Sunday, November 27, 2011

Quick! Pick A, B, or C!

Right now, I am at a sort of impasse in my life. I have several  important decisions to make, which will affect my home, my livelihood, my financial security, my time, my health, and several major goals. Making the right decisions will help me move forward in several areas, but making the wrong ones could make exisitng problems worse. After chewing on the decisions, I feel like I'm taking a test I forgot to study for--A, B, or C all seem valid, and so I haphazardly choose one.
Since I tend to freeze up in these situations, I decided to research decision making. Here are some points I found helpful:

 1. Define your goals.
It is hard to make decisions if you do not know where you want to go. Suppose you have a job offer that involves moving to another state, and one that means staying here. The pay is the same once you factor in cost of living differences. Which do you choose?

If you have well-defined goals, making a choice is easier. If one of your goals is. . .

  •  to be near your family:  you will give added weight to the job closest to them. 
  • to pay off your house and stay there when you retire:  the job at home may be your best bet.  
  • to help your nearly-college-age children prepare for college:  keeping them in their current school for stability may be a priority. On the other hand, moving them closer to a school that excels at their desired major may be a better choice. 
Having your goals, and having them prioritized (the kid's college being close is more important for the next 5 years than shelling out extra money to visit the family, for instance), will help when you have a choice to make. Making a flow chart for your goals can help.  For me, my big picture goal sheet looks like this:
  1. God / Spiritual Life
  2. Marriage
  3. Personal Health
  4. Family / Close Friends
  5. Career: acupuncture practice
  6. Career: writing business
    1. Blogs
    2. Outside jobs
    3. Recipe book
    4. Novel
  7. Career: Bath and Beauty products
  8. Hobbies: gardening, reading, craft projects
So any major decisions I make must analyze the impact of each of these areas, and the top ones get the most weight. So if I were offered a position in an acupuncture practice in New York City, I might be tempted because of the steady income, and how much easier it could be to build my writing practice. On the other hand, I don't do well in cities because of the pollution and noise, my husband hates large cities even more than I do, and we have a wonderful relationship with our Church family where we are. If I had no job, and were offered the same job, I might take it, because having the money to have a place to live and food on the table makes all the other goals possible.

2. Look at other choices and do research as necessary
You may have more options than you think.  Before you make a major decision, make sure you have all the information you need to make it. For my do-I-take-a-job in New York scenario, I could. . .

  • . . . see if there were other locations I could work instead of New York.  Maybe someone in a more desirable location could use a great acupuncturist.  
  • . . .move to New York, live outside the city, and commute.  If the commute really bothered me, I could consider working 4 long days instead of 5 regular ones, and not have to commute as far.  
  • . . . stay put and begin to put more focus on my writing career. 
  • . . .just stay where I am, doing things as I do them now
All of these options would require research with my potential employer, perhaps a career coach, discussions with my husband, calling realtors and looking up New York State guidebooks to learn probable costs and possible problems associated with each decision.

Before you limit yourself to just a few choices, make sure you have all the options on the table. Only then should you narrow your focus.

3. Write it down. 
Once you narrow your choices, do this exercise with each choice. Take your decision (to move or not to move) and make two columns on a sheet of paper--pro and con. Then over a few days, list every positive and negative effect your decision. So for our New York job offer, my list for moving to New York City would look something like this:

  • Regular paycheck
  • Near publishing houses
  • Lots of cultural things to do and see
  • Access to plenty of organic and ethnic food
  • Near places to get CEUs for my acupuncture license (and the company would pay!)
  • Chance to meet new people, including a different church congregation
  • Away from family, friends, and church congregation 
  • Away from business contacts built up over years
  • Health may suffer in city
  • Just don't like city living, traffic, etc.
  • Husband will HATE it
  • Cost of living means will need to make a lot of money to live in our current lifestyle
  • Don't like the cold
So looking at this list, and knowing myself and my husband, I can safely say it would take wild horses to get me to NYC. Your list may not make your decision-making this easy, but it might help you see advantages and disadvantages you would not otherwise consider.

4. Make the decision, and live with it.
Once you have all the information, don't dilly-dally.  Even if a choice is not obvious, give yourself a time limit to decide what you will do.  Set a certain amount of time (a day for a relatively minor decision; a month or even a year for a major decision). Then, if no new information presents itself, or no new choices come up, make a choice--and stick with it.

It's easy to second-guess your decision, but if you've gone through the points listed above, be at peace with your choice. You have looked at all available options and how they fit with your goals, you have researched the pros and cons of each viable decision, and made a choice. Now move forward, and don't look back.

Decisions will always be hard for me.  But I have tools I can use to improve my decision making. I hope sharing these tools makes your decision-making easier, too!

**Two websites I found helpful in writing this article :
The Keys to Making a Good Decision
9 Ways to Make the Right Decision

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