We all have decisions to make in life, some small everyday ones and some huge life-changing ones. Ironically, the big life-changing ones tend to happen early on in our lives when we don’t have experience to draw on. Having said that, no amount of age or experience allows you to predict the outcome of a decision with 100% certainty, so there is always an element of… doubt? Anxiety? Hesitation? I’m struggling to find the right word for it, but it’s that “hold your breath until it’s over” moment we experience once a decision is made.
How do you get to the point that you’re ready to commit to a decision? What’s your process? It’s different for everyone, and it helps to know what your process is. Some people do lists of pros and cons, some people follow their gut feeling, some people get lots of opinions – there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
A tool that can be helpful is called “Cartesian Questions” – it’s based on the Cartesian Plane that the French mathematician René Descartes came up with. It probably looks familiar from school math class, with it’s x-axis and y-axis. You could plot a set of coordinates in one of the four quadrants based on whether a value was positive or negative. Here it is, below (sorry for any high school math exam nightmares it may trigger).
If we translate the positives and negatives into words rather than math symbols, we get four quadrants that represent all of the possible outcomes of any decision. Like this:
You may find that you need to go out and gather “evidence” before you work through this exercise, so that you have the best information possible about what may or may not happen. The benefit of using this system is that you think from all perspectives, rather than simply what may be “good” or “bad” about a decision. It’s not often we naturally think about what won’t happen if we don’t do something.
The idea of this approach is to raise your awareness of all of the possible outcomes of a decision, so that you can choose with more confidence. It’s not a crystal ball, of course, but it can help you feel prepared to decide.