“Sometimes you make the right decision, sometimes you make the decision right.” — Phil McGraw
“This is so hard. I have two excellent job offers, and I don’t know how to choose!”
Most people react to this kind of statement with a laugh and a remark of, “Oh, it must be rough to have to choose between two great things.”
Whether you have to choose between two bad options or two great ones, it will be stressful. What many people don’t realize is that this stress is not the same as the momentary overwhelm one might feel when making a short-term choice like “What should I choose off a restaurant menu where everything looks so good?” The pressure in big decisions comes from people’s sense that their personal ‘train tracks’ are diverging and will take them to significantly different future places.
When you face a choice that leads to divergent paths, consider doing the following thought experiments.
1. What is the future you would love to see for yourself? Or your product, your company, or all of the above. The choices you are facing will help you envision the future. But also, stand in the future and consider what excellent outcomes you think could come from the choices you make. Write them down. Highlight the items that bring you the most excitement.
2. Consider both the risks and rewards of the choices. Weigh them. What possible negative consequences do these choices contain? What would the impact be if those risks came true? Also, consider how likely those risks are for each path. Do the same for the potential rewards.
3. Talk to the people who are joining you on the journey the decision will invoke. Big decisions rarely involve just you. The people who are on the ‘train’ with you will have their perspectives. Talk to people outside the train as well. They can sometimes see farther ahead than you can.
4. What is the absolute deadline for making this decision? I’m not particularly eager to procrastinate on big decisions. However, there are times when waiting longer can reveal the final information you need.
5. In the end, be decisive. Eventually, you must choose. Exceptional leaders choose without regret or guilt. They move boldly into the future.
Now that you made the decision, roll up your sleeves, get to work, and make the decision right.
Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,