One of the most difficult things in life is making hard decisions, and not because choosing is always difficult, but because every decision, for better or worse, has consequences; sometimes they’re mild, and sometimes they’re significant. Sometimes it’s just you that gets affected, and other times your decision affects other people’s lives.
I’ve never heard anyone say, “well, foresight is 20/20…”, so if you can see into the future, please call the rest of us; we have a lot of questions.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20 because we already know the outcome of our decision. Although hindsight can be useful for identifying patterns and making similar decisions in the future more favorably, we still need a way to set ourselves up for making hard decisions with confidence, the best that we can in the moment.
When making difficult decisions, here’s a good framework to use by asking yourself 6 questions. Take a little bit of time to ask yourself these questions, and gather any input you can. Then, make your decision with confidence knowing that you properly thought things through.
Most people fall into one of two camps—they either make decisions solely based on their emotions, or they disregard emotion completely. I’ve found that somewhere in the middle works best.
It’s probably not wise to simply decide based on how you feel in the moment, but there is scientific evidence that gives a hat tip to listening to your gut.
The gut, or “second brain”, contains approximately 100 million neurons that heavily influence our emotions. It turns out “listen to your gut” is pretty good advice after all.
When you ask yourself this question, try to imagine that you’re not you. Pretend you’re helping a friend make this same decision. Given the facts, what seems to be the best decision for the most favorable outcome?
This is where a pros and cons list can also be helpful.
Call on your past experiences to help you out. If a decision you made in the past turned out one way or the other, you can assume a similar outcome by making a similar decision, with a reasonable level of confidence.
Sometimes we forget that no matter what difficult decision we’re faced with, it’s likely someone else has been there before. Ask around, and if you don’t personally know anyone, harness the power of Google search, or social media when appropriate.
Lean on your friends and family, or a close mentor if you can. It can’t hurt to get an opinion from someone you trust, and who knows you well.
Be careful who you ask for advice, and how many people you ask. Some people’s opinions aren’t useful, and too many cooks in the kitchen creates confusion.
If this decision you’re making is going to seriously affect someone else, like maybe a spouse or children, or employees or coworkers you’re responsible for, consider the outcomes carefully. Sometimes the decision we’d most like to make isn’t in the best interest of the greater good.
At the end of the day, the worst decision is making no decision at all. There’s no way to know for sure if you’re making the right decision in the moment, but using this framework will give you some peace knowing you thought it through from multiple important angles.
All you can do is make the best decision you can, and learn from what follows. Good luck.