This 7-step formula will help you make the toughest decisions in the most empowering way

Here, they share the 7 steps everyone making a tough decision must take into careful consideration for the most empowering result…

Simon Mueller and Julia Dhar maintain that there’s a foolproof formula for making tough decisions in life so penned The Decision Maker’s Playbook – a guide designed to help readers make brilliant decisions in an overwhelming and increasingly manipulative world. The book is packed with tools and tactics to help people stay effective, take action and lead with confidence; and who doesn’t want to live their life that way?

Choosing whether to have red or white wine with your supper may seem like the hardest decision of the day but every so often, important questions thrust themselves onto the stage of our lives. Getting married? Moving abroad? Quitting your job? Buying a house? These are the real decisions we are faced with – and they deserve careful consideration.

Acknowledge their importance

If you are reading this, you’ve already made the first critical step: Stop and think. The gravitas of these choices warrants time and effort spent to figure out which way to go. While intuitions and ‘gut feelings’ should play a role, they shouldn’t solely guide your decision. Block time with yourself, take a whole day or weekend if you must, and dedicate it to researching and making the right decision.

Counteract cognitive biases

Our brain uses shortcuts and crude heuristics that can interfere with rational decision-making. For example, the easier a piece of information can be retrieved from memory, the more salient we think it is. Just because you recently spent a great weekend with your besties in NYC means that you should make every effort to permanently move to the city. Make a mindful effort to observe your preconceptions and biases, and attempt to be as rational as possible.

Understand your options

List the options available to you. What are all the different paths you could take? According to negotiation theory, this is the step where people leave most value on the table. Make the list as long as possible, and generate creative options to defy black-white thinking. Pay particular attention to decisions that are reversable: this provides you with the ‘option value’ to change your course of action if your environment changes. Lastly, note that a ‘do nothing’ option should always be part of your consideration set!

Set criteria

What’s important to you – and how important is it? List all the relevant dimensions first, and then assess how important they are. When considering moving to a different city, you might list the following: Distance to friends and family, job opportunities, real estate prices, quality of kindergardens and schools, traffic, weather,…

Gather evidence and keep score

Now take the first of your criteria and score the various options, for example on a scale from 0 to 10. Some dimensions are easier to research (real estate index, driving/flying distance to your loved ones) than others (job opportunities, quality of the schools). Try not to rely too much on second-hand information – rather, do your own ‘homework’. Even though ‘facts do not exist, only interpretations’ (Nietzsche), try to be as neutral as possible during this step: You should avoid letting your biases get in the way of the optimal decision.

Weigh off the alternatives

Now take a look at your table of options and ratings: Which are the ones that score most points in dimensions that matter to you? If you are mathematically savvy, you can give each of your options a different ‘weight’ (in percent; and all weights have to add up to 100%) and then multiply them by the score of each of your options to get a ‘final’ score.

Act – but correct course if necessary

Take a look at your ‘top’ option. Surprised? If you are, that’s good news. At this point, be careful not to go back and change the scores or weights (our natural instinct). Go ahead and choose the highest-scoring option, but always keep an eye out for changing circumstances that require you to reconsider your choices.

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