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3 Questions To Ask When Making Hard Choices

24 June 2015

Over the past year I’ve had several conversations with individuals facing hard choices in their lives.  In some cases, it involved making a choice between leaving a well paid job for one that pays less but is more gratifying and fulfilling; a choice that quite a number of successful executives may identify with. In other cases it involved life and career decisions that will impact their family. In all cases, the decision was not an easy one as there was no clear ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer.  Both options were equally good or bad, depending on your perspective. So what do you do?

I had written a post earlier that shared Ruth Chang’s TEDTalk video - “How To Make Hard Choices” - where she shares that the key to making hard choices lies in understanding your values i.e. what is most important to you. I completely agree. Hard choices become easier when guided by the clarity of what you value most in life. Yet often, many of us have trouble articulating what we value most as it’s often muddied by what we think we ‘should’ or ‘need’ to be doing.

If you’re feeling confused and conflicted about a hard choice, ask yourself these 3 questions to help bring some clarity to your dilemma.

1.  What does the choice give you?

    Ask yourself “If I were to (insert choice), what does it give me?”.  Maybe it gives you personal growth, more fulfilment, financial security or more time with your family. Include both the positive and negative. For eg, perhaps it gives you more stress? Be as specific as possible and don’t evaluate if it’s good or bad at this point. Just be objective and list everything that making this choice would give you in your life and career. Answer this question for each of the choices you’re considering.

    2.  What will I give up ?

    Then ask yourself “If I were to (insert choice), what will I give up?”. Again be as specific as possible. If you’re giving up some degree of financial freedom, be specific about what this means for your lifestyle - is it giving up your annual vacation overseas? Or does it mean pushing out your children’s university fund timeline by 2 years? What specifically will you be giving up with this choice? As before, answer this question for each of the choices you’re considering.

    3.  What’s most important to me at this point in my life now?

    For each list you’ve made, mark 3 things on each list that are of higher importance than the rest. Focus on what is important to you and now at this point in your life. What we value may change over time so focusing on the ‘now’ is helpful to focus your thinking. Now stack up both choices against each other and focus on the items you’ve marked to see which choice brings you closer to giving you what you value most in your life currently.

    I firmly believe in the power of clarity that comes with understanding what you value most in life. It’s your internal compass - your personal ‘north star’ - to keep you true on the path that will bring you purpose, meaning and fulfilment in your life’s journey. And it’s invaluable when faced with hard choices.


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    • Carol Yang

      Carol Yang 4 years ago

      Thank you Babin for your comment. I'm glad you've found this useful.

    • babin robert

      babin robert 5 years ago

      In the other blogs I have seen some such terms which are sometimes hard to understand in a sentence so I prefer simplicity to be on the safe side. Your blogs has been written nicely and produces a lot of knowledge for people whose vocabulary is not so good.