7-Step Process to Help Make Difficult Decisions (and the #1 Thing That You Must Know to Make Any Decision Easy!)

Written by Chelsea Dinsmore November 2, 2016

“Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.” –Unknown

Decisions, decisions, decisions… how many of you have ever felt decision fatigue? Or felt a little stuck in the decision-making process? I sure know I have!

So earlier this year, when I attended a 5-day financial planning seminar where I heard from speakers such as George W. Bush, T. Boone Pickens, Peter Diamantis and Tony Robbins, aside from my head really hurting from all the discussions on investments, the economy and asset classes, I was surprised to find that one of the topics that kept coming up was how these incredibly successful leaders went about making decisions—many of which took place under tremendous pressure—such as 9/11, the 2008 stock market crash and being on the verge of bankruptcy.

Hearing those circumstances makes your decision seem a little less stressful, doesn’t it?! 🙂

Yet, there is no doubt that decision making can be tough—especially if and when you feel like you are making a decision between two evils. But true leaders, the people who stand out from the rest, are the ones who act and decide instead of crumble in the face of needing to make a decision. These are the people who thrive and survive no matter what chaos is happening around them.

So, while I still have a long way to go—today I’d like to share a decision-making process that I use when making tough decisions. I do this often (in both business and with personal decisions) to make sure I am acting in alignment and with intention.

Constantly checking in with why and how you make your decisions will ensure that you don’t wake up 5 years from now and wonder how the heck you got where you are!

So let’s dive right into the 7-step process (alongside some fun stories) that I use anytime I am faced with a big decision.

7-Step Process to Help Make Any Decision

1. Write Out Your Values and/or Priorities

“It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.” –Roy E. Disney

When you know your values, decisions become incredibly easy! But sometimes it takes revisiting what your values are to bring that easy decision to light.

For example, at Live Your Legend, we get approached often with affiliate and partnership offers. If we choose to participate in them, it might bring in some extra cash, but that’s not in alignment with our values at Live Your Legend.

Our core values at Live Your Legend are:

  • Authenticity
  • Integrity
  • Compassion
  • Service, and
  • Community.

So if someone on the LYL team has not personally used a product (and seen massive results!), we won’t suggest it to you.

This means we turn down a lot of offers! And, sure, it would be easy to think about making a few extra bucks, but integrity, offering the best of the best and adding massive value to all of you matters to us over profit. Sometimes things are tempting but then I ask myself, why do I want to do this? If it is driven by a financial incentive, it quickly becomes very easy to say no.

And generally when a decision “doesn’t feel right” (see point 5 below!) it is because that decision came from a place that isn’t in line with your core values or priorities.

On the flip side, when you make a decisions from an intentional place—a place aligned with who you (or your organization) are—that is when you can look at that decision and say “no matter how it turns out, at least I approached this from a place of value,” meaning you are welcome to the lesson you learn from it… however that may look.

2. Know Your Intended Outcome

“If you don’t know what you are looking for, you are never going to find it.” –Scott Dinsmore

Oftentimes decisions become easy when you have a clear outcome—and you save yourself a ton of wasted time!

I approach most things I go into (especially meetings, calls, etc.) with that question: What is my outcome? I even prepared for my World Domination Summit keynote by starting with that question.

Not only does knowing your outcome create space for a very intentional decision, it also helps keep you focused. For example, we hold a monthly team call at LYL and the outcome is always to celebrate what happened the past month, discuss what we could have done better (think one “keep” and one “grow”) and then discuss the main objective or project we are working on for the next month. In keeping that simple structure, it allows us to stay on track with what really matters instead of get lost in the details.

I also take this approach as I plan my week by writing out the three things that MUST get done that week to tick the needle a little further forward. Three is always a doable number no matter what I am doing and has allowed me to be insanely productive with this business this year, despite all the personal processing and travel that I have done.

It is easy to get analysis paralysis when you have too many things on your plate—so simplify. Easier said than done, I know, but that’s why starting with the end in mind is a great way to get you more directly from point A to point B.

3. List Out Your Options (3–5 minimum)

“Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.” –Seneca

Too often we limit ourselves to thinking there are only two options in any given situation—but if you get creative enough, you will likely realize that you have a lot more options than you think! A short story…

A few years ago, Scott and I were invited to two weddings—one that took place in New York on Friday and in Carmel, CA on Saturday.

Originally, it may have appeared that we had to pick one or the other, but we didn’t limit ourselves to that thinking. Instead we gave ourselves a third option—to go to both! How, you ask? We didn’t really know—but once it was an available option, it was on the table.

To make a long story short, we showed up in New York on Friday, made the wedding and instead of staying where the wedding was outside the city, we drove to an airport hotel that night so we could catch the first flight out of JFK on Saturday. We arrived to SFO around noon and drove to Carmel as soon as we landed.

Were we under-slept? Yes. Did we barely have time to shower and freshen up? Yes. Did I wear the same dress to two weddings two nights in a row? Yes. But none of those things mattered when we saw the look on the bride and groom’s faces as we got to witness the best day of their lives.

The point is: there are always more options than you think. Write out all the options you can think of, especially the things that seem kinda crazy! At a very minimum, list out 3 (if not more) options.

4. Determine What Is Guiding Your Decision and Eliminate All Shoulds!

“Good decisions don’t come from self-delusion—they come from ruthless self-knowledge and brutal honesty.” –Jonathan Fields

Self-analyze and decide if you are approaching your decisions from a place of fear or from a place of love. I have spent a ton of time this year practicing listening to my heart instead of my head. Which causes me to do things that don’t always appear “logical”—but I’ve decided logic isn’t the place I want to lead from. And as a result of that, I have had some pretty crazy “coincidences.”

As I mentioned in a post I did a while back, when I was at a transition in my career, I got accepted to a very reputable program to get my Masters in Public Health but instead chose to get my yoga certification. Definitely not the logical step in some people’s minds! But at the time, I was far more excited about yoga than I was about Public Health.

My head was telling me school was the practical choice, but my heart was telling me that it had a passion and interest in yoga. In short, the idea of a master’s degree was what I thought I should do to be successful, but my heart felt differently.

And while I don’t teach yoga anymore, it led me down a path to discovering and landing my dream job that I stayed in for nearly 5 years—until I began to discover that as I grew, my dreams grew, too. So I moved on to something new.

So, how do you listen to your heart, you ask? Good question! As it is something we often get taught to stop doing as we grow up.

The best way to start listening to your heart is to become hyper self-aware. This means recognizing feelings instead of mental chatter. When you start trying to talk yourself out of something… “Well, that doesn’t make sense? What would so-and-so think of me? I could never do that…” that’s generally you trying to use logic to rationalize why you shouldn’t do something you actually want to do at some level!

So, if you find yourself trying to talk yourself out of something, dig into that, because it means there is something at some level that you want to do in the first place!

And the only things you shouldn’t do are the things you think you should do!

Because, not a single person is better for it—you, or the people you are around you!

5. Determine Which of These Options Aligns Best with Your Values/Priorities

“Life lived by choice is a life of conscious action. A life lived by chance is a life of unconscious reaction.” –Neale Donald Walsch

I have always believed it is an incredible honor to be asked to attend a wedding. Anyone who has been married knows that creating the guest list is one of the most challenging tasks! And I was married before most of my friends since Scott and I met so young—so I decided early on that I would do my very best to attend as many weddings as I was invited to.

Therefore, you can see that in the example above, sleep and being at my best wasn’t my priority, it was being present at an important day for people that meant something to me. There were years this led me to going to double digit weddings in a single year (and multiple back-to-back weddings in different cities). That meant I had to say no to other things—family obligations at home or traveling to places I maybe would have personally chosen instead of where a wedding brought me—but because my priority was to honor the honor of being invited, it was never once a tough decision.

6. Narrow Down to Two Options, Then Ask: How Would I Feel if I Did X Versus X? Would I Regret Not Doing X?

“You’ll never regret doing a little more living.” –Scott Dinsmore

Once again, tapping into the logical or societally acceptable thing to do, is when you are listening to all that is around you instead of what it is that you actually want to do. However, in order to ever be fulfilled by doing something, you must actually want to do it.

I hear people all the time say they go to things because they feel obligated. Why do they feel obligated? Because they want to appear a good person, a good employee, a good family member, etc. But the problem is, if you don’t actually find a way to want to be there, you won’t really be there at all—which just wastes everyone’s time! So in my opinion you have two options:

  1. Create a compelling reason to want to go (that matters to you)
  2. Don’t go!

I don’t mean to sound harsh here. I am all about attending things that matter to people. I do it all the time. I actually say yes more than most! But I can do so without the “should” or obligation because I genuinely see an opportunity in every experience—that is true and honest to me.

I also actually like supporting others’ endeavors when I can—which means I don’t then come home and complain about going—because I do actually want to go!

So ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. How would I feel if I did X? Strung out, tired, bored? Or excited, enthusiastic, curious?
  2. How would I feel if I didn’t do X? Relieved, relaxed, refreshed? Guilty, like I was missing out, unsupportive?
  3. And most importantly, would I regret not doing X? This generally tends to make a decision pretty clear, as regret is a powerful motivator. And remember, the more you know yourself, understand your values, what matters to you, etc. the more clear these answers become! And that is why becoming a self-expert is the first step in living life on purpose!

One huge red flag: if you find yourself complaining about something (especially before it’s even taken place), you need to either align with it or do yourself and everyone a favor and not do it.

7. If the Answer Is Still Not Clear, Stay Curious Because It Will Force You to Get Creative!

“Curiosity cultivates creativity.” –Chelsea Dinsmore

One of the main lessons I shared in my World Domination Summit keynote was the power of staying curious and turning statements into questions. If you ever find yourself at a crossroads, at a stopping point, or stuck somewhere, it’s often not a lack of resources but rather a lack of being creative.

For example, there are many times over the last year of running LYL, where I have simply wanted to throw my hands up in the air and say, “This is too much! I can’t.” But thankfully, I have instilled a practice of turning those statements into questions.

When my mind says: “This is too much,” I instead ask: “Why does this feel like too much?” (i.e., what is this really tapping into—my fear of failure, my ego, etc.?) or “Who might I be able to ask for help?” or “What else could I do?”

When my mind says: “I can’t,” I instead ask: “If you could, what would be your smallest next step?” or “Why is this important to you?”

When you question not what you can do, but why it is important to you, the answers start to reveal themselves. Because when you stay curious, instead of closed off, possibilities that you otherwise might not see start to appear…

And it is by taking advantage of those possibilities that you start to move from the ordinary to the extraordinary!

I hope this decision-making process helps you find some ease in a big decision you might be facing.

We’d love to hear in the comments below a big decisions you’re dealing with and the tips you used to get over decision indecision.

Here’s to acting (and deciding) with intention,

–Chelsea Dinsmore

P.S. Knowing your values is the most important factor in making intentional decisions which is why we dive deep into the topic in our Live Off Your Passion course. Check it out to get guided through the process of actually discovering your values.

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