How do you make difficult decisions?

All of us have times when we are faced with difficult decisions. The reasons for the difficulty are as varied as the decisions each of us faces. Perhaps the difficulty is because it might have financial consequences or maybe someone’s feelings are going to get hurt. Maybe the difficulty is because, regardless of the choice you make, only good can happen so it’s hard to decide.

Regardless of the difficulty, the fact is we cannot avoid difficult decisions. We will make them or they will be made for us either by circumstances or others. In most cases difficult decisions can be made with some relief when there is some type of process in place to guide us through the challenging choices.

The first step in making the decision is to accept that it’s difficult. As obvious as that sounds, there are times when the difficulty is more difficult because we somehow feel like it shouldn’t be. The beginning of good decision making comes with the acceptance. So often, people bemoan the fact that it’s difficult and challenging. Start with the full and complete acceptance of the difficulty and cease any comment or conversation about the difficulty. Do not intensify it by emphasizing it. At the core of most challenging decisions is risk. That risk is largely evaluated on the criteria of what there is to lose. Our brains are built to protect us and thus will cause us to see saber tooth tigers where there are none.

The second step is to evaluate the REAL risk. I would love to tell you that a simple exercise in weighing the pros and cons will help but I think that over simplifies many of the tough choices people face. The best way to evaluate risk is by asking 3 questions. What’s the best thing, what’s the worst thing, and what the most likely thing that could happen?

Third, what is the choice that most closely aligns with your core values? That assumes you know what yours are. Those three steps will help you navigate more effectively.

Finally surround yourself with objective advisors. Stay away from anyone that has an agenda or has something to gain by whatever decision your make. Once the decision is made don’t look back. Move forward with resolve and confidence knowing you can and will deal with whatever is next.


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