Making Difficult Decisions

There is no art in making easy decisions. I doubt you can find an article, never mind a book, on that problem.

Most easy decisions have low cost, are not challenging to reverse, or you don’t suffer the outcome when its wrong. No problems there.

Difficult decisions are different.

There are consequences. Most people fall into a trap of their own making. They think there is a right for sure and a wrong for sure option. Almost every decision falls between. Once you realize a good decision soon is better than a perfect decision some time in the indeterminate future, you can proceed.

It is acceptable to build a good decision that can evolve over time. You can decide anything if you reserve the ability to change as you go.

The hardest decisions are where there is no opportunity to change after it is made. A reversible decision has no risk.

For the ones that remain

This article came my way today and I think it is helpful. It will not guarantee a perfect decision but it will help you make one that works. Be wary of the no decision position. Deciding to do nothing is a decision too. You can find the article here. How to make a difficult decision

It offers many tools, like understand your point of view for addressing the problem. I have often argued with the several versions of myself on that point.

It is a lengthy piece, but worth a look.

The key points from the article

  1. Understand why some decisions can be so hard. It’s not just the high stakes that can make decisions difficult: sometimes the reasons lie in your past.
  2. Avoiding a decision is in fact a decision. It can be tempting to kick a difficult decision down the road – but that itself is actually a decision, and probably the wrong one.
  3. Identify the parts of yourself that want different things. Be clear on which parts of you want what, and try to find a compromise between them.
  4. Create distance from the decision. Imagine advising a friend making the same decision or exploring how you would feel 10 days/10 months/10 years after making (or avoiding) a decision.
  5. Think outside the box. To unlock new ways of thinking about the same situation, adopt a child’s imaginative mindset or ask a particularly creative friend.
  6. List out your objectives. For this decision to be fully successful, what would it need to achieve? Including more objectives will lead to better decisions.
  7. Use a weighting system to compare multiple options. By methodically assessing your options against a comprehensive set of objectives, it is possible that one option will emerge as the obvious decision to take.
  8. Listen to your emotions. Learning to listen to your emotions and feelings is a powerful indicator of what you truly aspire to. Writing about the options can help.
  9. Use micro-decisions to overcome inertia. Having made a decision, it can be difficult to know how to begin to enact it. To get going, break down the big decision into a series of focused micro-decisions.

I particularly liked the idea in number 9. I have noticed over the years that implementing is harder than any other part of the decision. The key is to start. Inertia is not your friend. Once a little momentum is working for you it gets easier.

The bit to take away.

Decision making is a process, not an event. Learn how to participate and life gets easier.

Commitment is a powerful advantage.


Help me please. If you have found this useful, please subscribe and forward it to others.


I build strategy and fact-based estate and income plans. The plans identify alternate ways and alternate timing to achieve both spending and estate distribution goals. In the past I have been a planner with a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency, a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business. I have appeared on more than 100 television shows on financial planning, have presented to organizations as varied as the Canadian Bar Association, The Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants, The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Banks – from CIBC to the Business Development Bank.

Be in touch at 705-927-4770 or by email to don@moneyfyi.com

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