top of page

35. Difficult Decisions

One of the challenges that often accompanies change is the need to make difficult decisions. This weeks tip looks at decision-making, the unhelpful ways we often approach it, and some thoughts and a tool to make it easier. Difficult decisions 'I don't see the point of making a decision until you absolutely have to.' David, a 'perceiver' Some people find it easier to make decisions than others. If you read my tips about judging and perceiving types (Tips 26 and 27), you may remember that judging types tend to like closure, while perceiving types tend to like openness. Decision-making tends to come harder, therefore, to the perceiving type. Nevertheless, all types can have trouble making decisions, especially when the decision is an important, potentially life-changing one. And especially when that decision has to be made soon. Most decisions, if you allow them to take their natural course, make themselves. You may fret and fret over a dilemma - for days, months, maybe even years - but one day you wake up and suddenly the answer is clear. Something - your unconscious, the universe - has taken over and made the decision for you. When faced with an important decision that has to be made before that natural process takes place, we naturally feel fear. For someone who is considering leaving jobs or changing careers, for example, these are the kinds of thoughts that might feed that fear. � I might make a mistake, and that would be terrible � There is a perfect job for me, if only I could find it � There is a right and wrong decision, and to make the wrong one would be disastrous � Changing course signifies failure/lack of commitment � No-one will ever employ me again Interestingly you could apply these thoughts, almost unchanged, to changing many other life situations. Sometimes the fear is magnified by an immense drive to make a decision, because the uncertainty is awful and we hope that once a decision is made we will feel better. If you have a difficult decision to make, or can remember a previous one, what would it be like to have (had) the following thoughts instead? � There is no such thing as a bad decision. Different decisions just bring you different experiences in life, all valuable � If a decision is hard to make, then both or all your options must have value, and maybe the decision is not as important as you think. � Few decisions are irreversible � Life is a series of explorations, not a fast train to a known destination A decision-making tool I had a client, Nadia, who was having trouble with deciding whether to apply for a particular job. It was a job that she had been waiting for for a long time, in a wonderful organisation where the work was exciting and interesting and the colleagues inspiring and fun. There was one problem. There had been a recent change in director and this person was quickly gaining a reputation for being ruthless and insensitive and many of the inspiring and fun colleagues she looked forward to working with were heading for the door. In addition, Nadia already had a job which she enjoyed. It wasn't her dream job in the way the other was, but she liked the work and she liked her colleagues. The deadline for applications was in five day's time and she had no idea what to do. I asked her, what would be good about getting the new job? She told me it would be fun, great colleagues, interesting work, nice location. I asked her what would be good about staying where she was. She told me stability, enjoyment, easy travel, nice colleagues. She paused and then said: 'And I wouldn't have to work for a psychopath.' Having written down these points in two columns, I asked her to score each one out of ten for importance to her. She scored 9 for fun, 9 for great colleagues, 8 for interesting work, 6 for location. For staying where she was she scored 7 for stability, 7 for enjoyment, 6 for easy travel, 9 for nice colleagues, and ...... 10 for 'I wouldn't have to work for a psychopath.' You see, Nadia had worked for a psychopath before, and was still licking her wounds. She suddenly knew what was most important to her and the decision was made there and then. She would not apply. There was no job that would good enough to make up for working for a lousy manager. If you have a difficult decision to make, Try this 1. Take a piece of paper and draw two columns, or more if you have more choices. At the top of each column, write down that option. 2. For each option write a list of what would be good about it. 3. For each point, give a score out of ten for how important it is to you. Your gut feeling is the best guide here. 4. Rather than adding up the scores, sit back and look at them. What do they tell you about what is important to you? 5. Consider if you are confining yourself unnecessarily to too few options. Often there is a third or fourth option that you haven't thought of, and that combines the good things about both the other options. If all else fails When I was a child, perhaps nine or ten years of age, I went with some friends to a large outdoor swimming pool. My friends were regular users of this pool, but for me it was the first visit. One of the prize features of the pool was a set of diving boards - a spring board, a medium level board, and a high board. A very high board. My friends were all used to jumping off this high board and I was determined to do it as well. I climbed up the long, winding staircase to the top. I stood in the queue and saw how high we were, how heart-stoppingly long the drop. I reached the head of the queue, I looked down, and I was terrified. I couldn't do it. I stood to one side to allow others to pass. My heart pounded. My friends laughed. I still couldn't do it. I don't know how long I stood up there, ten minutes, twenty? Maybe even more. I just couldn't jump. I didn't think I was going to die if I jumped. I don't think I even thought I was going to hurt myself. It was just such a long way down and once I jumped there would be no going back. But equal to my terror was my determination to do it. Eventually I realised that I couldn't take the leap on my own. I asked the next person in the queue to push me. And she did. 'As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump It is not as wide as you think' Joseph Campbell Good luck with your decisions and, as always, do let me know how you get on. Have a great week!

bottom of page