Today I am going to share the “short version” of the process I have used to make major life decisions over the last six years. I will be focusing on this framework for blog posts for the near future. I’ll add some different decision-making strategies as time goes, on – but at this point, I want to stick with what I was taught and what has been working well for me!
I learned about practical decision-making in my doctoral program in Educational Leadership in 2010. The process I learned was adapted from Hammond, Keeney, and Raiffa’s book, Smart Choices – A Practical Guide to Making Better Life Decisions. I appreciated this framework because it is both analytical and subjective. Important life decisions involve both your head and your heart!
People use many different strategies to make decisions (whether they realize it or not!) Sometimes people use pros & cons lists or simply go with their gut feelings, while others may suffer from “analysis paralysis” and never make a decision. Learning a practical framework that can be used in almost any kind of life decision can save you a tremendous amount of time and energy. You may not make a “perfect” decision each time, but hopefully you will be more satisfied with your choice while having fewer regrets about the decisions you do make.
Here is a brief description of each step:
- Develop the Decision Question. Look at the question you are trying to answer and make sure it is the “right” question. Spending time clarifying the question will usually improve the chance of you making a good decision. Broad questions also allow more creative options to be considered.
- Define Your Goals. Considering what you want and need will help you create goal statements. Including what you want to avoid will also help you develop important goals that will be used to make the decision. Word your goals in short phrases and consider whether the goals are “means” goals (what will lead you toward a different goal) or “end” goals. End goals are the ones used to make the final decision.
- Generate Creative Options. What options have you already identified? Think broadly here! Make sure to look for limits created by the decision question itself! Consider all options that you come up with. The process will quickly eliminate those that won’t meet your goals!
- Create a Results Table. Review the table below. You will likely have more than four goals to rank, so you will have more than one (or two) goals in each category – extremely important, very important, important, or somewhat important.
|RESULTS TABLE||Option #1||Option #2||Option #3||Option #4|
|Extremely important goal|
|Very important goal|
|Somewhat important goal|
- Use the Results Table to Compare Options. This is the point in the decision process where you narrow down the options. There is a process that is used to remove options from consideration. In a future blog post, I will go through a full example of how to use the results table to narrow your decision down to the final option (or limit it to just a few options where you will then consider trade-offs).
- Determine the Best Option. Use the information you have generated to determine the option that will most likely meet your goals. You will likely be satisfied with this decision (even if it is not “perfect”) because of the process you used.
That sums up the “short version” of the decision-making process I learned! I have used it successfully on decisions including changing jobs, purchasing investment properties, helping my daughter choose a college, and helping my husband make the decision to retire.
Have you ever used a decision-making process like this? Is there another strategy that works well for you? Have you used a strategy that has not produced positive results? I look forward to what you have to share!