How to Make a Difficult Decision

There’s no denying that some decisions are easier than others, and some people have more trouble making decisions than others.  If you have to make a choice and you’re stuck, here’s a process I like to use:

Its Your Decision

  • Define the situation in concrete terms: As if you are telling a story, write out the particulars.  What do you have to make a decision about, and what led up to this point?   Who are the people involved?  What is the deadline for making the decision?
  • Generate as many alternatives as you can: Write down everything that comes to mind, and then look at your list carefully.  Are any of your options totally unrealistic?  If so, cross these off.
  • Evaluate each choice: List the positive and negative consequences – or pros and cons – associated with each option. When considering pros and cons, think about your most important personal values (i.e. how will you feel about yourself if you take a certain action?), and how the decision will affect your life and the people in it.
  • Select and implement the best alternative: Create an action plan in which you marshal the appropriate resources and set a timeline in motion.  Communicate your decision clearly to the people involved.
  • Assess the outcome: If your decision turns out to be the right one, think about what worked and why.  If you were wrong, don’t be too hard on yourself.  Just chalk it up to a learning experience and try a different approach next time.

What’s the most difficult decision you’ve ever made at work, and how did it turn out?

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