4 questions to make a big decision easier

I had an email the other day from a past client who I haven’t heard from for a while.

It’s lovely to hear from people I have worked with, and especially nice when they occasionally just check in and tell me how things are going, what they are doing, and sometimes also, what challenges they are facing.

This particular lady is really enjoying life at the moment and it’s lovely to think that I was there for her when things were a little complicated and stressful.

Her email was a breath of fresh air, but she did come to me with a bit of a ‘problem’.  She had been offered a new job, and just couldn’t make up her mind what to do.

On the one hand, it was an exciting and interesting challenge that would stretch her. It was doing something she loved and could make her life even more fulfilling.

On the other hand the pay wouldn’t be great to start with – she would be taking a significant cut. In addition it would mean giving up the luxury of having a day off in the week.

She was emailing me to ask if I knew of any ‘online decision-making tools’ that she could use.

I don’t recommend decision making tools to my clients specifically, although I don’t have anything against them. There are probably lots, and ultimately if there were something that could reliable make decisions for us, the designer would be a millionaire.

In the end I offered two suggestions and if you are struggling with an important decision right now, I suggest you do both of these.

Consider all of the possibilities that affect the decision

Firstly, to help consider all the possibilities, try asking yourself these 4 ‘cartesian co-ordinate’ questions:

  1. If I do x, what will happen?
  2. If I do x, what won’t happen?
  3. If I don’t do x, what will happen?
  4. If I don’t do x, what won’t happen?

Ask yourself all these questions about each option available. So don’t assume that because they appear to cover all eventualities you only need to ask them about one choice. When you ask the questions be very open to anything that pops into your head. You may get some surprises. Take notes! If there are too many options, try to group them into connected options first and ask the questions about each group before narrowing down further.

When you have done this and have got some interesting thoughts, take some advice from Sigmund Freud:

[a big] decision should come from the subconscious, from somewhere within ourselves. In the important decisions of personal life, we should be governed, I think, by the deep inner needs of our nature.

So in other words, with the added information that has hopefully surfaced with these questions, go with what your gut is telling you.

Make the decision, and once you have made the decision, let go of the fact that you made it, and just live accordingly.

Once made, a decision is just a path in life. The experiences of your life in the future will be a result of not this one decision, but of many. Including ones you are not aware that you have made. You can’t turn back the clock and you can’t know which decision is better once you have made it and lived it!

I wrote another blog on decisions a few years ago, you can read it here.

Oh and if you do know of a great decision making tool, do email me and I’ll share it with my client.

Robert Sanders is a therapist and life coach, supporting people in their present and helping them create their future.

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