There's one strategy that can help you make a big decision, and it trumps every other strategy I've tried. You can make a pro and con list (although those usually don't work because most of us will weight the list one way or another).

You can try testing out your decision (what I like to call a fleece) to see if something sticks, basically a trial basis. Sadly this idea of "running it up the flagpole" is often not too conclusive. Maybe you could make a leap of faith and learn as you go, but that usually leads to a lot of regrets and a lot of heartaches. Trust me, I've tried everything.

So what actually works? Talking it out. 

Every other strategy is just that--a mere strategy. Anything can help, and it's smart to look anywhere for advice and assistance. However, finding a trusted friend or family member (or in my case my wife) and simply talking, talking, and talking some more is what works.

Here's why. In most cases, talking something out eventually reveals your true feelings, motives, and desires. You hear yourself telling someone the real truth. More importantly, it helps you cover every angle. What do you really think and feel? Have you considered all of the options? Maybe you don't always have the time, which is why you should take the time.

Talking it out leads to a branching conversation about true hopes and desires, about the considerations you didn't...consider. You spell out exactly what you like about a new opportunity, and exactly what you don't like, and then you talk some more about how the decision will impact those around you and how you will be impacted yourself. You analyze the impact, and you analyze what life will be like if you pursue that opportunity.

Yes, it is grueling. Yes, it is time-consuming.

It won't lead to easy answers, only hard answers.

Talking it out when you need to make a big decision is a way to fully embrace every possible scenario and to figure out not just what you think but what the possible and eventual outcomes might be, and how you will cope with them. You see every angle in vivd detail. It's a bit like creating a future reality by talking through it, and then that future reality becomes something you actually want to do or something you don't want to do. Talking helps the decision materialize in front of you. You block the future reality.

You can poke and prod it, you can kick the tires a bit, you can see it from a few angles. The truth emerges. Always. Talking about a decision helps you evaluate that decision because too often we get distracted and only consider a few variables. For a job, maybe you are only thinking about the pay. For a business relationship, maybe you just like the person. There are times when you make a knee-jerk decision and end up feeling like a jerk.

In my experience, there is a better way.

I've had to make some tough decisions in life. Where should my kids attend school? Where should we live? Which job should I pursue? Time and time again, the tricks and tips, the pro and con lists, the strategies for decision making--they don't really work. When I've talked it out, in realtime, often for a full day (usually while drinking coffee), the answer comes.

Published on: Dec 9, 2019
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