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 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.

Joan was really and truly stuck. Her corporate leadership role had been impacted by COVID and she decided to take the opportunity to retire earlier than she had planned. That meant that she felt unprepared and hadn’t really spent any time planning what her retirement would look like. She had so many interests and was determined to use her retirement to follow her dreams and make a further contribution. She was sure she didn’t want to only play golf. The problem was, she worried that she might make the wrong choice. All the options kept her spinning. She was afraid to make a decision and commit, so she did nothing.

There is another option – by learning and applying these 3 rules for decision making you will make decisions easier and faster– whether they are about designing your next chapter or something else much less critical.

  1. 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. It might mean establishing a time frame for decision making. For example, I am going to give myself 4 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 $50,000 or more and it must have flexible hours.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Joan applied these decision-making criteria to her next step and quickly determined that setting up a dog walking business met her criteria of something that would keep her active and engaged with her community and would make some additional spending money. It was a bonus that it incorporated her love of animals. She gets up every morning excited about the day. Joan says “I love doing something that helps others and gives me so much joy. The fact that it also helps keep me fit is a bonus”.

“We tend to spend lots of time figuring out if we have enough money to retire, and much less figuring out how we would like to spend our time.” says Laura Macdougall, an advisor to women leaders looking to rewrite the next chapter of their life. She advises women to set aside some time to thoughtfully plan what is next and offers a complementary agenda for a self-directed strategic planning retreat on her website.

When designing your next chapter, or making any other important decisions, setting aside some time to thoughtfully plan your next step and using these 3 decisions making rules can make planning your next step easier and more enjoyable.