6 Steps for making a difficult decision
We all have to make tiny choices everyday – should I have a salad or a sandwich for lunch? – but when it comes to the serious decisions, a lot of us react by either freezing up or freaking out.
The choices we make have the potential to cause long-lasting effects on your life, your loved ones, your career or your business. It’s no wonder we spend so many nights awake in bed, wondering what decision to take!
If this is sounding more and more like your life, don’t worry! It’s time to realise that you DON’T have to let decisions hold you hostage. We asked a pro for some decision-making advice so that you don’t have to deal with anymore sleepless nights.
Dr Salome van Coller-Peter is the coach and programme head of the Management Coaching programme at the University of Stellenbosch. She explains that several factors influence our decisions (and make them feel like an impossible task), namely: your past experiences, age, financial position, personal beliefs and the fear of making a mistake. These factors are the reason we spend so much time and energy weighing up options, outcomes and scenarios. Sadly, all this really does is leave you feeling exhausted, confused and indecisive.
The good news is that it’s absolutely possible to ease the decision-making process, and resolve a situation without having to go through all the stress. Dr van Coller-Peter has given us six steps for making a difficult decision without having to pull the answers out of a hat!
Don’t let yourself get caught up in the moment. Start viewing decisions as part of your life as a whole, not in isolation. When you’re faced with a difficult choice, step back and figure out how this decision will impact your long-term goals and future, not just the current situation.
Consider your values – what is important to you in the way you live and work? Acknowledging your values will help determine what your priorities are, reinforce who you are and gauge whether your life is turning out the way you want it to. Remember to listen to your intuition though, following that inner-voice will make you much happier in the end than relying on world-influenced logic.
Next is the “decision matrix analysis” – don’t be intimidated by the name! Identify all the important aspects of the decision and then evaluate them based on their advantages. For example, if you were wanting to buy a new house your criteria would probably include size, location and affordability. Grab a piece of paper and list all the properties available. Create 3 columns next to the list – one for each criteria. Score the properties 1,2 or 3 for each factor, 1 being the least suitable and 3 being the most. Multiply the scores by the relative importance of each factor, add up all the columns and arrive at a total for each option. The house with the highest score will most likely be your best option.
Do your research! Find out how other people have dealt with similar situations and how their decision affected them. Not only is it comforting to know that someone else has stood at the same crossroads as you, seeing their response will give you insight and understanding which you can apply to your own decision. Just remember that circumstances differ – you’ll always need to ‘tailor’ their actions to fit your unique situation.
Now it’s time to think about those other people your decision will affect. Make a list of all the options you have and discuss them with your spouse, family, business partner, or anyone else who might be impacted. Their suggestions and input will give you some fresh insight, or they’ll be able to suggest alternatives you hadn’t thought of.
After adding up all the feedback and suggestions, assess each option and take the final step: make a decision – and stick to it! Remember that after making a decision you may go through a range of emotions – from relief and excitement to regret and disappointment. The key is to understand these feelings as they will either be a major barrier or a catalyst when you’re faced with your next hard decision.
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