August 9, 2017

How To Make Values-Based Decisions Easily and Effortlessly

How To Make Values Based Decisions Easily and Effortlessly

Have you ever faced a situation where you were struggling to make a decision? Decisions are not easy to make because we are always pulled by the contrasting options of staying in our comfort zone vs venturing into the unknown.

The following is an excerpt from Sam Bennett’s book Start Right Where You Are and Get It Done.

Sometimes when you are trying to make a decision, you hop back and forth, giving everything equal weight inside your mind.

And the reasons for and reasons against just swirl around, making you feel more confused than, perhaps, you actually are. The fact is that not everything has equal importance to you.

So, when trying to decide whether to go to Hawaii on vacation, you might start spinning a lazy Susan of thoughts, “It’s a long flight...and it’s an expensive plane ticket...but it’s so romantic....I’d love to swim with wild dolphins...and surfing could be fun...but I’m not sure where we’d stay...and it’s a long flight...” See what I mean about the lazy Susan spin?

The following exercise is a delightful way to blend your inner wisdom, personal preferences, and pure logic.

You can find a video of me walking you through this exercise at, and here are the steps:

· State the decision to be made. Make it a statement, not a question.

· Write out the pros and cons.

· Assign each item a number between one and ten, based on its importance to you.

So while “long flight” is a valid consideration, when you reflect more deeply, you realize that you don’t actually mind plane travel, so that might only rate a 3, while “swim with wild dolphins” might thrill you to bits, so you give it a 10. Notice that this process is meant to be deliberately subjective.

Your spouse, who hates to fly and doesn’t like to swim, may take a look at the same list and give “long flight” an 8 and the dolphins a 2.

The numbers alone may make your decision for you, or you may want to do some additional investigation into your thoughts, feelings, and assumptions. Note that we’re only considering what’s important to you, right now, in this particular instance.

If you like, you can list the same number of pros and cons, and then total up the numbers and see which side wins.

I once did this exercise with a client named Taylor who was working at a successful advertising firm but was seriously considering quitting to start her own interior design business. Now, in my experience, by the time a person is asking out loud a question like “Should I quit my job?” or “Should I leave my relationship?” the ship has already sailed.

Usually, by that time, the person has actually already amassed all the evidence they need, and they’re just looking for permission to act on the decision. Not always, but often. Has that happened to you?

I reminded Taylor that we wanted to list the issues at hand as though it were a debate. So her statement was “I should keep the job I have.” Her pro column was “Reasons in Favor of Keeping the Job I Have,” and the con column was “Reasons against Keeping the Job I Have.”

Taylor’s original list looked like this:

I Should Keep the Job I Have

PRO / Reasons in Favor of Keeping the Job I Have

· It is the devil I know

· I am good at it, so I feel confident

· I could get a promotion (maybe — won’t know for three months)

· I like most of my coworkers

· Staying feels easier than looking for a new gig

CON / Reasons against Keeping the Job I Have

· I am bored out of my mind

· My boss is rude, angry, and unsupportive

· I really have a bigger dream of doing something else

· The commute is too long

· I don’t feel like what we do really matters — it doesn’t make a contribution to the planet

In the next step, Taylor went down the two columns and, after a quick gut check, rated each item on a scale of one to ten to indicate how important it was to her.

PRO / Reasons in Favor of Keeping the Job I Have

· It is the devil I know — 3

· I am good at it, so I feel confident — 5

· I could get a promotion (maybe — won’t know for three months) — 7

· I like most of my coworkers — 9

· Staying feels easier than looking for a new gig — 3

CON / Reasons against Keeping the Job I Have

· I am bored out of my mind — 10

· My boss is rude, angry, and unsupportive — 4

· I really have a bigger dream of doing something else — 10

· The commute is too long — 5

· I don’t feel like what we do really matters — it doesn’t make a contribution to the planet — 3

Then Taylor simply added up the scores. The reasons for keeping her job scored 27 points, and a large part of that number was attributable to how much she liked her coworkers. Reasons against keeping it scored 32. She handed in her notice fourteen days later. She also created a standing monthly lunch date with her officemates so that they wouldn’t lose touch, and that group has turned out to be an indispensable resource and support group for all of them.

These numbers may or may not be the final decision maker for you, but this process is an easy way to start letting your values guide your choices so that you are living a life that is in concert with your values. When your behavior is consistent with what you say is important to you, we call it integrity.

I find this strategy especially helpful when money is part of the decision.

It’s easy to let money get out of proportion to the other considerations. You may think to yourself “Oh, this trip to my nephew’s graduation is expensive. It would cost me five hundred dollars.” But when you examine the five hundred dollars in relationship to all the benefits, like supporting your nephew, making memories with your family, and eating some delicious hometown food, you may find that the money is not that big a deal. And that’s okay.

If something is not that big a deal to you, let it not be that big a deal.

It is you who has to live with the choice. You don’t need to concern yourself with what anybody else would do. If some busybody does question your decision, you can always say, “I weighed all my options carefully, and I also listened to my heart.” Only a real Scrooge can argue with that. You are allowed to navigate your life based on what truly matters to you.

Little Changes Action Step: Try this activity right now on some real or theoretical question, just as an experiment.

Excerpted from the book Start Right Where You Are and Get It Done. Copyright ©2017 by Sam Bennett. Printed with permission from New World Library —

About the author

Sam Bennett is the author of Start Right Where You Are and Get It Done. She created The Organized Artist Company to help creative people get unstuck and achieve their goals. She is a writer, actor, teacher, and creativity/productivity specialist who has counseled thousands of artists and entrepreneurs on their way to success.  Visit her online  

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