We make hundreds of decisions daily. For example, what time to get up, what to wear, what to have for breakfast, what route to take to work etc. For most of us, it takes a few seconds to decide. For others, the decision-making process is longer. Regardless of how much time it takes for us to make the decision, we all go through more or less the same process. We make a decision best aligned with our values. In other words, we decide based on what we believe will be best for us. Most of the time, the decision is made on a subconscious level. For example, bacon and eggs for breakfast because I also have bacon and eggs for breakfast.
What happens when we face more important decisions that could potentially change our lives? Do we want to leave this to our subconscious? Maybe you are thinking about breaking up with your girlfriend because the relationship is not ad hot as it was when you started going out. It could be that you felt abandoned by your mother your entire childhood and breaking up with your girlfriend is a preemptive one in anticipation of her abandoning you. Big decisions require more work and digging deeper to make the optimal decision. You can try this exercise.
Most decisions have two outcomes - yes or no. Do I take that new job in a foreign city? Do I move in with my girlfriend? Do I switch careers? The outcome is binary - you either decide to do it or you decide against it. You want to take each outcome and list 3 things you will get out of each outcome. You now have 6 outcomes. Rank these 6 outcomes from highest to lowest in terms of how they align with your values. What are your values? I will give you a few examples: courage, kindness, patience, integrity, gratitude, forgiveness, love, growth, loyalty, humility, compassion, empathy, and selflessness.
Let's run through an example. You are a corporate lawyer. You have been working at the firm for 5 years and you are a couple of years away from being made a partner. Your passion has always been to write. In your spare time, you have been writing a self-help book and you have submitted it to a publisher. The publisher loves it and wants to pay you an advance and publish your book. You now face the decision of whether you should stay working as a lawyer, or quit your job and pursue a career as a full-time author.
Outcome 1: Stay in Your Job
1) You continue to receive a monthly paycheck with benefits
2) You will potentially be made a partner in 2 years
3) You continue to enjoy the esteem of your friends, family, and colleagues
Outcome 2: Quit Your Job
1) You pursue your passion
2) You are happy and fulfilled
3) Your father will disapprove of your decision
Not everyone will rank these six values in the same order. The simple answer is that the highest-ranked value will decide the outcome. In this case, you are torn between two extremes. On the one hand, you have the approval and esteem of your family, friends and colleagues. You are also well remunerated with the potential of being set for life when you become a partner. On the other extreme, you follow your dreams but in an uncertain world with less security. At the end of it all, the biggest driver of your decision is your most powerful value.