We often face situations where we have to decide between two mutually exclusive, but equally compelling, options.
In this article, I will describe two techniques that can aid in decision making. Decisions Wheels, and The Conference Table.
This is a simple technique that allows you to get a visual picture of how closely your options fit your ideal.
The following example involves a decision about jobs, but you could use this in any situation where you can define clear criteria.
The process is:
- Create an Ideal Wheel
Name 6 to 8 criteria that are important in making this decision.
Label your ideal wheel with those criteria and rate the relative importance of each.
The example above shows a possible ideal job wheel.
- Draw a separate wheel for each job choice
Label each wheel with same criteria
Rate each job choice on each of the criteria.
- Compare each job wheel to your ideal wheel
It's unlikely that you will find an exact match, but you can now clearly see which wheels most closely fit the ideal and what compromises you will be making with each choice.
decision wheel is provided here for you)
The Conference Table
In cases where you need to consider risk factors and you find yourself besieged by opposing inner arguments,
the Conference Table technique allows you to bring this dialogue into clear focus.
You may do this exercise entirely in your imagination, or you may also write down the main points as you go. The process is:
- Set the scene
Carry out this exercise in a quiet location without any distractions or interruptions. Imagine you are sitting at a conference table, and have invited each of your 'inner sub-personalities' to express their ideas on what decision you should take. Let's say you're deciding if you should take a year off work to write a book.
- Let each voice offer its opinion on each option
You may have two or three major sub-personalities who want their say. Give them whatever names help to define them for you. For example, for the choice of taking a year off, your Traditionalist might say, "You're risking financial security". For the choice of continuing to work, your Artistic side may say, "You will die inside if you can't focus on your writing for a while." Some of your inner voices are those of your parents, teachers or 'society' in general. Let them all have their say.
- Wise mentor
Now imagine a wise mentor coming to the table. This mentor is never judgmental or dismissive.
He (or she) speaks with compassion and understanding. He acknowledges the validity of each concern, and comes up with ways to address them.
For example, he might say to the Traditionalist, "Well, you should be able to take a year off, as long as you have a certain amount of money saved to sustain you well beyond a year, and you keep up your network so that you will have a good chance of getting back into the work force afterwards."
To the Artistic side, he may say, "If you don't take the year off, you can still write your book in your spare time.”
The mentor may also come up with some additional options. For example, "You might be able to arrange a sabbatical or to continue working but cut down on your hours."
- Open the dialogue
As you open the dialogue, exploring each option, take a big picture view, look at the long-term benefits of each option, explore your deepest values and gauge your emotions.
- Come to agreement
You will know you've come to a decision when all your inner voices are satisfied. They may not all have exactly what they want, but their major concerns have been addressed.
Make sure you have made your commitments clear. For example, if you have decided to take a year off, and have promised to keep up with your professional networks, outline exactly what that means and how you will remain true to that promise.
Moving forward – Watch your thoughts
It is extremely important to pay attention to your thoughts as you move forward. Any sabotaging thoughts like "This isn't going to work" must be caught, brought out into the light and addressed. (Not shut down, but faced and addressed!). For example, you might ask, "OK, how might I make sure that it will work?" or "What might go wrong and how can I address that risk?"
It is perfectly normal to have sabotaging thoughts. In fact, they are very useful in alerting us to possible risks. So they are not really sabotaging but helpful and protective – as long as we pay attention and address those concerns.
The goal, for most of us, is to maintain inner harmony as you move in a direction that brings a feeling of happiness and fulfillment.