Make A Decision

How many decisions do you have to make today? Quite a few, huh? Some, of course, are much more important than others. Choosing what to eat for lunch doesn’t hold a candle to deciding how to deal with a challenge at work or how to handle a family conflict. Regardless of the decision you face, though, there are certain steps you can take to assist you in the process.
People primarily know me as a speaker and writer, but I also have a few individuals and groups for whom I do consulting on a regular basis – sometimes in person, often by phone. More than anything else, I serve as a sounding board. When they tell me about their challenges, I listen. Then I ask questions and we discuss their responses. As we combine our experiences and knowledge in a problem-solving manner, we usually come up with some workable solutions. And in the process, I often gain insight into dealing with some of my own challenges. That is something I have learned: when you help other people, you usually help yourself.
Let’s take one of the important decisions you have to make today and run it through part of the problem-solving process. I won’t serve as a sounding board, of course, but I will help you ask yourself some questions.
First of all, make sure you properly define the problem. We could talk a lot about this, but the important thing is not rush to discover a solution before you correctly identify the problem. This is where effective communication and observation enter the picture. Don’t merely look at the symptoms.
Secondly, identify your own wants and needs and the things important to others affected by the decision. Write down what you have identified, even if you discover some of your wants and needs contradict one another and even if the issues important to others also reveal contradictions.
Thirdly, rank the things you want and need and rank the perceived wants and needs of others. When you compare your own contradictions, ask yourself, “Which are most important to me?” For example, if you are considering a career change, which is most important, a higher salary or more enjoyment and creative freedom? What is most important to others when there are obvious conflicts? For example, maybe you and the majority of your group do not want to see you fire someone from a job or dismiss the person from a team, but everyone recognizes the person is hurting the organization. A decision has to be made.
Fourthly, gather information you will need in order to make a wise decision. Discover who else has faced similar problems. How did they handle them? What were the results of their decisions? During this step, consider various possibilities in dealing with the situation. Consider the advantages and disadvantage of the alternatives. Weigh your emotions against the objectivity of what appears should be done.
Fifthly, determine how much of a risk you’re willing to take and can afford to take. Once you have done this, you will usually find such options as (1) the safest alternative – the one that cannot fail. (2) a riskier alternative – but one with the best odds for success and (3) the alternative with the most desirable outcome – regardless of the risk.

Sixthly, eliminate any option that might present a loss you absolutely cannot afford and will not be able to live with regardless of the high odds of success.

Eighthly, visualize how you will deal with possible outcomes – both positive and negative. Follow the adage of expecting the best and preparing for the worst. Don’t be caught flat-footed.

Ninthly, keep in mind that even though you can control the decision-making process, you cannot control the outcome of a decision and how others react. You can exert influence, but you can’t have absolute control.
Carl Mays, author of over a dozen books and speaker at over 3,000 events, can be contacted at 865-436-7478 or His books, including A Strategy For Winning, People of Passion, Anatomy Of A Leader, Are We Communicating Yet? and Winning Thoughts, are available in stores, on (PayPal Secure) and


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