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Sam Davidson's blog

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How to Decide

One of the biggest goals I have as a parent is to teach my daughter how to make decisions. Helping her understand right from wrong, good choices from bad ones, and learning about tradeoffs and opportunities, will enable her to know what to do when faced with peer pressure, opportunities to grow, and what to do when there's a fork in the road. Seth Godin, in his signature succinct style, sums it up nicely by saying:

The art of good decision making is looking forward to and celebrating the tradeoffs, not pretending they don't exist.

Hindsight is perfect especially if we all knew then what we know now, but this is not how life is lived. Making decisions can be hard for any of us. Is now the time to start our business? Should I ask her out? Will a cold call work if I want to land that client? Should I go to the doctor to have that checked out? Is that the right vacation for us?

Questions plague our lives, but as long as they remain questions, we remain motionless. The goal of decision making isn't 100% certainty. The goal of decision making is forward motion. 

Peter Block says this in his book (one of my favorites), The Answer to How is Yes. As the title suggests, too much time spent wondering how you're going to pull something off may delay you from actually getting to work. And it's not until you move that you'll see how successful something can be (or not).

I don't make lists of pros and cons. Life isn't symmetrical like that. Instead of weighing my options and tradeoffs - which are too present focused - I look at the best case and worst case scenarios. This keeps me focused on the big picture instead of keeping me distracted with the temporary details that can derail any project and keep any idea motionless.

What's the best possible outcome of doing this? Will I be rich and famous? Happy? Meet my soul mate? Have a fun time? Learn something new? Find the best result from this decision as it appears years down the road.

What's the worst thing that could happen? Could I die? Be embarrassed and humiliated? Lose all my friends? Get sick? Get lost? If things were to go horribly wrong and you failed, what would that look like?

Then, you can begin to plot and act. Understanding that ultimate best and worst case scenarios rarely happen, you can start to move forward with an idea of all that's possible balanced with a healthy understanding of the risks involved. This, then, can shape how you react to temporary obstacles and opportunities, whether or not they are assets or liabilities towards getting you to that final ideal destination.

How do you decide? When faced with a tough decisions, how to you pick what's best and move forward? Share your ideas below.

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