The 8-Step Guide to Making Tough Decisions

Last Updated Mar 3, 2011 2:50 PM EST

Young people may have it easy on the weighty responsibilities front, but when it comes to tough decisions, 20-somethings face some of the most difficult. Where to live after college and what career direction to pursue. Whether to get married and to whom. In the ten years after college, most grads have to face down plenty of forks in the road.

Every person is different and every choice comes with different benefits and drawbacks, but blogger Jenny Blake believes that whatever the tough decision, the same basic process applies to making it. On her blog Life After College recently she offered a handy document template for sorting through your conflicting feelings about any decision. Along with the free, downloadable template, Blake also offers eight basics steps to help you use it to reach a decision. They are:
  • State the problem or decision you are facing.
  • Re-state the decision as a question (this will open your brain up to a more creative thinking state).
  • Over the course of the next week (or more), document your questions/concerns around the decision. They may not come all at once. List one concern per line, and distinguish between internal and external concerns. Oftentimes people get bogged down in the "tyranny of the hows" -â€" they feel paralyzed on a big decision because they don't know how to get there yet. This process will help you outline all the various aspects of the decision.
  • Rate the intensity of that question, concern or inner critic on a scale of 1-5. How strongly do you feel about the concern? How much will it affect your decision? (Handy template feature: cells change color based on the number you enter!)
  • State the underlying values or priorities for each concern. What is the essence of your concern? What does it reveal about what is important to you?
  • Brainstorm solutions or replies. For each concern, brainstorm at least three potential solutions or counter-arguments.
  • Gut reaction. Based on everything you've listed, how would your gut answer the question you posed in Step 2?
  • Next steps. If you are clear on your answer to Step #7, what are the immediate next steps to take? Brainstorm a list of 5. If you are not clear on your answer, what other inputs or information will help you make your decision? Brainstorm a list of 10.
There are many things that are appealing about Blake's process, including that she allows time to mull over your concerns and let all factors and issues to come to light. Also, even though it's a fairly structured process, her template allows for gut feelings to play their part. Emotions are often thought of as destructive to well-reasoned decisions (and certainly they are in the extremes like anger) but actually research shows that our feelings are key to making good decisions.

Still struggling to decide and looking for one last tiny boost to help you choose? In wackier decision-making news today, economics blog Marginal Revolution suggests you wait until your bladder is full to decide. Apparently, Dutch researchers have found that ""You seem to make better decisions when you have a full bladder."

Read More on BNET: (Image courtesy of Flickr user lucianvenutian, CC 2.0)
  • Jessica Stillman On Twitter»

    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.

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