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4 Rules for Designing the Next Chapter

Designing the next chapter of your life work and legacy can seem daunting: often because there are so many options. Choice is definitely an important contributor to our happiness and yet, having too many choices may lead to overwhelm. When we get overwhelmed with options, we often end up paralyzed and indecisive. Then, we become stuck unsure of how to move forward. Even worse we may ruminate about all the options we didn’t take.

There is another option – by learning and applying these 4 rules for decision making you will make decisions better – whether they are about designing your next chapter or something else much less critical.

1. Learn to Satisfice

Ten years ago, when we moved into our new house and started looking for furniture, over time, it became clear to me that my partner and I had different decision-making strategies. He wanted to buy the first couch he saw that he liked and I wanted to see all the available options to make sure there wasn’t something better out there. What that meant was that we hit every furniture store in Toronto and it took a lot of time and energy. I would often wonder about what we were missing that might be better and if we made the best choice. My partner was happy with the first one or two that we saw that he liked (and I often liked it too). It turned out that these two decision-making styles were coined satisficers (my partners) and maximizers (mine) by Dr. Barry Schwartz. His research shows that satisficers settle for really good and in the end, they are happier with their decisions. They experience less regret and stress. And they spend more time on things that are important to them. Maximizers on the other hand, take way more time to compare options both before and after purchase and have less confidence in their decision. They ruminate over their decision and often have lower optimism and less life satisfaction.

In designing your next chapter, start with a decision that is “good enough” knowing that it can always change and will in fact evolve over time. Moving forward is the best way to continue to refine your ideas.

2. Create rules of thumb

By establishing some parameters up front, we can help ourselves narrow down our choices and decide from a smaller number of alternatives. In the couch scenario this might mean limiting the search to a maximum of 4 stores and choosing the couch we like most from one of them. Or it might mean establishing a time frame for decision making. I am going to give myself 3 weeks to explore alternatives and then make a decision. In designing our next chapter, the rules of thumb may be around identifying what you value most in the next phase. For example: you must be in a certain geographical area, it must generate an income of $100,000 or more and it must have flexible hours.

3. Make a decision quickly

When we have lots of options, we may be tempted to take longer to make a decision. However, the more time you take to make a decision, the less likely you will make one. As a result, I recommend you make a decision quickly and then move forward recognizing that just like being on a road trip, that you can always take the next exit on the highway when you get more information to determine your direction.

4. Look for the positive

Once you have made a decision, look for all the positives about your decision. By consciously searching out the positive and making note of them, we are more apt to notice even more positive things. This appreciative mindset helps reinforce our decision and prevents us from falling into endlessly ruminating about the shortcomings of our decision.

The next time we go couch shopping, I will be integrating these 4 rules for decision making into our process and as a result, I expect we will both be happier with the results of our decision and also with the experience.

When designing your next chapter, or any other decision, think about these 4 rules can make your decision making easier and more enjoyable. If you would benefit from some assistance and support in managing all the decisions that come with designing your next chapter, reach out, I would be happy to help.

Laura Macdougall is a leading authority for senior women leaders in the non-profit and healthcare sectors who are designing their next chapters in life, work and legacy. Direct message her for more information on her coaching or speaking packages

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