Hard Decision?
- A List Of Helpful Ideas

We all have experiences of having to make a hard decision. It seems that the more complex our society, the more complex the decisions and the more often we have to make difficult decisions.

If you have a hard decision to make here is a checklist of potential causes that can create difficulties in decision making as well as some suggestions about what to do.


Your aim

Do you know what you want the decision to achieve? What's the desired end result?

Too often people are not clear about this particular aspect. They can be incredibly clear about what they don't want or what they want to avoid. But not having something is very different from being able to describe exactly what it is you want.

Be clear about the situation you are in (what the problem is) and be able to explain how you want the situation to be. What is the actual evidence that you will have achieved what you want? What will you see? What will you hear?


Know what the choices are

Any decision involves choosing between two or more alternatives. What are your alternatives? Not knowing exactly what they are will obviously make your decision harder. If it helps, go ahead and write them out.

How many alternatives are there?

Too few alternatives can make it a hard decision every bit as much as too many alternatives.

If you think you need more alternatives, ask other people for advice. Especially those who have been in your situation before.

If you think you have too many, be ruthless about shortening your list. Again, ask for advice if you need it.


What other information is necessary?

Next, do you have enough information about your (manageable!) list of alternatives? or example, irnformation about each alternative, the probability of each achieving your outcome along with the possible consequences.

Be careful about getting lost in a sea of information. Too much information can lead to paralysis by analysis whereby there is so much information it becomes an impossibly hard decision. You may need to backup a little, focus on the relevant facts, and discard the rest.

If you don't have enough information, decide first where the best place is to locate it, then go there.

Possible consequences

Some important points to keep in mind about consequences:

  • there may be unexpected consequences
  • you can't know them all
  • you might forget some
  • sometimes the unexpected consequences are good
  • undesirable consequences frequently make for a hard decision

This is important. Very often a person knows what the right choice is, but undesirable consequences are sufficiently unpleasant that they choose something easier. And while it may be easier in the short-term, it may not be so pleasant over the long term.

Don't let undesirable consequences get in the way of making efficient decisions. Sometimes hard decisions turn out to be easy in the long run.


How to choose an alternative

You do have a way of choosing, don't you?

Sometimes people confuse this one step with the whole of the decision-making process. But as we have seen there are several steps leading up to this one.

You'll find a list of decision models here, and more information about decision tools here. It's useful to have a decision making model or two that you know how to use and that work consistently for you.

Check out this model, which the discoverer believes we use in 90 to 95% of our decisions.


Taking action

For some people, this step is what makes it a hard decision. They don't want to do what they know they should, for whatever reason. But until there is action, the decision is incomplete.

Some more ideas...

to deal with a hard decision:

  • Don't be afraid to get expert help.
  • Speak to people who've been in similar situations.
  • Know your values and priorities and stick to them.
  • Ask yourself ' What would (other person) do in this position?'
  • If you're not happy with something or you have serious doubts, don't do it!!

Make the small decisions with your head and the big ones with your heart.

- Emily Keith

Learn your own personal signals for how to make a good decision...

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