fearWe moved to the Oregon Coast recently. It’s pretty awesome. One of the effects of the move; however, is that my children will be starting new schools. They both were going to have to start new schools anyway, but here they have a choice of which school they want to attend. My youngest decided right away. My oldest is still thinking about it with the start of the next school year only a few weeks away.

She’s in what people call a “paralysis of analysis.” She fears so much of making the wrong choice that she simply can’t make a choice at all. I feel badly for her, because I’ve experienced the same feeling. Have you? Maybe you’ve been burned in the past or feel overwhelmed by too much information. Perhaps you had no information at all or had very little experience in the area. Either way, you feel stuck. No matter which one you go with you ask yourself, “but what if the other choice is really the better way to go?”

It’s hard to get past that point, but it is possible. You just need to have a few proper decision-making tools in place.

Start by analyzing the situation.

Gather all of the information you have and begin to synthesize it. Ponder the reason for the situation. Who is pushing you to decide? What is their stake in the decision? Who else will the choice impact? Who will benefit and who will end up disappointed? Once you consider the motivations of everyone involved – including yourself – then you will be better prepared to handle the decision.

Listen to your heart.

Facing difficult decisions can put some serious knots in your stomach. When that happens, stay consistent with your values and do what you feel is right. You won’t ever feel badly about doing the right thing, but you might regret it if you compromise your ideals and beliefs for questionable gain.

Weigh the good with the bad.

Take out a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. On one side, write down all of the advantages of taking a certain action. On the other side, jot down all of the disadvantages. If the pros outweigh the cons then go for it. If way more cons show up on the list, then perhaps you should reconsider.

Determine how much risk you are willing to take.

What are the consequences of each plan of action? What are the consequences of taking no action? Think in terms of worst-case scenario. Is the possibility of this happening worth the risk of going forward? If the chances are minimal and the benefits are good, then go for it.

Set a time limit and bite the bullet.

Sometimes you just have to quit the agony of combing through every possible scenario and decide. Accept the fact that there are no perfect outcomes. No matter what you choose, you will encounter both positive and negative effects from your decision. Focus on the positive and seek to mitigate the negative. Make choices that put you in the best position to carry out another positive, proactive decision. Avoid the trap of having to make reactive responses. Decisions tend to be a lot easier when you take control.

I don’t know what my daughter will ultimately decide, but I’m sure she will go through all of these steps in picking her new school. She’s very thorough and has some experience with this process when she picked her middle school. Strong leaders must learn how to make tough decisions, so this will be good practice for her.

You keep practicing, too, and soon you’ll take your decision-making skills to a whole new level.

Live life Unbound!