Imagine you need to make a decision about buying a car. So, you start mulling it over.
I should buy a Rav 4. No, the Subaru Forester has better safety rating. But the Rav 4 has a third row. Maybe I should look at the CRV. You know, they are all gas eaters. I need to really look at a hybrid, like the Prius. But it is really not going to have enough room when we travel. I do like the style of the Rav 4…
And it starts to feel like a game of pinball in your head. And, though you keep pondering this for a few days, you are no closer to a decision.
Then you get caught up in work and home stuff, and stop thinking about buying a car.
Until the thoughts come flooding back. And there goes the pinball again! You might even impulsively make a decision just to quiet the noise.
For adults with ADHD, the above scenario can be common.
But there is another way.
Your Brain and Decisions
As adults with ADHD many of us think fast and have too many thoughts at once.
So, it is no wonder that making decisions can feel overwhelming. It can feel, yes, a little like a game of pinball.
Your brain, with its particular wiring, did not come off the assembly line equipped to do a good job organizing thoughts in your head.
In addition, you have a surplus of attention. That is, the challenge for you often is being able to focus your attention at any given moment on what you want, like making a particular decision.
That’s ok. You just need to set aside time to get out of your head.
For some decisions it might take no more effort than talking about them aloud with someone else.
If this is the case, find a trusted person to listen to you as you explain your thinking. Ask them to…
- ask you for clarification if they don’t understand your explanation.
- “challenge” you with questions if they see holes in your reasoning.
- suggest alternatives (if you want this from them).
But really, they don’t need to have the answers. They just need to be a mirror, albeit a talking mirror, for you as you talk through your decision making process.
Processing aloud in this way will allow you to organize your thoughts, rather than just let them careen about in your head.
Rational Decision Making Processes
In some cases you may want to add more rigor to your thinking than just talking about it aloud.
Below are three options. And, if you are interested, you can learn more about how to use them by following the accompanying links.
A Decision Grid can be a great option, if you need to evaluate and prioritize a list of options against a list of criteria, like buying a car (mpg, number of seats, cost, etc.).
An advantage of this process is that you focus only on what you determine to be the most important criteria. And you can exclude “criteria” that are not important to you and may cloud your judgment like, “What will my friends and family think if I…?”
Of course, the old standby, a Pros and Cons Calculator, may help when you are considering one option at a time.
What other decision making methods have you had experience with or seen that you think might be useful?
Trusting Your Instinct
Of course, you rarely make decisions based only on rational factors, as the above processes would suggest. Most often you probably make your decisions through a combination of some rational decision making process and your intuition.
I think everyone should use their instinct as part of their decision making process.
But I also know that, if you tend to be impulsive, you may not trust your “gut reaction.” If this is the case, try slowing down when making a decision by
- talking with someone…
- using one of the above processes to get all the “facts” out on the table.
- last, checking in with what your gut is telling you. It might just give you the best answer!
Check out The Science of Intuition: An Eye-Opening Guide to Your Sixth Sense by author and journalist, Annie Murphy Paul for more on what instinct is how you can use it to your advantage.
Give It A Try – Experiment
Talk through a decision you need to make with someone you trust.
If that is not enough, choose a more rigorous decision making process.
Last, take time away from thinking about the decision. Sleep on it. Go on with your other activities. Then check in and see your instinct tells you do.
Whatever you do, though, don’t try to make decisions only in your head.