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How To Make Difficult Decisions

Updated on March 8, 2016

How to Make Difficult Decisions

Making difficult decisions can be extremely confusing at times. Generally, a decision becomes difficult because some form of emotion is involved. This emotion may be tied to not wanting to hurt someone else's feelings, not wanting to lose something that you feel you might want in the future, or fear of losing what you currently have.

Sometimes other people's lives are dramatically affected by the decisions you make. This is definitely the case when determining whether or not to end a relationship, whether to hire or fire an employee and whether or not to tell someone your true opinion, or to tell someone else something that you know about someone they are in some way connected to that you realize may create tension of one sort or another.

Some decisions are difficult because they relate to your own personal financial matters and the outcome of the decision you are going to be making is unclear. It may be a risk or a sort of gamble and you have to determine now, without waiting, whether or not you will take action or refuse to take certain actions.

You may experience fear that if you make certain choices or choose to behave in certain ways that you will lose out in a financial or social sense.

Sometimes decisions may just seem difficult because you are feeling overwhelmed at the time and having to choose anything over anything else is in your current viewpoint, just too much to deal with.

Sometimes when people are in some form of recovery from any kind of trauma, whether self-inflicted or not, making decisions is always difficult until they get through this time period. Often the only decision people in this state of mind end up making is who they should trust to make their decisions for them and then simply fall in line with what their decision maker sets up for them.

For anyone who finds themselves in this particular scenario, it can be exceptionally frightening to put your life and the effect of all that you do on others, in the hands of someone else, trusting that they know better than you which answers, actions and solutions are best. If you are someone who is accustomed to handling all of these matters yourself, it is even more frightening and the level of fear rises if you have ever experienced detrimental effects from allowing others to make your decisions for you.

Logic is certainly one method an individual might choose for determining how to make difficult choices in their life. However, different people have separate ideas of what is logic and what is logical, as well as what is not.

What may seem to be completely clear and obvious to one person as being the logical process, is in direct opposition to another's point of view. This is very often the case with religion and politics, which are huge influencers of decisions made in the lives of many.

What influences your belief in what is logical will impact your choices more than you may be able to possibly imagine at the time that you are in the midst of the decision making process. Emotions are also often heavily involved, unbeknownst to the person making the decision at times. It is so very easy to convince oneself that we are being logical, when in fact our logic is based entirely on our perception of the emotions we hold and those we think others hold as well.

The biggest danger is to be closed-minded to the idea that our logic may be fallible. With this sort of closed mind, an individual may unceasingly pursue a course of action and a line of thought that will only bring disaster upon themselves and potentially those around them.

Being at least open to the concept that fallibility is a constant can assist one in seeing a matter to be decided upon from a variety of different angles.

We often have firmly established in our minds what is "right" and "wrong" and do not realize that our belief system is based upon the environment in which we were raised, as well as our religious upbringing and the experiences we have had with other people and what they have told us was "right" and "wrong." We then find we make decisions that we think are logical and based on right and wrong, when at a later point in our life we come to realize that we have an entirely different perception of right and least, it is common if we are open to new ideas and change.

Method for Decision Making

Here is one example of a method for determining how to make a difficult decision.

1. Ask yourself what choice you would make if no one else were involved and if there was no one else to judge your behavior and if you were not taking into consideration the advice of others. (To thine own self be true.)

2. Once you have taken the time to be truly honest with yourself about what you, completely outside of the thoughts and comments of others, actually wants.... It is now time to think about how other people would be affected by that choice. Do not assume you know the emotional state of others or what their reactions would be to your behaviors or choices. This is one of the trickiest parts when having to make a difficult decision that can affect the lives of others in a very personal way.

3. Consider the effect of this particular decision on your short-term and long-term financial state. Consider whether or not the likely result would be one you could earnestly deal with and accept and find a way to move forward with.

4. Consider the effect of this particular decision on your emotional state of wellness if other people did not approve of your decision. Could you be strong enough to be happy with your decision, even if other people are unhappy with your decision? If you feel you may have difficulty in obtaining this strength, try to think of ways that you could increase your level of strength in this regard moving forward so that you do not end up on a course of self-destruction afterward due to an intense amount of guilt based upon regretting the decision you have made.

5. If more than one person will be affected by the difficult choice that you have made, write down the list of people that you believe will be affected and determine to what extent you believe they will be affected and in what ways. Then ask yourself if the way in which they will be affected is actually your responsibility or if it is their own responsibility as to how to deal with the effect of this scenario on their life. Whether or not you believe them to be a strong individual should not really come into play because just as you have to learn how to develop your own inner strength, so do they and you do not want to enable them so that they never learn how to gain the strength they need to be happy and to thrive in their life.

6. Consider whether the difficult decision that you are making is really even yours to make. Is it possible that you are trying to make someone else's decision for them? Are you considering how other people will be affected a bit too much because of the fact that you are actually not making your own decision, but are meddling in the affairs of others? Does this decision have to do with your own choice to act in a certain way or not, or does it have to do with what to tell someone else to do or not do?

7. If this difficult choice is entirely financial, write down all of the possible pros and cons of the decision's outcome that you can think of and you may also want to get financial advice from someone who is truly experienced in the field related to your decision. They may be able to provide you with ideas you could never have considered and potential outcomes you may not have been able to identify due to a lack of experience on your part.

8. How much of a gamble is this decision you are working on making and does it even really need to be made right at this moment? Will your world or someone else's world fall apart if you choose to wait until the decision does not seem to difficult before making it?

9. List what you feel would be the most responsible decision to make and write down why you feel one direction taken would be more responsible than another. Sometimes we choose to avoid certain thoughts because we want to decide things one way and we don't want to think about what the most responsible choice to make would be.

10. Think long and hard about how much someone else is attempting to influence your decision for their own selfish gain. The decision might just seem difficult because someone else may be pushing you to make a decision that they have no right to push you toward. It might just be possible that it seems like an urgent or important choice to them and not actually to you, but that they are effectively manipulating you to believe that it is a choice you have to make.

11. Remember that you are NOT responsible for another person's behaviors. They may try to claim that if you had handled matters differently, that they in turn would have handled matters differently and this might lead you into a puzzled state of mind where you are attempting to make a decision based solely upon their words and accusations and reasoning's, rather than making the decision you already know is the right one for you.

12. If this difficult decision has to do with your children, remember first and foremost that you ARE responsible for the health, well-being and development of your children and that your primary focus should not be selfish or on how other people feel, but should be directed toward determining what choice would best help your children to grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted, realistic individuals with the life skills necessary to make good decisions on their own. It is your responsibility to make sacrifices for your children and it is not something that you should consider as a negative, but rather as a positive that you have the ability to do right by them and help them in some way by making some sacrifice of your own. They only have a few years of development and childhood growth and during that time it is your priviledge to support them in their progress. Never try to make a child feel responsible for your decisions or to feel guilt or obligation toward you for your sacrifices. You brought them into this world, or chose to raise them and you have the obligation to put them first at all costs, while ensuring that they have an understanding of how to behave as decent, productive humans and members of society. If you intentionally allow any harm to come to any child you are responsible for, you have committed one of the worst sorts of grievances and you should suffer 100x more than any suffering you put upon your children. Acceptance of that and moving forward to find ways to not create suffering of any kind in the life of any child you are responsible for is extremely important so as to at least make progress and provide good once bad choices and mistakes have been made in the past.

13. Remember that you are not going to make the perfect decision every time you are confronted with a difficult choice in your life. If you screw up, you simply have to work toward doing better the next time around. Don't get caught up in analysis poralysis and lose your opportunity to make better future decisions or to handle the issue you are facing at the moment with the speed required for each scenario.

14. What's done is done. Figure out how to make things better moving forward by reflecting on the outcome of previous decisions you have made and make sure that you are not wrapped up in self-pity when participating in the reflective sessions so that you are not blinded by the positives which came out of each past issue and so that you can expound upon those positives with the new choices you are making.


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    • Linda Compton profile image

      Linda Compton 4 years ago from The Land of Enchantment

      Very well done. Thank you! You clearly put a lot of thought into this hub and bring both experience and knowledge to us. Big thumbs up! L.

    • Fuller-Life profile image

      Fuller-Life 6 years ago from Washington, DC

      Very valuable advice. You definitely caught my attention down to the end. Making decisions and tough choices is an area I am also passionate about. I have a hub similar to this called "Tough Choices - Why You Can't Avoid Making a Decision. You should read it. Thanks again. Great Hub!