Become a Masterful Decision Maker

12/12/2011 10:52:10 PM

Decisions, decisions, decisions. Some days (like maybe during this month!) your biggest decision is no larger than what gift to choose for that hard-to-buy-for person on your Christmas list. Other days, it seems the weight of the world is bearing down on your shoulders and the impact of YOUR decision could be life changing—for you or for others.
Often, people make important decisions impulsively and based on emotion rather than on a thorough and objective evaluation. However, you needn’t be this way. Making tough decisions is never easy, but if you practice the following six decision steps, your odds of making the right one will be significantly greater:
Step 1: Get the facts.
Gather all of the facts you can, along with any accompanying assumptions. In some cases, you’ll have to use your best guess.
Step 2: Determine your key decision criteria.
Identify the key factors in making your decision, prioritizing your criteria from most to least important.  
Step 3: Identify all of your alternatives.
Consider all realistic options without prejudging. No choice is a “bad choice” at this stage.
Step 4: Engage wise counsel.
Solicit the views of experienced and insightful people who know you well and understand the decision at hand. (If you’re a person of faith, this is a good time to pray!)
Step 5: Conduct an objective pro/con analysis for each option.
Record the advantages and disadvantages and weigh them by importance. This is a particularly valuable step for visual learners since the right decision often emerges when the pros significantly outweigh the cons.
Step 6: Consider your “gut instinct” or intuition.
Chances are, by the time you’ve completed the fifth step, your best choice will have emerged. However, the final test is what your intuition is telling you. If, after completing steps 1-5, you have a nagging feeling that your preliminary choice isn’t right, sleep on it.
If you’re still uncertain the following day, have a heart to heart talk with yourself and your most trusted advisors. This will either reinforce your preliminary decision (which will provide the needed conviction) or it will compel you to more seriously consider your other alternatives.
When I look back on my own life, I can honestly say that I’ve never made a major decision that was personally wrong for me. I think this is one reason that I have very few regrets—and that’s something I’m forever thankful for!

How have you approached major life decisions up to this point: Are you diligent and methodical or are you more casual in your approach? How might the six-step approach identified here help you make wise decisions? Share your responses below; we’d love to hear from you!