Have you ever been in a situation where you had to make a choice, and it felt like you were lost in a maze of uncertainty? You’re not alone; we all face decisions every day, from simple ones like what to eat for lunch to more significant ones like career or financial choices.
Some decisions are easy, like obeying traffic lights, while others can be so overwhelming that they leave us feeling stuck.
Why is it that we can confidently follow traffic rules but struggle with something as simple as picking a meal? The reason is that decision-making can be complicated, and we often find ourselves caught in a web of doubt and hesitation. Unfortunately, the fear of making the wrong decision can lead to confusion, and sometimes, we end up not making any decision at all.
Have you ever been so afraid of making a wrong choice that you ended up not making any decision? Many of us have experienced this, spending too much time worrying about what to do and ending up feeling confused and fearful.
Now, think about how this fear of decision-making might be affecting various aspects of your life. For example, it might lead to clutter in your home because you’re afraid to throw things away, thinking you might need them later. It could also impact your career choices, leaving you unsure about whether to pursue a promotion because you’re not certain about your professional goals.
In my experience coaching clients, I’ve noticed that challenges in decision-making often happen in two stages: “before” and “after.”
The “before” stage is when you’re stuck in indecision and hesitation, not knowing which path to choose. The “after” stage comes after you’ve made a decision, and that’s when doubt and regret can kick in.
But here’s a secret I want to share with you: feeling confused doesn’t necessarily mean you’re lost or unsure. More often than not, it’s your brain’s way of resisting change and trying to maintain the status quo. Your brain prefers things to stay as they are, even when change could be better for you.
In this episode, I’m going to explore the roots of this confusion and fear. I’ll show you how these feelings can become habits if you don’t address them, leading to inaction. You’ll discover why your brain often defaults to saying, “I don’t know.”
The exciting part is that once you understand where this confusion comes from, you can learn to use the decision-making part of your brain to your advantage.
I’m going to uncover the source of your confusion and help you make choices that empower you in all aspects of your life. If you’re curious about techniques to overcome indecision and hesitation, I’ve got you covered. By diving into the mechanics of decision-making, you’ll gain more confidence and lead a more fulfilling life.
The Origin of Confusion
Let’s start by diving into where confusion comes from and why it feels like a fog when we make choices. In this episode, I want you to imagine that I’m handing you a flashlight to clear that fog.
Have you ever noticed how many times a day you might say, “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure”? It happens more often than you might realize.
These phrases are like verbal shrugs, a way of saying you’re unsure when you’re faced with a decision. But here’s the thing: confusion is an interesting feeling. If you’re not careful, it can become a habit, a common reaction when you have to decide something.
Here’s what’s intriguing: I call confusion an “indulgent emotion.” It’s like a warm, comfortable blanket you wrap around yourself. It might feel cozy, but it also keeps you stuck, making you hesitate and feel like making decisions is as difficult as climbing a mountain in a snowstorm.
Let’s illustrate with an example: Imagine you’re the accountant for a small business owner, and your job is to help them invest their money wisely for retirement. Sounds simple, right? But as you delve into it, things start to get a bit complicated.
You start researching different investment options like stocks, bonds, and real estate. The more you read, the more choices you find, each with its own pros and cons. It’s like looking at a menu with a hundred delicious-sounding dishes, but you can’t decide what to order.
You’re diligent; you gather tons of information, crunch numbers, and even ask for advice from other financial experts. But here’s the problem: you end up stuck in what we call “analysis paralysis.”
It’s not that you lack information; you have plenty of it. But the pressure to pick the perfect investment strategy becomes overwhelming.
So, what happens next? You hesitate. You can’t make a decision. Your client’s financial future remains uncertain, and you’re trapped in a whirlpool of confusion.
What’s important to take away from this is that even in the professional world of accounting, we can face the same decision-making challenges we encounter in everyday life. In this example, the fear of making the wrong financial choice can lead to confusion, causing hesitation and inaction.
The tricky part is that the decision-making part of your brain is different from the part of your brain that usually runs your life, often called the primitive brain. If you haven’t learned how to use the decision-making part effectively, it’s no wonder you struggle with decisions, both big and small.
Here’s the thing: your primitive brain likes things the way they are and resists change. Over time, you might unintentionally develop a habit of avoiding decisions, to the point where your brain hesitates to even decide where to have lunch.
And here’s the most important thing to understand about your brain and confusion: your primitive brain prefers it when you’re confused. Why? Because it means you won’t take action.
Remember what I talked about in a previous episode: your brain is motivated by three things, known as The Motivational Triad – seeking pleasure, avoiding pain, and conserving energy. When you’re confused about making a decision, it conserves energy by not making a decision. Sneaky, right?
Tackling Decisions in Advance (Before Stage)
Now that we’ve figured out the root of confusion, let’s dive into some practical tools to empower you in making decisions with ease, even before they seem overwhelming. Think of it as a tool box of strategies to become a better decision maker..
I want to help you to consider decision-making as a superpower that can simplify your life in a world filled with endless choices. With it, you can breeze through the decision-making process without getting lost in the maze of options, saving time and sparing yourself from unnecessary stress.
Here’s the key: You have to decide what you’re going to think before you decide what you’re going to do. It might sound deceptively simple, but it’s the key to making decisions with confidence.
For example, let’s say you’re eyeing a new car. The truth is that it’s not just about deciding which car to buy; it’s also about determining how you’ll think about that choice before you make it. This is where the magic happens, and it’s a step that many people tend to overlook.
Learning how to manage your brain and intentionally choosing how you’re going to think about your decision before you make your decision gives you the ability to easily make better decisions. It’s like setting the stage for success before taking action.
Without deciding how you want to think about your decision before you take action, you’re leaving the door wide open for the negative tendencies of your primitive brain, and, as a result, confusion can creep in.
So, the trick here is to do the thought work before taking action. To help you with this process, let’s explore a few practical techniques:
1. Visualize Success for Both Choices: When torn between options, imagine both choices leading to success. This eliminates doubt and helps you make a decision. For example, think about adopting new accounting software.
In one scenario, you adopt the new software, and it significantly boosts your productivity and client satisfaction. In the other, you stick with your current setup, and it continues to serve you well. By seeing success in both options, you’ll alleviate doubt and be more inclined to make a decision because fear of making the wrong decision is taken off the table.
2. Redefine Failure as Learning: Speaking of fear of failure, if that’s what’s holding you back, remember that labeling something as a failure is just a thought, and thoughts are optional. Instead of viewing decisions as win-lose scenarios, reframe them as opportunities to learn and grow. This shift can help you embrace each decision as a valuable experience.
For this technique, imagine you’re considering expanding your services to include financial consulting, but you’re worried about potential setbacks. Instead of fearing failure, reframe it as a chance to learn and grow. If you take on financial consulting and it doesn’t go as planned, view it as an opportunity to gain experience and refine your approach for future success.
3. Consult Your Future Self: For this technique, take a moment to envision yourself a decade from now. What advice would your future self give you about the decision at hand and why? The primitive brain tends to lean toward instant gratification, making it challenging to think long-term. By tapping into your future self’s perspective, you can override short-term discomfort and gain insights into the bigger picture.
For example, let’s say you’re at a crossroads in your accounting career, contemplating whether to specialize in tax law or pursue a path in forensic accounting. Your current self is leaning towards tax law for immediate financial gain. However, when you consult your future self, you see a successful forensic accountant who is passionate about their work and has no regrets. Your future self’s perspective can guide you towards the decision that aligns with your long-term goals.
4. Check Your Current Emotions: No matter the decision, it’s crucial that you like your reason for making it. If you find yourself making choices driven by fear, impatience, or negative emotions, it’s a clear signal to pause. Dive into the thoughts behind those emotions, do some thought work to feel better, and then make your decision from a place of clarity.
Let’s say you’re deciding whether to take on a complex audit project. You’re feeling impatient and anxious about meeting the deadlines. Instead of making a hasty decision out of fear, pause to acknowledge that you’re feeling impatient. By addressing this feeling and seeking a calm, logical approach, you can make a decision you’ll be satisfied with in the long run.
5. Give Yourself Permission Not to Decide: Sometimes, you might find yourself facing a decision without all the information you need. The pressure to make a choice becomes so overwhelming that it distracts you from other important areas of your life. In such situations, it’s perfectly acceptable to consciously choose not to decide for a set period, like 30 days. This pause gives your brain the space it needs to focus on what genuinely matters at the moment.
For example, let’s say you’re overwhelmed by the choice between two accounting software options. The constant back-and-forth is affecting your work and causing stress. To alleviate the pressure, you decide not to make a choice right away. You give yourself 30 days to focus on your current tasks and responsibilities without the distraction of making a decision. This breather allows you to come back to the decision with a clearer mind and make a more confident choice.
No matter which technique you choose to apply, the fundamental principle remains the same: decide how you want to think before you decide what to do. This is your secret weapon to banish confusion, regain control, and make choices that serve your best interests.
Avoiding Regret (After Stage)
Now let’s dive into the fascinating realm of post-decision stages. You’ve learned how to tackle decisions with confidence before you make them, but what happens once you’ve committed to a choice? Often, the fear of regret rears its head, and that’s what we’re going to tackle now.
The issue in the after stage is that regret can be a nagging companion, whispering in your ear, “What if you’ve chosen wrong? What if you look back and wish you’d taken a different path?” These doubts can cast a shadow over even the most well-thought-out decisions.
The first thing to remember is that there’s no such thing as a wrong decision. It’s all about how you perceive and frame your choices.
The truth is that your thoughts define your experience, and the beauty is that your thoughts are 100% optional. In other words, you always get to decide what to think about a decision. .
To illustrate this concept, let me share a personal example that might resonate. A number of years ago I was dealing with the prospect of getting a divorce. My self-confidence was at rock bottom, and I turned to everyone I knew for advice, seeking external validation for what was the “right” decision.
In my fear of making the “wrong” choice, I had difficulty making any choice at all. But eventually it dawned on me that I was the one who needed to believe that I was making the “right” decision.
Why? Because my thoughts about my decision would shape my experience.
Once I chose to get divorced and then chose to believe that I had made the “right” decision in the “after stage”, my perspective shifted. I started seeing evidence that supported my choice.
I began noticing how my children thrived in a home free from the stress of their parents’ arguments. I found the strength to navigate the challenges of single parenthood and embraced a newfound sense of peace.
I also realized that my marriage had run its course, and I felt grateful for the years we’d spent together.
Now, let’s flip the scenario. Had I chosen to believe that I’d made the “wrong” decision in the after stage, my thoughts would have painted an entirely different picture.
I’d have constantly questioned my children’s moods and attributed them to my choice. I’d have felt overwhelmed by the responsibilities of single parenting and felt envious of those in healthy marriages.
I would have scrutinized my original reasons for wanting a divorce.
The core message here is that the way you perceive your decision both before and after it’s made can drastically alter your experience. If you continue to second-guess yourself, you’re essentially reopening the door to confusion.
Here’s another example – imagine you’re an accountant who has recently decided to transition from working at a traditional accounting firm to starting your own practice. Initially, you felt a surge of excitement and motivation to be your boss, set your hours, and offer specialized services.
However, as you navigate the complexities of running a business, self-doubt starts creeping in. You begin questioning your decision, wondering if it was the right move. Thoughts like, “Was it a mistake to leave the security of a stable job?” and “What if I can’t find enough clients to sustain my practice?” start to dominate your mind.
This is a common experience for many accountants who venture into entrepreneurship. The fear of regret can be paralyzing, causing sleepless nights and anxiety.
To overcome this, you can apply the decision-making techniques mentioned earlier:
Reframe Regret as Learning: Instead of seeing your transition as a potential failure, reframe it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Every challenge and setback can be a valuable experience that contributes to your professional development.
Consult Your Future Self: Imagine yourself a few years down the line. What would your future, successful practice look like? How would you feel about the decision you made? Consulting your future self can provide guidance and assurance that you’re on the right path.
Address Negative Thoughts: Whenever self-doubt arises, take the time to identify and challenge the negative thoughts that lead to regret. For example, if you’re worried about not finding enough clients, consider focusing on your marketing strategies and networking efforts. By taking action, you can address the source of your concerns.
By applying these techniques, you can shift your perspective from doubt and regret to a proactive, growth-oriented mindset. Over time, your accounting practice may thrive, and you’ll view your decision to become an entrepreneur as a positive and transformative step in your career.
The key to overcoming this “after” stage is learning how to manage your mind and support the decision you’ve made. By deciding that your choice is the right one, you’ll prompt your mind to gather evidence that backs that belief.
Any opposing thoughts that crop up can be gently questioned and addressed. By following these principles, you’ll not only make decisions confidently but also sidestep post-decision regret.
Becoming a Smarter Accountant: Mastering The Art of Making Better Decisions
In conclusion, becoming a Smarter Accountant isn’t some complex puzzle – it’s about understanding yourself and gaining control over your choices.
Hopefully, in today’s episode you’ve learned that decision-making happens in two stages: before and after. The truth is that in the before stage, what you decide to think about a decision is as important as the decision itself.
Just know that there’s no such thing as a “wrong” choice – it’s all about how you choose to think about your decisions after they’re made. In order to reduce the chance of regret, make sure you’re choosing to think about your decision in a way that supports you rather than chastises you.
A Smarter Accountant understands that in mastering the art of making better decisions, your thoughts are your secret weapon. By learning the skill of managing your mind, you make it possible to make decisions easily and have your own back once the decision is made.
For example, I was working with an accounting employee who wanted to become an entrepreneur. She was tired of answering to a micro-managing boss, working for clients she didn’t resonate with, and being beholden to her boss’ idea of working hours but she was also nervous about making such a big decision.
We worked together and decided that consulting her future self was the most helpful. She imagined herself 5 years from now having her own successful firm, working with clients she hand-picked, having an amazing supportive team, and running her firm with the value of work-life balance.
Fast forward to about a year after she started her own practice and she was bumping up against challenges that were making her start to regret her decision. We talked about why she had originally made the decision, how she needed to support her past self for making the decision, and how to continue tapping into her future self who had the success.
She’s now running the firm of her dreams, making more money than she ever dreamed, and uses the before and after decision-making techniques all the time in her firm. As a Smarter Accountant, she’s honed the art of making better decisions, even when they’re uncomfortable.
When dealing with decision regret, my husband and I came up with the concept of“The Snowglobe Effect.” I’m sure you’ve seen a snow globe before – a flat bottom with a plastic bubble on top containing an image inside, filled with water and glitter.
When you shake it, it looks like it’s snowing because all the glitter swirling around in the water.
When the snow globe is sitting on a flat surface, sitting still, there’s no swirling glitter
The same thing happens in our brains. We can be going about our day with the snow globe of our minds sitting still, but then someone says something or does something and our snow globe is all cloudy with swirling glitter, creating mind drama.
When we came up with this idea it’s because my husband had started a new job and was having some regrets about his decision. We began saying, “You shook your snow globe didn’t you?” when there’s some mind drama
After weeks of mind drama, he finally decided to look for all the ways that taking the new job was the right decision. His brain began giving him all the proof that it was the right decision
And then one day he bumped into a former coworker. They talked about the former job, about some drama going on there and that was all it took – his snow globe was shook and swirling with negative thoughts
He called me to tell me what happened and that he realized he shook his snow globe, but then something amazing happened. He said, “I picked it up and shook it which means I can put it down and let it settle down” He got it!
If you want negative thoughts swirling around in your head about a decision, then keep shaking it. Or you can leave it on a flat surface, let it settle and enjoy the clean, clear view
You always have a choice. To shake or not to shake…that is the question. It all comes down to how you want to feel
Annoyed, frustrated and regretful; or peaceful, drama-free and grateful
Remember that the art of making better decisions is an ongoing journey, and as you consistently practice and refine these skills, you’ll evolve into a Smarter Accountant. The skills you’ve acquired will not only enhance your capabilities but also strengthen your position as a trusted financial advisor.
If you find yourself facing challenges in your accounting career or simply want to explore ‘The Smarter Accountant 6-week Program’ further, don’t hesitate to reach out. You can schedule a free session at www.thesmarteraccountant.com/calendar to delve deeper into how this program can help you overcome obstacles and become a Smarter Accountant.
Thank you for joining me as we explored mastering the art of making better decisions. It’s important to remember that self-improvement is an ongoing process, and I encourage you to keep returning each week as I guide you from being a stressed accountant to becoming a truly Smarter Accountant.
Make sure you go to www.thesmarteraccountant.com and take The Smarter Accountant Quiz. You’re going to want to know if you’ve been underutilizing your accountant brain so that you have a starting point for becoming a Smarter Accountant..
Also, I would appreciate it if you could get the word out to other accountants about this podcast. The more accountants find out about it, the more we can begin to change the narrative in the accounting profession.
The truth is that you’re already smart, but this podcast will show you how to be smarter.