I remember describing my first home-building experience as “an infinite number of decisions.” I wasn’t prepared for that at all, and yet each decision was made (sometimes on-the-spot) and it all turned out beautifully. Here, we’ll take a few moments to step back and look at your decision-making process. Clarifying it will help you any time you are put on the spot or you feel confused or overwhelmed by decisions you face. For best outcomes, I think the process should look something like this: 

  • Values precede choice
  • Choice precedes decisions 
  • Key indicators let you know if you are aligned with your choice
  • Certain actions are in line once you have clarity
  • These actions are the ones to move forward with, even if fear or doubt tries to cloud your decision at this point

This is my story that is a simple illustration:  I am a Native Floridian, where any temperature below 50’ is considered “cold weather.” Many of us don’t mind the change we feel around October that brings cooler, less humid air. But, if you’re a northerner, you’d definitely call me a weather wimp. I live every day out of my choice to be temperature-comfortable, which for me is 83 degrees, give or take a few degrees on either side. Dialing up or down from 83 just means fewer or more clothes if heading outside. If I look out the window and see a palm tree doing a fast hula and check the temperature to see it’s what I call “freezing,” I’m going to dress for a cold and windy day. I’m going to trade my usual flip-flops for socks and shoes, don the wool cap that my daughter brought me from Iceland, and add long sleeves and fleece to my torso. Depending, I may also grab a warm scarf and gloves—maybe even the hooded wool coat I bought one time in Delaware when caught in a temperature emergency. 

Let’s unpack the story, looking for the five decision-making keys listed above: Values, Choice, Check Key Indicators, Make Decision, Take Actions.

What “value” is in play? Self-care, I value my body, its comfort and state of well-being. 

What “choice” provides the context? To honor myself—learn my own preferences and do as I please, as long as it causes no harm to others. This includes paying attention to how I feel and any signal from my inner self. Of course, my desires and choice are aligned with one or more of my values (the over-arching context). 

Were there “key indicators” at hand which I could check? Yes, and there always are if you look for them and learn to recognize their messages. The temperature gauge, movement in trees caused by wind, and knowledge that cold weather is not unusual at that time of year all provided to me the critical information necessary to make a good decision—that is, one that was in accordance with my values and choices. A get-prepared “decision” that had a high probability of a desirable outcome. 

“Actions?” I did not leave the house ill-prepared. With all the right attire, I was battle-ready for the finger-numbing, lung-burning, lip-chapping, cold conditions. Thus, my actions were in perfect concordance with my value of self-care and my choice to honor my comfort preferences. 

Now think of a scene where you found yourself taking actions that supported your achievement of reaching an important goal. Reverse-engineer the outcome and write down the Five Keys to Decision-Making found in your own process. 

Now think of a time when your actions did NOT produce a desirable outcome. What triggered those actions? Were they the product of first having clarity on your values, understanding you have a choice to captain your own life? Did you then pay attention to the information around you, the key indicators that help with navigation? Once you became aware of the pointers, did you take actions in line with them?  Where was the breakdown? Outcomes, analyzed in this way, are never a big surprise. 

When you face making a decision, unlock the best chance of a desirable outcome by using the five keys.

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