how do I know I'm making the right decision?, be a better lawyer podcast, how to be a better lawyer, Dina Cataldo, be a better lawyer

#251: How Do I Know I’m Making the Right Decision?

One question lawyers ask me is, “How do I know I'm making the right decision?”

Seems like an important question, right?

Our decisions determine the quality of our life.

Each decision creates an outcome that either moves us forward or doesn't.

But this question ignores what we really need to look at when making decisions.

In this episode of Be a Better Lawyer Podcast, you'll learn:

  • what a decision driver is, and what drives most people's decisions
  • what NOT to rely on when making decisions
  • the 3 frames I put around decisions to make ones that move my business and life forward

Listen in to make decisions that will move your life and law practice forward further and faster.


Are you a Be a Better Lawyer Podcast ride-or-die?

Thanks for listening, and I'll talk to you next week.

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How Do I Know I'm Making the Right Decision?

Hello, how are you doing? All right. So I am fresh back from Miami where I was at the life coach schools work hard, play hard, and one of the things that I was reflecting on were some of the decisions that I have made in my life and how I made those decisions so that I could fuel my future self, the future version of me. And it really took me changing how I thought about decision making so that I could make changes in my life.

And one of the big questions that I always hear from people is how do I know if I've made the right decision, the “right” decision, as if there is a right decision and a wrong decision, which makes sense because we have been trained to think that we're either gonna get an A or a B, we're either going to succeed or we're gonna fail.

And if we succeed, it means we've done everything perfectly. And if we fail, it means we've done something wrong, which brings up either we feel pride because we're successful, which no one I've ever talked to feels successful, quote, unquote enough, or we get the B and we're a failure and we feel shame.

So much of that is unnecessary suffering that we create for ourselves because we have been trained to believe there is a right decision. So what I wanna walk you through in this episode is what it means to make decisions, how I think about making decisions, how my clients learn how to make decisions so that they can improve their quality of life increase their practice, like the, the money that they're bringing into their practice, like really start appreciating and feeling successful in their practice because they are thinking about decisions differently and they're making decisions differently.

Why it's Important to Make Decisions

Sometimes I'll have lawyers who tell me that they're bad at making decisions, that they're, they're over-thinkers, they, they overthink everything. And what happens is when we don't make decisions, we are draining our energy, right? We're this battery that constantly has a thought in the background about an unmade decision, and the battery keeps getting lower and lower and lower.

These unmade decisions nag at us, and the words that we use to describe our decision making are incredibly important. So if you're telling yourself you're a poor decision maker, or you don't make decisions quickly, you're never gonna learn this skill. And it is a learnable skill. It's something I learned, it's something my clients learn. So I'm a hundred percent certain that you are gonna be able to learn this.

If this is an area where you struggle with, and even if you're not someone who struggles with decisions, you consider yourself decisive. This is a really important episode because you're gonna understand what your decision drivers are, okay? Those decision drivers are going to tell you whether or not your decisions are being informed in a way that are gonna be helpful or unhelpful. So if you're not making decisions, you likely feel stuck.

The decisions you make when you start making them are gonna help you move forward.

What Are Your Decision Drivers?

Let's talk about decision drivers. Decision drivers are what inform our decisions, and they drive, they literally move us in the direction of whatever is driving us. So these are some of the common decision drivers. I hear what we think other people will think of us if we make a decision, what we think other people will feel, right?

So for instance I'll have clients who tell me that they don't wanna tell their employee what to do because they don't want them to feel bad, they don't wanna correct them because they don't want them to feel bad. Another driver is how we feel in the moment. Do we feel good? Do we feel bad?

We just kind of like let that be the guiding post for the decision we make in the moment. And we also make decisions from what we think we should want. And I used to do this too, which is, I think I should want this. It makes sense that I should want this thing. Like, this is what I've been working for my whole life. Shouldn't I be doing this? Like, isn't this what I should be doing? Shouldn't I be a lawyer? <Laugh>, right? So those are some of the things that we just have to keep in mind, might be driving our decisions and do we want those driving our decisions?

Because if I had made, if I had continued to make my decisions from those drivers, I would've never turned myself into a morning person. I would've never started a business, I would've never left the law. I would've never done things like fly off to Miami. Like, there's so many things I would not have done in my life if I had continued to listen to those drivers and instead think about making decisions in a way that was focused on what I want and how I wanted to live.

How People Usually Decide if a Decision is “Right” (aka, What NOT to do)

So here's how people think, right? They think they know if they're making the right decision. And I'm, I'm putting think in quotation marks. Okay? So a lot of people will tell me that they think that they're making the right decision if they get an immediate positive response. In other words, somebody they respect tells them that they like it or they say that their gut just tells them it feels right.

And a lot of times that really just means that it feels good to them. And I might not totally throw this out the window if you really trust yourself, but most of the lawyers that I talk to haven't built that self-trust with themselves. But if I just want you to be aware of this, because if you're judging a decision of being right and wrong by one of these rubrics, you're likely going to be moving yourself in a direction that isn't going to be one that you want.

Because if it feels really good for me and it feels right to me to lay on the couch and watch Netflix instead of recording this podcast like <laugh>, you know what I mean? So just understand that feeling good is not something that necessarily is going to be telling you if you're making the right decision, the right decision for your practice, the right decision to move your family in the direction that you want the right decision for you to grow and expand.

Another thing, another rubric people tell me that they use to tell them that they're making the right decision is that their gut tells them that they're wrong. Well, here's the thing about that one, the, the problem with that is that making decisions can bring a lot up for us. It brings up fear, discomfort, insecurity, and we misinterpret those emotions and think, oh, I've made a wrong decision or I'm gonna make a wrong decision.

When really all that's happened is that our body has had a physical response to thoughts that we've had, and we're not cleaning that up. So to, to use that gut check as if it's wrong, if you make a decision is not going to be helpful for you, I find this really comes up with over-thinkers because they have thought themselves into a corner. So in the last episode I talked about thinking versus worrying, and they're really worrying.

They believe that they are thinking and that they're thinking strategically. But what's really happened is that they have worried themselves into a corner and they don't understand that the next step is to work on their mindset around it. So when I first started my business, I had a business, what, six years ago, eight years ago, I was so fearful of getting on camera.

And if I had let that gut check been like, oh, I don't feel good being on camera, therefore I shouldn't be on camera, I never would've learned the skill to feel confident in front of a camera, right? So if you're watching this on YouTube right now, you see I'm doing way better than like if you had seen me eight years ago on video, right? So just understand that if we're using a gut check to tell us that a decision might be wrong, that is not going to help us grow, it's not gonna help us expand.

And in a little bit, I'm gonna yeah share with you a way that I like to think about decisions that can help move you forward on this. And then another way that people tell me that they like to measure whether or not their decision is right or wrong is by making a ProCon list to see which outweighs the other. And this simply is not going to cut it either, because if you write out a ProCon list and you're using poor decision drivers like the ones I described earlier, you can have a ton in the con list that never is gonna help you make the decision that's best for you and your higher self. Okay?

And I just want to just point out that when we have drivers like letting other people be the measure of what's right for us, what they think, and letting that inform what's right for us, we are never going to make decisions that truly are for us that are going to help us grow, that are gonna help us expand.

How I Like to Think About My Decisions

I like to think about them in three different, three different areas. So one is thinking about my future self. I like to think about what the worst case scenario could be. And I like to ask myself, do I like my reasons? So when I'm thinking about my future self, I like to ask myself, what is the best decision for me a year out from now, from now a month out from now, a week out from now?

This is especially helpful when it comes to my goal planning. I have a goal for the year and I break it down into quarters, then I break it down into months, and then I break it down into weeks. And that is going to direct what actions I take. I'm not going to let how I feel in the moment or what other people think about me, determine what actions I'm going to take.

Same thing goes. So if you have employees, are you going to let your employees and how they feel dictate how you run your practice? Versus are you going to decide what's best for your practice? And then use that to then steer how you run your practice, how you direct your employees. This is really important because if you are letting your employees run the show, you're never going to create the law practice that you want. And when you use this skill of asking, what would my future self want for my business?

What would I want for from a, a year from now? If I'm thinking about what it is I wanna create for my business, I need to ask myself, well what actions would I need to take and when will I need to do them? And know that when I look at my calendar, I am never going to want to do them.

It's never gonna feel right, it's never gonna right. It's gonna feel uncomfortable. Maybe I'll feel scared and I have to just sit there and do it anyway. And the choices that I give myself need to be stare at the wall or do my work. And that's how I move myself forward to create what I want in my business and not go by what feels right or what other people think, or what I think other people might feel if I create something and put it out into the world.

Because if I'm making decisions about what I think other people are gonna think, I'm probably never gonna put anything out into the world. But if I'm looking at what do I want for myself and my future self, then I create and I put things out into the world. Another thing that I like to ask myself is, what is the worst case scenario?

And you know, when I was building my business, you know, on top of my law practice and considering leaving, I had to really think about this because I did have a lot of fears. What would people think? What if I failed? You know what, what is my worst case scenario here? Well, the worst case scenario was that I would need to go back to the office and people would think I'm a failure. And I didn't want what I thought other people would think to make my decisions for me.

I could handle people having thoughts about me, but I would be doing what I wanted regardless. Same thing happens when I talk to my clients about creating boundaries with their clients. So the worst case scenario is what? That their clients will fire them, okay? Or the worst case scenario is, is that they are gonna feel horrible, meaning the attorney is gonna feel horrible and then their clients are gonna have thoughts about you.

But you would work the hours and that you want, you wouldn't be taking h work home with you. You wouldn't have people calling you on the weekends and you would set expectations up with clients in advance the next time. So keep in mind asking yourself this question, what is the worst case scenario? Can really put your decisions in perspective and you can decide from a place of understanding the repercussions and then ask yourself this question, do I like my reasons?

Do I like my reasons for this decision that I wanna make? So if it's saying yes or no to an opportunity, deciding to block someone on Instagram, deciding to hire someone or not hire someone, deciding to create that boundary, deciding to leave your job. Do you like your reasons? Now, I know that I will not like my reasons if my reasons are because I'm afraid I'm overwhelmed or too busy.

I never want those to be an excuse for me not to make the decision that I wanna make because I know ultimately those are simply feelings and I can manage my calendar, I can make priorities, I can figure that out. Like, and you can too, right? So understand where your decision is coming from and if you are deciding not to do something because it's scary or because you think you don't have time, understand that that is the reason you're making your decision, right?

And do you like that? If you're okay with that, fine, right? But understand where your decision is coming from. One of the questions that I get sometimes is, what if I regret the decision? Well, I want you to understand that regret is a decision, right? So we can decide to regret a relationship, we could decide to regret job choices, right?

We can tell, we can ask ourselves things like, should I have stayed at the relationship longer? Should I have stayed at the job longer? But that's really getting into worrying instead of thinking like, why fret over something like that when honestly you get to decide to make a decision, right? So remember, there's no such thing as a right or wrong decision.

That's how I go into these decisions, right? It's, and this is how I talk to my clients. It's like, okay, here are your options. If there's no right or wrong decision, what decision do you want to make? And why do you wanna back that up or not? Do you wanna have your back no matter what or not? So when I left my lawn job, I had to have my back cuz of course it's really scary, right? It was there for 15 years.

I was used to having a regular paycheck. I was like, okay, well I'm in, let's do this. And I made it the right decision. I I went all in on myself and I decided that I was gonna have my back no matter what, whether or not I succeeded or failed, I was gonna have my back a hundred percent. And if I needed to go back, that was fine. I could do that. I could feel all the feelings that would be happening for me if I needed to go back, but I decided whether or not I would regret that decision.

Regret is a Decision

Same thing goes for you. Like if you are overthinking something and thinking, okay, well what if I regret this? Why would you decide to regret anything? Why would you make the decision to regret anything that you've done in the past? I look at every single action that I've took as an opportunity to evolve.

Every action that I have taken, I have looked at as a, a place where I have grown in some way. And you can make that decision too, okay? You get to decide to make every decision that you make the right decision whether or not you succeed or fail. You can look at any failure and say, I learned so much from that, and I'm gonna take that into my next decision.

I'm gonna take all the learnings that I got from that and make a better decision the next time, right? You keep improving yourself. And how is it that you make this right decision? Well, it's really you're building up evidence for it, right? You're really looking at, okay, what did I learn that I can take into my next decision? That's how you make it a right decision.

You Can Always Re-Decide

One other thing I want you to know is you can always read aside, I had a client she actually was on the podcast.

I will link to her episode in the show notes, but she had a couple options going into working with me around which businesses she wanted to pursue. And what really helped her decide was knowing that she, she could re decide, like she could stick with this for 90 days, six months, a year, and then at the end of that time period, she could just re decide. She didn't have to stay with it forever. Imagine looking at your decisions like that, how much freedom you would gain behind that if you could re decide.

So, so one area I see this a lot in are lawyers who come to me and they're really scared to hire because they're afraid they're gonna get stuck with somebody and they're not going to be able to re decide. Well, one of the opportunities that you have is to structure your employment in a way where you are testing them, where you were giving them small assignments, where you are not committing to, you know, six months, a year plus you're just saying, okay, this is gonna be, you're gonna get a task first.

You are going to be given the opportunity to complete this task. And then we're gonna go week by week, and then you're gonna get an evaluation. Each week we're gonna set up expectations for you. And at the end of the week, you're gonna get an evaluation. And this is gonna go on for four weeks, six weeks, however you wanna structure it. And you can create a contract so that you can have the opportunity to re decide.

So understand you can shape things in a way where you have the opportunity to make those decisions. Now, if you find yourself spending a lot of time in indecision, you need to book a strategy session with me because you're using a lot of energy just overthinking problems. And when you get out of indecision, you get unstuck, you have more energy, you can move your life forward.

When we feel stuck, it's because we're not making decisions that are going to positively impact our future.

In a strategy session, we really look at what your decision drivers are and how they're impacting your life right now, whether you like the decisions that you've made in the past and how you wanna structure those in the future. And so if you book a strategy session with me, we're actually going to be looking at this piece by piece so you can see where your decisions are impacting your life.

You can book a call with me at

Quick Review

So let's kind of run through this real quick. So you know that your decisions are what is going to drive your life forward, right? Your decisions are what is going to create the outcomes in your life. And understanding how you make your decisions, what drives your decisions, is also going to give you an understanding of whether or not you're doing it for yourself or you're doing it for other people.

So if you're thinking about what other people will think of you, how they'll feel, how we are gonna feel in the moment, right? Or what we think we should be doing, then we're not necessarily looking at what is going to serve our, our higher self. What is really going to move the needle forward in our practice? What is really going to help us feel fulfilled in our life? And those are the questions that we really need to be asking ourselves so that we are making decisions that are best for us and really understanding that when we make a decision, lots of times we get fear, we have doubt. All of that is gonna come up and that's normal.

It doesn't mean that your decision is wrong. It doesn't mean that your decision isn't gonna serve your future. What it means is that there is some room for growth here.

There's some expansion that needs to happen there. That was something that I really felt acutely was fear Whenever I was doing something new and I understood that fear was actually going to take me to the next level, that feeling fear meant I was going in the right direction. And when I thought of it that way, then I understood, oh, the decisions that I need to be making for expansion are just gonna feel uncomfortable.

They're just not gonna feel good. And so we can't use that as the rubric for are we making a right decision? Is just feeling good? Because the decisions that are best for us are not always gonna feel good. And when you're thinking about making decisions, ask yourself, would my future self want this? What's the worst case scenario? And do I like my reasons for my decisions? I'll write my friend.

That is what I have for you this week. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your week.

Share This Episode with Another Lawyer

I'd really like to ask you a favor, share this podcast with somebody who needs it. I know that there are so many lawyers that I talk to that want help with time management and decision-making and goal setting and achieving, and really calming down their practice so they can feel more peace as they're growing their practice.

And I know this podcast can help them. So if you know a lawyer who needs this in their life, please share this with them, text them, tag me on Instagram. Tag your friends on Instagram and let them know about this podcast. All right my friend, I hope you have a fabulous day. Talk to you soon.

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