Souffles or pancakes? The green Mercedes or the white one? Vacation in Tahoe or swing out to Las Vegas and play golf instead?

OK, some decisions in life are not that hard. You get to pick from two good options. What if you are faced with firing your accountant who also happens to be your best friend from college? Or how do you decide if you should make a big splash at a local startup accelerator or play things closer to the chest?

As many of us learned from the Freakonomics guys in their last book, the pro/con list doesn't always work. We tend to favor one side or the other and stack the deck. (With apologies to my dad who told me to use this method, it's also a little too simplistic.)

Instead, I'd ask yourself a series of tough questions and spend some time thinking about the actual outcome. Does your friend need to be fired? Does going public mean you can find investment dollars faster? With any tough business decision, start by sitting down, shutting out distractions, and really diving into the issue full bore.

Here are a few questions to get you started...

1. Is it practical?

In my experience, most business decisions you make have to pass the most crucial litmus test of all: You have to decide if the decision is practical or not. Keep in mind that you should pursue some ideas that are not practical, and it's even a good idea to think outside of the box, but it's always (always!) a good idea to think about whether something makes practical sense or could be considered frivolous. And, you have to start by defining what "practical" even means: it's the actual "use or doing" of something as opposed to a theory. It has to make sense. It has to be workable.

2. Is it achievable?

Maybe you've decided this new business decision does fit within the scope of your business. Good! Now you have to decide if it is achievable. Remember, you probably don't have the resources of Elon Musk (unless you actually are Elon Musk). You have to decide, given the resources if the decision is even within the realm of possibility.

3. Is it measurable?

In college, I learned the MAP concept. Is the idea Measurable, Attainable, and Practical? We covered the last two already (practical and attainable), but that first one can be a bugger. Let's say you want to expand overseas. OK, that seems nice. Company paid trips to France! Air five on that one, right? But hold on for a second. If you do expand, can you measure the success? Is there a way to crunch the numbers and really determine if things panned out? Expansion is fairly easy to measure, but how about firing that accountant? If you keep him or her on the payroll, will it be easier to measure the results? If you stay in stealth mode, can you control your product easier? Do a sanity check on any decision to make sure you can measure it.

4. Will it require a major time investment?

I usually like to evaluate a decision based on the time involved. It's a precious commodity. Honestly, business dollars come and go. You might be rich one day and poor the next. But time? Once you use it up, it's gone forever. Make sure you know how much you have to spend. If the decision will consume too much time, skip it.

5. Will the decision help others? Will it harm others?

A decision might be good for the company, not take too much of your time, and meet the other criteria I've listed here, but it's also important to decide if this is something that will benefit society. Is it good for you and good for others? I've read about many entrepreneurs who ultimately decided to make a big decision not for the financial rewards but mostly because it was going to help society. When I profiled Cruise Automation recently, I came to the conclusion that the company really is motivated to do something profound for society. It wasn't all about money. In the end, money doesn't really give you lasting satisfaction anyway, it just helps you buy a nicer car.

6. Will you be able to maintain your integrity?

That's right, some decisions might seem practical and even necessary but they might be morally suspect. You know what? The decision will come back to bite you anyway. When you maintain your integrity and decide against something that most people would say is objectionable, even if it seems like you might get away with it and benefit somehow, you'll be happier. You can live with yourself. And, by the way, so can everyone around you. No one likes to be around someone who lacks integrity.

6. What is the stress factor?

There's one last criterion to keep in mind. Maybe you have made it this far through the questions and decided to pursue that new widget or launch a new marketing campaign. Before you pull the lever, ask one final question about how much stress the decision will cause. As a writer, I deal with this last question quite often because I know stress takes time and zaps my mental energy. When I go ahead with a decision that will cause stress, I always try to find a way to drop out of other responsibilities and prepare for the eventual mental fallout. You can check off every question on this list and feel like you have a green light, and then realize you can't handle the stress. That's a good time to head to a local coffee shop, stretch out, and postpone the decision for a while. Go buy the white Mercedes instead.