GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 5, 2013

Personal Matters: Six steps to life decisions

Personal Matters
Susan Britt

---- — After three months on a new job you don’t seem to enjoy the work.

Your co-workers are not very friendly; you did not get a promised raise. You think you should probably find another job, but you’re afraid you will be judged a ‘job-hopper’ or that they will think you couldn’t handle the pressure.

Your car is in the shop a lot. You have concerns about its everyday performance. But, you don’t know if you can afford car payments. Should you buy another car or keep the old one?

You have been going out with someone new, but you don’t feel really comfortable. Sometimes you feel that you want more from the relationship than she does. Should you continue dating?

Every day we make hundreds of decisions. Some are fairly routine of course, but others can have a much larger impact on our comfort, safety and happiness. These types of decisions are often the hardest to make, and the most difficult to change.

Sometimes, because making decisions about important issues can seem overwhelming, you may be tempted not to make them at all. Or, you may feel locked into a decision even when it is not working well for you, or even working to your detriment if you fall victim to the old saw (“when I make a decision I stand by it at all costs.”

Either tendency may cause you to miss an excellent opportunity or become stuck in an unsatisfying situation. You also may be tempted to make decisions when you don’t really need to. Clearly, deciding not to decide is sometimes the best option either temporarily or permanently.

If you have a decision to make, you may find it helpful to divide your decision-making process into six basic steps:

First Step, write down the decision to be made. For example – “Should I sell my home or not?” List all the choices you have: staying where you are, moving to a nearby neighborhood, moving to another state, renting a place instead of buying, postponing a decision until — your teenaged children are grown, your aging parents are in assisted living, or the value of your home increases.

Second Step, gather all the important facts relative to each choice. In this example, gather the factual advantages of remaining in your current home, then the factual advantages of moving to a nearby neighborhood or moving to another state, etc. Also, for this example, note the prices of houses you are financially able to afford (consult financial and real estate professionals), the price you might get for yours, tax rates, safety of the neighborhood, the quality of schools, access to shopping areas, etc.

Third Step, make a chart to record all the information you have gathered. Having all the information for each possible choice charted in writing will help you to remember all the details and keep the facts straight. The same method applies for all decisions, whatever the decision may be - whether you are considering changing jobs, buying cars, ending a relationship.

Fourth Step, create a feelings chart for each possibility in order to record your emotions about the facts you have gathered. It is important that your decision be made on both a factual and emotional basis.

Again, using the above example, you may find a home that meets your tax , size and safety requirements, but if it is located in a densely populated urban area you will need to examine your feelings about locating to the hustle and bustle of city living. Or, if it is in a rural area and your nearest neighbor is a mile away, it may not be the right situation for you if you feel more comfortable with people around you.

It is important to note that decisions based solely on facts or purely on feelings often become difficult to live with because they are not fully balanced to include both. Once you have thoroughly considered all the possibilities, their pros and cons factually and emotionally, then take:

Step Five, execute and implement your decision.

To be an effective decision maker, it is highly valuable to exercise Step Six in the process. That is to re-evaluate your situation once you have lived for a time with the results of your decision.

Depending on your situation, you may want to re-assess on a yearly, or perhaps, five year basis. Situations develop and change as do you, and many of us are fortunate enough to have many choices available to us.

Re-evaluating is critical to maintaining the highest quality of life possible on both personal and professional levels.

Based in Rockport, life coach and psychotherapist Susan Britt, M.Ed., a former university director of counseling and career services, teaches individuals, couples and families to resolve relationship conflicts, clarify and achieve life and career goals, and accelerate personal growth. Questions and comments may be addressed to her at susanbritt1@verizon.net and by telephone at 978 546-9431.