3 Things to Do When Faced With a Major Decision

I’m not a good decision-maker. Well, that’s not true. I make good choices, but when it comes to the decision-making process, I’m like a deer in headlights. The analytical person in me questions every option of a decision and every what-if scenario that comes with it. It’s exhausting and makes it tempting to pass the decision off to someone else. (To give you further insight into why decision-making is particularly hard for me, know that I am a nine on the enneagram—if you don’t know what this is, be on the lookout later this month for a review of Leadercast’s book of the month, The Road Back to You by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile.)

Great leaders do not skirt decisions or offload them to someone else. They make their own decisions, despite how uncomfortable, challenging and taxing the process may be.

This year, I was faced with the incredibly huge decision to leave a job I loved as content manager at Leadercast to venture out on my own as a freelance writer, editor and content creator. Several factors went into my decision, but the biggest reason was my infant son. I needed more flexibility in my hours to be able to parent to the capacity I wanted to parent, something a full-time gig couldn’t provide. I needed to set my own schedule and reduce the number of hours I was working to care for my son full-time.

We all face a vast array of decisions throughout our lives. Yours probably look very different than mine, or maybe they look really similar; no matter what decision you face, here are my tips, backed by some of Leadercast’s expert leaders, for working through it and finding clarity. 

1. Consider your values. 

When my son was born, a friend gifted us with a shirt for him that said, “Family over everything.” My family serves as the north star in all my decision-making. In the decision to become an entrepreneur, any choice I considered was seen through the lens of its impact on my family, not just the immediate impact but the long-term as well. 

In this backstage interview from Leadercast Live 2018, author and leadership communicator Andy Stanley discusses the idea that wise decision-making happens when you put ultimate outcomes over what’s immediately in front of you. The way to figure this out is to ask, “Where do I ultimately want to be?” 

“When a person asks that question they always end up in the same place: They end up with values,” says Andy. “When you get there and begin to evaluate the immediate against that ultimate, it just makes it easier sometimes to choose the right thing.” 

When I considered the immediate over the ultimate, the decision was a no-brainer. Every family is different and has its own particular needs, but for us, the impact I’d have by being home with my son far outweighed the costs of working full-time. My son was growing quickly and our childcare situation wasn’t ideal; me being at home would be best for our family.

2. Take a beat. 

Any time I’ve acted quickly or impulsively with a decision, I’ve always questioned it and sometimes even regretted it afterward. In an interview on Leadercast NOW, Leadercast president and my former boss, Angela Raub, emphasizes how important it is to slow down in our decision-making, even in scenarios when we’re asked to move hastily. “I'm always talking to our teams about agility and how important it is to think before we act quickly,” she says. “We still need to put time into the thought and risk management of the decisions we make.” 

Though the needs of my family were very clear, I wrestled with the decision for months, and I’m glad I did. Though I’m sure my husband didn’t love the endless loop of what-ifs I shared with him as I worked through every possibility that comes with starting your own business and being a stay-at-home mom (“What if I regret leaving?” “What if I don’t enjoy being with our son all the time?” “What if I fail as an entrepreneur?”), the process gave me the clarity I needed to find peace in the decision and certainty that it was the right move for my family, my career and myself as a whole. 

3. Seek counsel and feedback.

This decision wasn’t one I made alone, despite it being one that revolved around me and my career. I sought insight and perspectives from anyone who would give it: my husband and his thoughts on how it would impact our family, my mom and her experience working full-time and part-time with young kids, and people in my network who ventured into freelancing and entrepreneurial work. 

As leaders, we should seek guidance and feedback from our mentors, coaches and the people we love and trust the most when faced with a decision. Moreover, we must stay open to people telling us what we don’t want to hear. In a video on Leadercast NOW, Brian Wells, co-founder of Flashlight Entertainment, discusses the challenge many leaders face when their teams only share information that aligns with the leader’s desires. “The most valuable thing that you can do as a leader is spend a disproportionate amount of time looking for disconfirming information,” says Brain. “Come up with a theory of what you think is true, what you want to be true, and then work your butt off to try to disprove yourself.” 

When faced with a decision, consider every choice in front of you, even the ones you don’t like. Doing so allows you to see different perspectives, ask questions you haven’t thought of and see a bigger picture of the different choices that lay before you. 

What do you do when faced with a major decision? Tell us on Twitter at @Leadercast.

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Hayley Panagakis is a freelance writer, editor and content creator. Connect with her on LinkedIn and visit her website to learn more about her services.

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