Questions to ask yourself before making tough decisions
Life is filled with difficult decisions, both in work and outside of work. We all have to make really tough decisions at some point in our lives. Although the process of making some decisions can be quite stressful, it doesn’t always need to be.
There are things you can do to make things easier and help you to summarise your thoughts. Important decisions shouldn’t be made impulsively, they should be carefully thought through. There are certain questions everyone should ask themselves before making a big decision, whether it’s a personal or business decision.
We have come up with some helpful questions you should ask yourself before making tough decisions.
Are you acting solely on your emotions?
It’s never a good idea to make a decision based on your emotions. When you are feeling emotional or overwhelmed about making a decision, you might not be thinking straight. Strong emotions can skew your perspective and may sway you towards the wrong decision. Wait until you have had a chance to calm down and take some time out before making a decision. You should review the options with a clear head.
‘Don’t act on an emotional response’ is listed as one of Richard Branson’s four rules for making difficult decisions. If anyone knows about making tough business decisions, it’s Richard Branson. For example, when Virgin Trains lost their bid to retain the operating rights to the West Coast rail franchise, Branson had to make a tough decision, whether or not to sue the government.
It turns out his decision saved his rail franchise business. Yet if he had instantly acted on his emotions, his case could had been dismissed. He took time to collect his thoughts and review the situation before acting.
What are the possible negatives?
It’s always sensible to look at the potential negative outcomes. Consider each option carefully and list any possible negatives that could arise. This will help you analyse your choice and pick the option with the negatives that will have less of an impact on you. Branson also includes ‘Find as many downsides to an idea as possible’ as one of his four rules for making difficult decisions.
Are the potential negatives as bad as you think?
When making decisions, some people will exaggerate some of the negatives in their mind. There might be an option you don’t really want to consider, so you make the negatives seem worse. When reviewing a potential option, think, what’s the worst that could happen? Are the negatives really as bad as you are making them out to be?
Have you considered the bigger picture?
Always make sure you try and look at the bigger picture. Don’t just review a decision in isolation, think about all the things, people and businesses it could affect. If you don’t think about the bigger picture you might miss something and make a big mistake.
Richard Branson feels that people should consider the bigger picture when making difficult decisions, he says you should think about ‘how will it affect other projects or priorities and, if now is not the best time to do it, what risks if any are there in putting the thing on hold for an agreed period of time?’
Are you scared of stepping outside your comfort zone?
Some of the greatest human achievements were achieved because people pushed themselves outside of their comfort zone. Life isn’t always easy, and sometimes you have to make tough decisions that will push you to your limits if you want to progress.
For decades doctors said it was impossible for a man to run a mile in under four minutes, yet Roger Bannister pushed through against all odds. When Darwin came up with his theory of evolution he faced some very difficult decisions, for example, publishing a book that would challenge religious theories. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and make mistakes in order to reach your goals.
Are you being influenced too heavily by others?
When you are trying to make an important decision, you tend to discuss the options with close friends, family members and colleagues. People will often offer their opinion even if you don’t ask for it. Whilst it’s helpful to take on board and consider people’s advice, you don’t necessarily have to follow it. Try not to be influenced too much by other people, because at the end of the day it’s your decision and it will impact you the most.
Will you feel the same way in a few years’ time?
Picture yourself in a few years’ time. Do you think you will still feel the same way about the decision you made? If you are certain you are unlikely to feel differently then you will feel more confident in your final decision.
Are you able to make an informed decision?
Have you done enough research around your decision? Ensure you have all the information you need to make a sensible decision. Get all the facts, work out all the possible outcomes and review all the information you have before making a decision.
What is your gut instinct?
At the end of the day, your gut instinct is also very important. You probably shouldn’t make a decision based on your gut instinct alone. However, if you have asked yourself all the above questions and still feel the same way, you know you are making the right decision. Trust your gut instinct over what other people tell you.