how i make major life decisions

i had a great conversation with a Techstars Boulder associate this morning, and the thing we wrestled over were how to make major life decisions. i shared with her a framework i’ve used in the past.

  1. accept that the greater error is to not make a decision

the most first most critical thing is to pardon yourself. you may make a right or wrong decision, but the greatest error is to not make a decision. so give yourself a pass from the inner critic and decide to decide.

  1. put a stake in the ground

i love the word “directionally correct’ that McKinsey consultants use; for example, if the hypothesis is that sales trends moved upwards because of seasonality, and that hypothesis was correct, it’s “directionally correct” - without going into the details.

similarly, draft a few “directions" you may want to go, without going into the details. as long as you have a few directions, you’re set.

  1. crowdsource feedback

the next job is to gather data points on the various “directions” you’ve drafted to validate the correct direction. ask up and down your stakeholder chain - your parents, peers, partners, bosses, colleagues, and subordinates. everyone has some view on the direction - make sure you capture those data points.

  1. make the decision

after evaluating the data, make a decision. no need to spend too much time thinking or analyzing - the data points that you have obtained probably give you a fairly intuitive answer.

  1. evaluate - but don’t evaluate too early

after making the decision, don’t evaluate immediately afterwards - you’ll inevitably have buyer’s remorse.

when i chose to go to the Army, i made this mistake of evaluating immediately and started panicking; fortunately, i calmed myself down. instead, i should have accepted my decision and mentally disciplined myself to not critically analyze my decision.