learn?
Effects: What may happen if I make this choice? Positives and Negatives.
Review: Look through the steps again and then choose a course of action.
Another one is the DECIDE model by Kristina Guo which may bring even more clarity.
Define the problem.
Establish what the barriers may be.
Consider the alternatives.
Identify the best alternative.
Develop a plan of action.
Execute and evaluate the plan.
These tools developed by researchers could be used as a scaffold to teach young people how to make decisions in a calm and less emotional way.
If you have young children you can teach them how to make quick selections of unimportant objects like cookies and the act of making a quick choice becomes like a well-exercised muscle. Every time you make a decision the process becomes easier.
My father-in-law always said, “How can you make good decisions for your life if you can’t even make a choice about what you want to eat in a restaurant?”. He taught his children to make the best choice at their disposal and then to stop fretting about the options they did not choose so that they could focus on the new options that their choice has created. This has made them very effective decision-makers.
If you are a Christian family, you would also take great pains to teach your children to pray about every decision and to ask God to grant them the wisdom to make quick, effective decisions that will be of benefit to everyone involved.
The most important question is probably whether the choice I am about to make it fair to everyone involved.
I wish you the best of luck as you seek to guide your children in making life-giving decisions that lead to lives full of meaning and purpose.
Bert Kasselman, Head of Senior School