What shall I have for lunch? Tuna or chicken sandwich?
Easy. I prefer chicken, so chicken it is.
Do I drive to the conference next week, or take the train?
I’d have to get up crazy early to catch the train. On the other hand, I could get stuck in traffic if I drive. But the trains are often delayed, and I like driving.
Still fairly easy: drive.
Should I buy house X or house Y?
Hmmm. Now we’re into big decision territory.
House X is close to work and has an extra bedroom. But house Y has a bigger garden. House X is cheaper, but it needs some work. House Y could make a perfect family home in the future.
The house (or job/partner/town/insert relevant decision here) that I choose could have a massive impact on my future. It’s a big commitment to make and, if I make the wrong decision, I might regret it deeply, and I could lose out financially.
Once you dive into all the possible outcomes of a big decision, it’s easy to “fall down the rabbit hole” and end up in “analysis paralysis.”
When it comes to the big decisions, then, what’s the best approach?
Is it something logical and methodical, like Decision Matrix Analysis? Or should you follow your instincts? You can try to combine the two approaches, but what if they each tell you something different?
We all have our own ways to make a big decision, and you can find many tools to help you do so in the Decision-Making section of the Mind Tools website. But we wanted to hear some of your personal tips and tricks, so we threw the question open to our friends, followers and contacts on social media. You had plenty of answers!
Your Top Tips for Making a Big Decision
Yolande (@Dwyka_Consult) suggested using your values as a guide. “Put a process between opportunity and decision by measuring the possible consequences of the decision against your values,” she tweeted.
Commenting on LinkedIn, Angela Williams agreed: “The way forward is the path that aligns with my values!”
Also on LinkedIn, Lisa Goodier shared a tip that she learned from a soccer legend. “I take inspiration from Sir Alex Ferguson. When he explained how he decides whether to accept a player transfer, he says, ‘If there’s doubt, there’s no doubt [that the transfer should not go ahead].’”
Vuyo Halimana on LinkedIn recommended getting to know yourself. “Will this decision move me toward the main outcome? Will it be a good decision in 10 days… weeks… months…? I also often refer to the MBTI zig-zag decision making… consider factors in my blind spots (INTJ) – what are the facts/specifics, and who will this affect?”
Why not check your own decision-making skills, using our quiz?
Use a Decision-Making Strategy
Mohammad Ali Zoubi commented on LinkedIn. “Your decision behavior depends on the experience,” he said. “Step 1: take an inventory of your resources. Step 2: weigh the upside against the downside. Step 3: do the work but know when to let go.”
On Facebook, Sam Eccles offered some great strategies that you can use to weigh up a decision: “Intuition – which is all about ‘gut instinct.’ However, it does lack verified evidence and often uses assumptions. Simple evaluation analysis – checklists and evaluation matrices. Financial analysis – loads of financial measurement tools out there which encourage detailed measurement and clarification of assumptions. Multi-dimensional analysis – looks at things from lots of different angles. Portfolio analysis – this is basically running through all your options and trying to dig down into the evidence behind each.”
Sharing some thoughts on Twitter, AtomContentMarketing (@AtomCMarketing) advised talking it through “with trusted aides who are not emotionally involved.”
Jikster (@Jikster2009) agreed, and added an important point about taking some time before you make a decision. “I normally draw up a list of pros and cons,” he wrote. “Then speak to someone you trust to verify them. Always try to sleep on an important decision rather than making an impulsive decision. Sometimes, though, I do rely on old-fashioned gut instinct.”
Facebook friend Chuck Robertson also recommended talking with others. “Think of the other’s point of view! Be open to suggestion.”
On Twitter, Ruth Prosser (@RuthInBarrow) said, “Does the decision involve others? Discuss with them and then make a decision based on all the facts. You can’t beat a list of pros and cons. And don’t make a snap decision – sleep on it.”
That’s some really great advice all round! My top takeaway is that these big decisions definitely aren’t a one-person deal, so I’m off to make another pros and cons list for my house purchase, and to find someone to chat to!
Thanks to everyone who shared their top tips with us. If you have any more advice to add, please comment below.