How to make hard decisions - Daily Energy Blog

How to make hard decisions

If you are like me, than you find it important to make the right decision, even if it’s a hard decision. For instance, when choosing your next career move or deciding on your education. I promise that by reading this blog, making hard decisions becomes easier for you.

What’s a good decision?

There is a difference between a good decision and a good outcome. Kuno Huisman (professor in decision-making) gives a very good example in the masterclass about decision-making under uncertainty. It’s a bad decision ‘to drive home when you just drank 6 beers at the pub’ although you would arrive safely (a good result). While ‘to drink 6 beers and order the taxi that crashes into a bridge leaving you in a coma’ is a good decision with a very bad outcome. A good decision is one that is of quality. It is logical and based on evaluated risks, preferences and values.

‘Sleep on it’

Before I give you a checklist which can enhance the decision quality, I want to stress that complex decisions need slow thinking. Your intuitive subconscious brain is great at it. Thus, I think that it’s always a good decision to just take some time for making a big decision, like for a new job, mortgage or prenup. I always go home and come back at least a day later to sign. If you are still not sure the day after, the checklist at the bottom of this page enables you to tackle the complexity in a structured way, making the decision a little bit easier.

2 types of complexity

How to make hard decisions with fearsetting - Daily Energy BlogPicture by aopsan)

Research gives us 2 types of complexity:

  1. Organisational complexity: Many parties are involved. They have differences in values, desires, motivation, degrees of power, personalities, compentencies or have fundamentally different frames.
  2. Analytical complexity: There are many uncertainties, interrelated variables, scenarios, decision variables and/or criteria.

If both are low, you can just use common sense or rule of thumb. If both are high, and most of the time these are business decisions with high stakes, you need a dialogue decision process. It could also be the case that just one is high, or that there is just some organisational complexy ánd some analytical complexity. In those two cases, you should use the following checklist (Matheson & Matheson, 1998) and make sure that you can check every box.

Decision-making checklist

  1. appropriate frame – Are you looking at the problem from the right perspective? Whose perspective is most important? What’s the exact context? What’s relevant or not? Reduce the context to relevant-only.
  2. creative, doable alternatives – Do have enough alternatives? Think out-of-the-box to create a lot of alternatives. Then select multiple doable ones.
  3. meaningful, reliable information – Do you have the information you need? Is the information relevant? Is the information useful? Is the information reliable?
  4. clear values and trade-offs – What is most important, second and third in the context of the decision.
  5. logically correct reasoning – Is the way of selecting and deciding sound? Are you only thinking from your own perspective and experiences? Do you use the right premises? Do you generalise? Could your observations be wrong? Can you spot any other fallacies?
  6. commitment to action – There’s no point in making a decision if you are not sure you’ll stick to it and actually take action.

With this information, I hope you now can make your decision in a structured way. If you made your decision, but need help in taking the risk, then you can read here how perfectionism prevents us from achieving what we long for ánd how to fix it!

For me, this strategy is effective. For instance, it helped me to find out which career to pursue. Please let me know if this strategy has helped you and in which decision it helped you via a comment on this blog.

decision quality checklist for making good decisions powernoodle
(Image from Powernoodle)


This decision checklist makes hard decisions easier

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