Life is filled with both big and small decisions.
Some, like choosing what to eat for dinner, are pretty straightforward.
Others, for example, the college you will go to, can have a more significant impact on your life.
Research shows that many teens can effectively solve their own problems. Even during this stage of their lives, teens are capable of devising solutions, weighing benefits and risks, and making reasonable choices.
So there’s no need to shy away from making decisions in your life. Sometimes, there might not even be a right or wrong decision.
No matter the situation, each choice you make is a valuable learning opportunity. Over time, you’ll get better at making wise choices.
In this article, I’ll show you a simple 7-step process you can follow to make excellent decisions each time.
(Don’t forget to download your free quick action guide below.)
Step #1: Identify the problem
The first step in making good decisions is to identify the root cause of the issue.
You might feel the urge to blame someone else – that’s normal – but it’s important to take responsibility for your actions.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Why am I facing this problem?
- Did a habit or behavior of mine contribute to it?
- What goal am I trying to achieve by solving it?
- Is it worth solving, or is it something I should learn to live with?
Let’s say the problem you’re faced with is that you got a bad grade on your recent math exam.
This affects your grade point average, and could even affect your chances of getting into college.
Think about the possible reasons why you got the bad grade.
Perhaps you didn’t have time to prepare as you were training for a sports competition. Or maybe you think math is boring and you often get distracted in class.
Once you’ve found the root cause and identified the problem, you can then decide what to do about it.
Step #2: Brainstorm possible solutions
On the surface, it might seem like there’s only one solution to the issue.
But instead of rushing to make the decision, give it more thought.
Write down the possible solutions that come to mind, no matter how silly they might initially sound.
You’ll likely end up with a list of unique and creative fixes for the problem.
There’s also the option of combining the solutions you’ve come up with. This may help you tackle the issue more effectively, especially if there are two or more root causes.
Let’s go back to the initial example of doing badly on a math exam.
Possible solutions to get better at math might include going to extra classes or doing five practice questions a day.
In addition, you could use an app blocker to reduce the amount of time spent on your phone.
You could also choose to go out less frequently with your friends so you’ll have more time to study.
You could even consider speaking with your teacher about what you can do to understand the material better.
Step #3: Review the pros and cons
After listing all the possible solutions, assess each one of them. Write down the benefits and downsides of each solution.
For example, let’s say you’re reviewing the idea of going out less frequently with your friends so you’ll have more time to study.
The benefit is that you’ll be better prepared for your next exam. But the con is that you might miss out on fun activities and making memories with people you cherish.
Once you’ve listed the pros and cons of each solution, it should make it easier for you to shortlist the best options.
Step #4: Calculate the risks
When you’ve narrowed down your options, you can then proceed to calculate the risks.
Any solution carries some amount of risk, so it’s crucial to take this into account.
You can ask yourself these questions about the solution(s) you plan to implement:
- Will this decision help me reach my goals?
- What are the risks of making this decision?
- What are the risks of not making this decision?
- How likely is it for these risks to actually occur?
- Will I be hurting anyone else in the process?
- Does this decision align with my values?
- Is this decision unethical in any way?
Step #5: Use Suzy Welch’s 10-10-10 Rule
If you’re still struggling with a difficult decision, you can use the 10-10-10 Rule.
Ask yourself, “What will the consequences of my actions likely be in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years?”
Let’s say you’re going to take a chemistry exam next week that you need to pass. (You haven’t been studying that hard for the exam.)
But your friends have invited you to go on a hiking trip the day before this important exam.
If you choose to go on the hike with your friends, there will likely be no consequences after 10 minutes.
But if this causes you to fail the exam, you might be held back a grade. This could have an impact 10 months and possibly 10 years down the road.
On the other hand, if you stay home to study and join them another time, your friends might feel disappointed. But they’ll probably be understanding, so it’s unlikely that there will be any ill effects 10 months or 10 years in the future.
So, in this case, staying at home to study is the wiser choice.
Step #6: Make the decision
After doing your analysis, it’s time to make the decision.
You can seek advice or help from people you trust, like your teachers or parents.
Research has shown that emotions can change how we assess our choices, and teens experience more intense emotions than adults. So it’s crucial to stay aware of how your emotions might come into play.
Maybe you’re angry or frustrated, which could cause you to act rashly. Or maybe you’re discouraged, so you feel like sweeping the issue under the rug instead of addressing it.
These emotions are perfectly natural. But they shouldn’t determine the final choice you make.
It’s also a good idea to work out a plan to implement the decision.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Are any tools, materials, or items needed for me to make this decision?
- How will I ensure that I follow through with the decision?
- Will I need help from anyone else?
Step #7: Reflect on the results
Every decision has consequences, so after some time has passed, reflect on those consequences.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What went well?
- What could have gone better?
- What could I have done differently?
- What principles should I follow when making these types of choices in the future?
If your decision didn’t lead to the desired outcome, you might feel a sense of regret or disappointment.
Acknowledge those emotions – it’s normal to feel that way. Then, gradually let go of them and remind yourself not to dwell on the past.
Also, be sure to show yourself compassion. After all, every decision you make is an opportunity to grow and learn.
Remember that it’s okay to take your time when it comes to making big decisions.
Don’t rush the process.
If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or angry, collect your thoughts.
Once you’re clear-headed and calm again, you’ll be in a position to make the best decision possible, especially if you follow the seven steps outlined in this article!
(If you haven’t already downloaded your free quick action guide, click the link below.)