How to Make Good Decisions

14 Tools for Making Tough Life Choices

April 2, 2023 |

Decision Making

Making decisions is one of the biggest challenges in life. Getting stuck in indecision leads to lost opportunities, leadership failure, damaged relationships, and tremendous anxiety.

Few things bring as much relief as getting decisions made. With practice, you can improve your ability to make quality choices. Below are 14 tools to start using today.

14 Decision Making Tools

Tool #1: List Out All The Facts

I find this tool crucial to sorting through the confusion. List out all the facts and details. Things are fuzzy in your head and much clearer on paper. List all the details and the right direction might become clear.

Tool #2: Analyze Your Bad Decisions

Make a list of a few life choices you consider mistakes. Then list some reasons behind why you made these decisions. Was some type of addiction behind why you made this choice? Was it made out of emotion? Was it self sabotage, running from positive opportunities due shame (e.g. feeling unworthy)? Did you ignore your intuition? These choices may have much in common and much to teach you about making better decisions. 

Tool #3: Set a Deadline

If there isn’t already a deadline, set one right away. Deadlines channel your creative problem solving abilities. They force productivity which eliminates indecision.

Tool #4: Error on the Side of Courage

Good decisions come from avoiding the easy. Take a risk. This might mean saying “no” or it might mean saying “yes”. Sometimes quitting is the most courageous decision. What’s the most courageous decision in your current situation?

“Decision is risk rooted in the courage to be free.” -Paul Tillich

Tool #5: Emotionally Mature Friends & Family

Get the opinions of your emotionally mature friends and family. People with enough distance from the issue to give good counsel. Sometimes family is too close to the issue, and to you, to be objective. Sometimes they are the best people to ask because they know you so well. 

Tool #6: Advise a Close Friend

I’ve witness many people make major decisions right after a loss (e.g. Retirement, divorce, death or a loved one, etc.). We don’t make our best choices during major life transitions, while depressed, and/or while grieving. True friends have the courage to tell us the truth at these times. Be a good friend to yourself. If a close friend came to you for advice on this issue, what would you tell them? 

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tool #7: Create & Use Filters

Uncovering and clarifying your core values, life purpose, mission, and vision for your future is an incredibly valuable investment in yourself. They serve as filters for making decisions. Say “no” to decisions that doesn’t align.

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Tool #8: Worst Possible Outcome

Write down the disaster scenario for making a specific choice. “If I take this new job/position, I could be miserable and leave within 1 year.” Then describe how you think you’ll successfully handle this realistically worst possible outcome. This can give you confidence in this choice, or help you identify that it’s a very bad one. 

Tool #9: Deal with Your Past

Unresolved past trauma keeps people stuck. Living immobilized, often subconsciously, believing that will keep them from getting hurt again. Many only make reactive decisions or continually let others decide. Gaining awareness into how your past impacts you today can clarity the right path.

Tool #10: Listen to Experts

Accountants and attorneys have saved me from costly mistakes. Utilize trusted experts for direction. Many experts have laid out steps to follow. Buy their books, listen to their podcasts, and read their blogs. Here’s a list of my favorite books, many with expert advise.

Tool #11: 5 Minutes, 5 days, 5 months  & 5 Years

Image you made a specific decision. Write down how you think you’ll feel about this choice 5 minutes, 5 days, 5 months, and then years later. Discovered this great tool in an excellent book call Decisive by Chip & Dan Heath.

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing” – Theodore Roosevelt

Tool #12: Listen to Your Intuition

Intuition is the most crucial decision making tool of all. Trust yourself! Listen to your conscience. This unexplainable thing inside that’s much wiser than the voice in your head. Your intuition won’t lead you astray, but anxiety will. Slow down, get space, and follow your instincts.

“Intuition is more powerful than intellect” – Steve Jobs

Tool #13: Detach

Do something to detach from thinking about the decision. Go on a long walk, listen to your favorite music, engage in a favorite hobby. Prayer and mediation are ways of “letting go” of the outcome. Detaching gets you in touch with your intuition.

Tool #14: Fight Perfectionism

Is wanting to make a perfect decision holding you back? Perfectionists won’t decide unless they can do it perfectly. Fight this tendency! On a scale of 1 to 10, be satisfied with a 7. Give yourself permission to make the best choice possible, fail, and learn.

“My greatest concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” – Abraham Lincoln

All decisions have consequences. Mistakes are inevitable and a part of growing, as long as you don’t keep making the same bad choices over and over. Don’t beat yourself up when take a risk and realize you could have made a better decisions. Be gracious with yourself. Step back and intentionally apply these tools and your choices will improve.

Take action now! What’s a choice you’re struggling to make? You now have 14 tools to use to determine your course of action. Make a decision and GROW.

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