How to Make Decisions with Confidence to Create the Life You Want

cover art for episode 143 of changes big on small on how to make decisions with confidence

The quality of your decisions is the quality of your life! This means that you need to make decisions if you want to create the life of your dreams. It’s powerful, not something to avoid. So I want to encourage you to make decisions about your life, intentionally, purposefully, and consciously.

Sometimes, you may think that you don’t know what your choices are. In that case, you need to decide what you really, really want. Journal on that. Dream broadly and widely to get in touch with yourself, especially if you’re used to doing what other people want or going with the flow. Then, it may be a good idea for you to get in touch with yourself once more. The values exercise in the last episode can help you with that. Even if your dream is not complete, even if you think it’s too big or too small, decide one or two things for your life.

How to Make a Decision

So how do you decide? Well, you have to decide. I’m not trying to be difficult. Making a decision involves the act of deciding. Here are the four steps that I follow to make a decision and realize it:

  1. Clarify what are you deciding and why you’re making the decision now.
  2. Make a list of (all) the options that you have. For each option, list what has to happen for this to be a good option, i.e. the dependencies
  3. Define what success looks like. What outcome would you like?
  4. Choose the option that you will go all in on.
  5. Take actions to achieve the result connected to the decision.
  6. Reflect and learn from your experience.

Clarify what you are deciding

Start by clearly defining what you’re deciding. Is it where to live, whether to break up? Phrase it as clearly as possible. Make it specific and time-bound. For example, by July 30, 2023, I will decide where I will live for the next three years of my life.

List your options

Do you already have a list of options? If not, make a list of your decision criteria (see the next step) and make a list.

For my example, I have countries on my list but I need to do some research to identify citys that meet my criteria. This means researching real estate prices, local activities, cost of food and other necessities, the layout of the city, etc. I’ll likely visit those cities and talk to friends or friends of friends that have lived there.

Choose an option

Choose three values related to this decision. Based on those values, what factors are important to you? List them.

For example, in deciding where to live, you may consider job options, cost of living, language spoken, social life, climate, etc.

For me, I want to live in a city with great public transport. It has to be walkable with sidewalks. The average temperatures shouldn’t be any colder than Prague and the cost of living should be similar or cheaper; it can be up to 10% more. There must be green spaces accessible within 10-15 minutes from wherever I decide to live. The dominant language must be English or French or there should be an active community of pepole who speak English.

From your list, you also need to choose an option. I’ll go more into detail of some different frameworks you can use to make a decision later in this episode.

You’ll want to be clear about your decision:

  • What you decided
  • Why you decided it (your values)
  • What you’re giving up with that decision (the opportunity cost)

Take Action

Once you have made your decision, take action to make it happen. Make a list of all the actions needed to realize your decision. Break them down into single actions or steps that you can do. Plan them out or schedule them and then get working.

For moving, this could involve learning or improving your language skills, finding a place to live, getting rid of stuff, informing your landlord of your impending move, finding a new place to lease or buy, packing, moving your belongings, etc.

Reflect and Learn

Once you’ve achieved the result, reflect on the process. What went well? What did you struggle with and what can you learn for the future?

More on Choosing an Option

It’s worth spending some time on step 3, choosing an option. There are three main steps to considering each option:

  1. What’s the potential reward?
  2. How certain are you of achieving the reward?
  3. What will it take for you to achieve the potential reward (money, time, etc.)? What will you have to give up (opportunity costs)?

There are a number of different techniques that you can use to make a decision. We’ll look at the pros and cons technique and the use of decision matrices.

Technique 1 – Pros and Cons List

Making a pros and cons list is a popular decision-making technique. It is a practical and visual way to organize your thoughts to gain the clarity you need to make a rational decision. The strategy is to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each of your options. Then you’ll compare the pros and cons of each option to make a final decision.

Here are the steps to using a pros and cons list:

  1. Create a two-column table with “Pros” and “Cons” as headings.
  2. List all the potential advantages or positive aspects of each option under the “Pros” column. These are potential benefits or things in favor of the option.
  3. List all the potential disadvantages or negative aspects of each option under the “Cons” column. These could be things against the option, including drawbacks and risks.
  4. Thinking about each item you’ve listed. How important and how impactful is it? You can assign weights or ratings to each item based on that.
  5. Compare the pros and cons of each option and weigh them against each other. Think about which factors are most important to you and align with your values and desired outcomes.
  6. Based on your evaluation, make a decision that feels right for you.

There are a few reminders. Put everything that you can think of on each list so that it’s thorough. Consider both the short and long-term implications of each option. How will each option impact the different aspects of your life that you consider important, e.g. health, finance, and relationships? The hard part here is to be honest with yourself and avoid cognitive bias. It could help to go over the list with a trusted friend, but be sure to stay true to your needs and wants.

When you’re comparing the lists, consider how each option makes you feel. What resonates with your intuition? Weigh the pros and cons against each other and your values, and use your intuition for guidance to pick the option with the best outcome for you.

Decision-Making Matrices

Another technique for decision-making is to use a decision-making matrix. This is a framework that can help you objectively evaluate different options based on multiple criteria. It is particularly useful when you have more than two options and need to compare them based on specific criteria.

In a decision-making matrix, the options are listed along the rows, and criteria are listed along the columns. Two common types of decision-making matrices are weighted decision matrices and decision tree matrices.

Weighted decision matrix

In a weighted decision matrix, you assign weights or scores to each criterion based on their relative importance to the decision and calculate an overall score for each option.

Here are the steps to use a decision matrix:

  1. Create a list of options you’re considering for your decision.
  2. Identify the criteria that are important to you in making this decision. For example, if you’re deciding between job offers, your criteria could include salary, commute time, work-life balance, and company culture.
  3. Assign a weight or importance to each criterion on a scale of 1 to 10, based on how significant it is for you in this decision-making process. A higher weight indicates a more important criterion.
  4. Next, evaluate each option against each criterion and assign a score of 1 to 10 based on how well it meets that criterion. The higher the score, the better the option performs.
  5. Multiply the score of each option by the weight of the corresponding criterion and add up the results to get a total score for each option.
  6. The option with the highest total score is likely the best choice for you based on your criteria.

Decision Tree Matrix

Another framework is the decision tree matrix. In a decision tree matrix, you can use a branching structure to visually represent different decision paths based on different criteria. Start with a decision point, and then based on the criteria, follow different branches to evaluate options and make decisions. This can be a helpful way to map out complex decision-making processes and visually understand the potential outcomes of different choices.

Using a decision-making framework can bring several benefits to the decision-making process. They provide a visual representation of options and criteria, which can help you better understand the relationships between them. They also allow you to objectively evaluate options based on multiple criteria, which can help you make more well-rounded and informed decisions. Furthermore, they help you take emotions out of the equation and focus on the facts and your values

Remember, the goal is to make decisions that align with your values and help you build the life that you want.

The invitation for today is to apply one of the techniques from this episode to the decision you’ve been using as you listened to these episodes. If you’re just joining the series, what’s one decision you’ve been putting off?

Go through the steps of decision-making for it. In particular, here are a few options for bite-sized actions:

  1. Spend 5-10 minutes on a pro-cons list. Write down the pros and cons of each option.
  2. Take 5-10 minutes to practice listening to your intuition. Pay attention to your gut feelings, instincts, and emotions, and consider them as valuable inputs alongside rational analysis. Trust your inner guidance and see how it can influence your decision-making process.
  3. Create a simple decision-making matrix for a decision you’re currently facing. Spend 5-10 minutes identifying the relevant criteria and assigning weights or importance values to them. Then rate each option based on the criteria and calculate the overall scores.
  4. Figure out what decision you want to make. Here’s an example from when I did this exercise a few years ago:


I would like to make a decision about where to make my home. For most of my life, I have simply followed the job and my interest in living/traveling in interesting places. But as my interest in traveling and moving wanes and my interest in building relationships with people strengthens, it would be helpful to me to decide where to create my home. It will help me:

  • Decide what language to learn
  • Do any necessary research/find information
  • Plan for necessary savings
  • Decide what activities to participate in and where
  • My employment options may depend on where I live


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