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A Simple Yet Brilliant Decision Tool!

When I’m faced with a tough, personal decision, I’m one of those people who makes lists of the pros & cons to my options … especially when it comes to accepting (or passing on) a job offer. But using this method has always left something lacking for me because, in the end, I still have to make my decision with “gut”, not “gusto”.

While I was reading Julie Walraven’s blog about decision-making this weekend, a lightbulb came on! What never dawned on me until that moment was just how easy and useful it would be to give WEIGHTS to each pro and con on my list! Her technique, while simple, was so ingenious. Had I only done this a few job offers ago, I might be retired right now!

  • Considering whether to accept a new job offer?
  • Wanting to buy a house?
  • Thinking of getting a new car?
  • Wondering if grad school is worth the investment?

Using Julie’s updated method really could really deliver a whole new perspective on a tough decision. It might even provide a semi-objective point-of-view to an otherwise emotional process and help list-makers see what’s really important to them! Julie’s suggestion helps people look at their options from a more tangible perspective and, it’s especially helpful when you’re faced with an emotion-packed decision, even if only to visualize your feelings in a slightly more objective way.

Here’s the way it works. Make a tabular list of all the positive reasons (pros) for doing something; then tabulate the negative reasons (cons) against it. Now here’s the twist … put a value on each “pro” and “con”. This will give you a great visual about the level of importance each “pro” & “con” has to you. For this method to work best, Ms. Walraven recommends that you give weight to each “pro” independent of the other “pros” you’ve listed and weight each “con” independent of the other “cons” you’ve listed. Each value should be a real number and is most useful if listed in tabular form. That way, you can see every “pro” and its weighted value right next to its corresponding “con”. Now, as a final step, tally the “pro” values and then the “con” values and compare the results. The total value for the “pro” column when compared to the total value of the “con” column can help give you a good, somewhat objective answer to a tough, personal decision. It also helps make the decision your own, especially when you’re being bombarded emotionally by the wishes of other concerned parties (e.g., family members)!

Here’s an example:

Every person will come up with a different list, a decision unique to themselves. As Ms. Walraven points out, this really comes down to what is most important to you. This method can be used to make decisions about many things; it simply takes out a lot of the emotion by putting value to your “pros” and “cons”! Thanks Julie! Simple yet brilliant!

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Peter Sperry

the problem is that if you list “Move away from extended Family” and “Long travel to get home to family” in the correct column it produces a 330 to 330 tie and you are left with a coin toss.

Avatar photo Bill Brantley

Interesting idea! I am struck by how much greater weight the cons have in comparison to the pros. This seems to signal that your unconscious already decided which path to take.

Peter Sperry

Doris — alternatively, I could add another item “easier to ignore inlaws trying to borrow money” with a value of 500 and accepting the new position becomes a slam dunk.