In my recent post — the first step in every decision making process — I talked about the importance of deciding whether it’s actually time to make a decision. If it’s not, I recommend moving out of decision making mode and into information gathering mode.

(A word of warning: Don’t hang out in information gathering mode for fear of making the wrong decision. You’ll know intuitively if you already know your decision and are just stalling.)

Two valuable questions to kick off your information gathering mode:

  1. What additional information am I seeking?
  2. How can I get that information?

Let me tell you about two clients who came to me recently with big decisions to make.

Case study #1: The first client was looking to re-enter the workforce after several years of raising her kids and was searching for her next career move. A well-meaning friend told her that she needed to build something now in order to be generating money in two years. I gently reminded her that, while that might be true in some scenarios, there’s also a scenario in which she walks out the door today and starts earning money.

Once we reduced the urgency around this decision a bit, she brought up not knowing what kind of set-up she wants — full time, part time, a business, etc — as well as what industry or title she would be interested in. She acknowledged that she was probably missing out on possible careers that she just didn’t know about yet.

Together, we came up with a plan for her to “discover” 8-10 different career paths within the next month by any means necessary (posting on Facebook, talking to strangers, Googling). She texted me the next day saying “Boy, is the universe answering…” My response: “🙌🙌🙌🙌.” (You can just call me The Emoji Coach.)

Case study #2: Another client recently moved across the country and was having doubts about the move. First, we confirmed that it wasn’t time for her to pack up and move back — she decided to give herself a year to truly go all in and stop entertaining the idea of returning to her previous home.

Then we dug into how she could gather information about this new phase of her life. We came up with the idea of having her pursue a volunteer opportunity to get more embedded in her local professional industry. She could find one in a variety of ways, but would start by asking her manager if she knew of anything. (She’d then ask her boss who else she should chat with, but that’s a story for another day about the power of the snowball effect.)

Here are some strategies for information gathering:

  • Sitting and waiting for the universe to speak up: Yes, seriously. I consider this a totally viable option. No, I’m not being sarcastic
  • Setting up informational interviews: Don’t just use these in your professional life. Talk to people who have the hobby you want to do, have picked up and moved abroad, or have met their partner while speed dating
  • Volunteering: Diving further into your industry or community through volunteering. You can meet people, gain skills, build your resume, and test-drive potential careers
  • Actually do the thing you’ve been avoiding: Get on the dating apps, take a short solo trip, or take on side work

Do you see the way that information gathering mode almost instantly removes the unnecessary stress, chaos, and conflict of decision making?

Happy information gathering!