Decision Making In 5 Simple Steps
- Formulate your question
If you need to decide between two options it’s relatively straightforward: Do A or B? But if you are dealing with a more complicated general difficulty, you need to break it down into its components.
For example, if there is turbulence in your life, you could formulate questions like these: How can I create stability (peace, success, prosperity etc.) in my situation? What positive steps can I take? What resources are available?
In the following steps, 2,3,4, explore only one question at a time. If you have multiple questions, repeat steps 2,3,4 for each one separately.
2. Brainstorm options
Remember to only work on one question. Keep an open mind and consider everything and anything you could do. No matter if it does not seem realistic or practical. Write down whatever comes into your head.
For example, options for creating stability might be: setting up a routine for getting ready in the mornings, making a roster for chores, limiting time spent online, etc.
Make sure not to evaluate, compare or dismiss options at this stage. Just add each new idea to your list in no particular order. If you need support and additional input, ask a trusted person to brainstorm with you.
3. Reduce the list
When you have finished, eliminate the unworkable ideas. Make sure you don’t rule out options that seem impossible now but may contain a seed of possibility for the future.
Cross out options where you have no control. Don’t get caught in lost causes, hoping that others will change or even assuming you could bring that about, or that things will be different in future … without anything being done to make that happen.
4. Assess the consequences
On a separate page, draw three columns. Write your options into the first. The other two have the headings: ‘now/ very soon’, ‘in the future’. Going down your list, ask yourself for each option: What are the consequences in the short or long-term if I choose this option? Be very clear that you are assessing the consequences, not the pros and cons.
For example, the option of setting up a roster might have these consequences: the kids will hate it; nobody will stick to it; can arrange my work to be at home more; John will be able to pitch in, etc.
Write your thoughts into the appropriate column. You may find that something may come with a short-term benefit but has questionable value in the long run. Or a particular option seems favourable in the long-term but has too many pitfalls right now.
Repeat this step for every other option in the first column.
5. Make your decision
Sometimes the best solution to your question seems to ‘emerge’ from the pages. But if it is not immediately obvious what course of action to take, compare the options and weigh up their short and long-term consequences. Then decide which ones are more acceptable — or least painful.
Repeat steps 2, 3, 4 and 5 for any of your other questions from step 1.
The detailed descriptions may give the impression of a drawn-out and complicated process. But once you get the hang of it, you will find it very easy and quick. In fact, after a while many people don’t do the formal steps anymore. For them weighing up the consequences of potential options has become a way of looking at things.
In any case, use it for your own problem-solving and decision-making — big or small!