Nine Steps to Make the Hardest Decisions Easier

by Tom Koulopoulos

Nine Steps to Make the Hardest Decisions Easier

Decision making can be tough, especially for highly creative individuals, but this simplified approach of “Separating the Seeds from the Weeds” can clarify virtually every decision you make.

If you want to make good decisions you have to get out of the emotional weeds.

I’ve seen some of the smartest people I know struggle with decisions, especially those really tough decisions that seem to have endless risks and possibilities. The reason these decisions are tough has nothing to do with the intelligence of the people making them but rather their emotions. Nowhere is that more true than in small and medium sized entrepreneurial businesses and especially those where creativity takes center stage. But you know that! This is your life we’re talking about here. It’s not an antiseptic spreadsheet with rows and columns. It’s your passion; your heart and soul. And creativity is always tied intimately to deep emotions, right? Yes, which is exactly why you need to get out of the emotional weeds and find some perspective. Otherwise you’ll end up emotionally paralyzed by the same creative passion that got you here!

So, here’s the good news, even the hardest decisions are ultimately about being able to ask some very simple, but brutally honest, questions about the drivers, fears, and ambitions behind the decision.

“…you need to get out of the emotional weeds and find some perspective. Otherwise you’ll end up emotionally paralyzed.”

As I’ve helped colleagues and clients work through tough decisions over the years I’ve created a model that uses a series of questions which significantly streamline the decision making process by bringing into focus the most critical implications of a GO or NO GO decision. In other words, they reveal the true fears and ambitions that drive every small business.

Trying to talk through this makes it much more complex than it needs to be. So, instead of writing several thousand words of explanatory text, I’ve reduced it to a straight-forward flow chart that is guided by YES/NO answers to 9 Questions. One of my clients once called this process, Separating the Seeds from the Weeds. Love that!

Tom Koulopoulos Decision Making

Decision making can be tough, especially for highly creative individuals, but this simplified approach of “Separating the Seeds from the Weeds” can clarify virtually every decision you make. Follow the chart from top to bottom and take the YES or NO path after each question to determine if you have a seed or a weed.

Although I’ve used it hundreds of times, this is the first time I’m sharing in a public forum. I was reluctant at first to share it, not because there is anything top secret going on here, but because it’s not intended to be a decision making panacea–keep looking if that’s what you’re after; and by all means tell me when you find it! It is simply a navigation aid. Think of it as you might a compass or sextant. It will show you which way North is and provide at least one of your coordinates, but you still need to plot the course to get the rest of the way to your destination–which, in case that part isn’t clear, means you need to have a destination plotted!

Also, as you walk through this model keep in mind that just because you’ve made a decision doesn’t mean it’s a great decision with guaranteed outcomes. It just means it’s the best decision for the current set of circumstances. Sometimes circumstances change enough to warrant a new decision. It’s just as important that you revisit this model regularly to see if your decision still stands on its original merits.

So, if you’re ready to separate the seeds of brilliance from the emotional weeds, ready be honest about what drives you, and ready to live with the consequences of your choices give the nine questions a whirl on some of your toughest decisions and tell me how it works.

Otherwise, happy weeding!

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This article was originally published on Inc.

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Thomas KoulopoulosTom Koulopoulos is the author of 10 books and founder of the Delphi Group, a 25-year-old Boston-based think tank and a past Inc. 500 company that focuses on innovation and the future of business. He tweets from @tkspeaks.

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