A 3-Step Method for Making Quicker and Better Decisions

“One wrong person in your circle can destroy your whole future. It’s that important.” — Terry Crews

Terry Crews is an actor, comedian, activist, artist, and former American football player. As a self-confessed “book nut” — mostly in the area of self-help — he’s also one of the most insightful people I’ve ever listened to. In his podcast appearance on the Tim Ferriss show, Terry spoke openly about big decisions he’s made in terms of cutting important people out of his life.

Terry believes that every relationship in life should be voluntary, and when people decide to move on — never to return — that’s OK.

“My wife can leave at any time. Family members can call me or not. Business partners can decide to move on, and it’s all okay. But the same is true on my end. If I say I’m ready to move on and someone doesn’t accept that, now we have a problem.”

When asked by Tim Ferriss about what he has become better at saying ‘no’ to, Terry reflected on a difficult decision he had to make with a very close friend.

His friend was behaving in ways that were not aligned with his values. Let’s just say he was being overly promiscuous. He was warned about his actions but didn’t listen, and when Terry tried to move on, his friend sent him a letter threatening a million dollar lawsuit over the demise of their “friendship.”

“It was ridiculous and it still is, so I actually framed the letter as a reminder of the necessity of letting people go and moving on.”

A 3-Step Method for Making Better Decisions

If you want to make quicker and better decisions in your life, especially when it comes to relationships, you have to learn how to say ‘no.’

Unfortunately, this isn’t straightforward. Yes/no answers depend on many things, such as context, how busy you are, who’s asking, potential gains or losses, or even what mood you’re in.

To cut through this complexity, and combat the clutter in my own life, I developed a 3-step method for making better yes/no decisions.

1. “If it’s not a hell yeah, it’s a no.” — Derek Sivers

As soon as I heard this phrase, it became one of my life mantras. It’s the first step of my decision-making framework. It certainly can’t be used for every decision, but it provides a very useful platform when you need to make a quick one.

Generally speaking, if I’m faced with a decision and my gut is screaming ‘hell yeah,’ I do it. If it’s not, I don’t.

If in doubt, you can rate your decision on a scale of one to 10. If it’s an eight and upwards, it’s a ‘yes.’ If it’s a six or below, it’s a ‘no.’

So what about seven? In Tim Ferriss’s book Tribe of Mentors, Kyle Maynard suggests that a seven is either a sense of obligation, a fear of missing out (FOMO), or just plain fear. These experiences never reflect your true values or goals, so a seven is also a ‘no.’

2. Will ‘this’ make the boat go faster?

I came across this mantra last year. It was first used by the Great Britain rowing team for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. In the run-up to the games, when faced with a decision, they asked themselves: “Will ‘this’ make our boat go faster?”

The answer to this question determined their decision. For example, if they were asked to go out for drinks, they would use this mantra to guide their decision. In this case, it’s unlikely that a few drinks would have made their boat go faster — so they would have said ‘no.’

I’ve since extended this decision-making tool and developed a metaphorical boat of my own. It’s based on my goals, values, and life purpose.

Two of my current goals include my Ph.D. research and a book I’m writing. So when I’m faced with a decision, I simply ask myself: “Will this make my (goals) boat go faster?” If it doesn’t, I say ‘no.’

My purpose in life is to show people that change is possible. I practice this by writing and speaking about my recovery from chronic heroin addiction.

So again, when faced with a decision, I ask myself: “Will this make my (purpose) boat go faster?” If I was asked to do a school talk, for example, I would say ‘yes,’ because that’s part of my newfound purpose.

Life is grey, though, and it’s not all about ‘my’ purpose and ‘my’ goals. So when faced with a decision, and my gut is telling me one thing and my head another, I’ll check whether my answer is aligned with my values. If it is, I say ‘yes.’ If it isn’t, I say ‘no.’

3. Journal on it

The first two steps are great for making quick decisions. But sometimes life is more complex than a ‘hell yeah’ and a ‘metaphorical boat.’

So, when I need to make a big decision, and the answer isn’t clear, I pick up a pen and paper and journal on it. It doesn’t have to be rocket science — a simple brain dump works great. But if you want to get to the heart of something, the act of putting it on a page is critical.

Zat Rana captures this best: “In most of our daily activities, we’re constantly being bothered by one form of mental stimuli or another, and while it may feel like we have spent enough time thinking about something… we’re not really taking a deep dive.”

Journaling, on the other hand, forces you to go deep. Few people understand the meaning of their emotions. However, putting your experiences on a page bridges the gap between your feelings and the triggers behind them, pushing you to look at circumstances from a different perspective.

For example, at first glance, you might think you like helping others because of your inherent kindness. But if you dig a little deeper, you might find that your actions are rooted in a fear of rejection.

Journalling will push you to question your initial beliefs about such experiences, and that will lead to a greater understanding of what’s driving your behaviour.

Takeaway Message

The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your decisions. So the next time you’re faced with a tough one, remember the 3-step method above.

If it isn’t a ‘hell yeah’, say ‘no.’

If you need more clarity, ask yourself, “Does this make the boat go faster?”

If you’re still unclear, put it on a page. You might be surprised by what jumps out.

What would you do if you had a second chance at life?

As a chronic heroin addict turned doctor, I designed a program to help people to transform their lives. For FREE access to one of the most powerful tools from this programme – which includes an online course on morning routines – CLICK HERE.



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