Making Good Decisions: A 7 Step Approach

Are you the decisive or indecisive type? If you are decisive, do most of your decisions turn out well? Making good decisions is one of the essential skills to living a happy and productive life. Here’s the approach I’ve found works well for me.

The process of making good decisions:

1. Have a clear value system

If you are constantly fretting over your choices and unable to decide, it’s usually because you don’t have a clear value system. This one step alone will help you make most decisions.

A friend once told me that her personal creed was “God, family, work” in that order. This made it easy for her to decide which function to attend if two happened at the same time. My decision-making value is simple as well: if I were to die in my sleep tonight, what would I choose to do now?

2. Determine what information you really need

Instead of allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by too much information and becoming even more confused, think about what information you really need to make this decision, and seek that only.

A simple guideline will be the journalist’s mantra of “who, what, when, where, how, why”. Who does the decision impact? What exactly do you have to decide? When must the decision be made? Where is the best place to make the decision? How will you decide? And why is this decision important?

3. Explore your options

You often have more options than you realise. A friend once challenged me, when I told him about having to choose between working for someone else and having control over my life, “Why can’t you do both?” Since then I have always started with the position that I want it all. The question changes from “Which?” to “How?” and with some creativity, often a way can be found.

4. Listen to your gut

It used to drive me up the wall when I would question how someone knew that this was the best option and they replied “I just know.” That was when I was younger and hadn’t learnt how to listen to my gut, perhaps my gut was young then too and didn’t have a strong feeling either way.

Now I am much more willing to stop thinking and still my mind enough to know what I’m feeling deep down. The subconscious mind is more powerful than the conscious mind in many ways, and once you have learnt to trust yours, it will often guide you through minefields that logic cannot manoeuvre.

5. Sleep on it

When you have turned something over in your mind a few times and still cannot come to a conclusion, sleep on it and give your mind time to work on it in peace without your constant active interruptions. Often a realisation will come to you in the middle of the night when things suddenly seem clear. Try to write this down and see if it looks as clear in the morning. If it does, this is probably your answer.

Even when you have already come to a decision, there is no harm sleeping on it if the decision is not time-critical. It is much easier to reverse a poor decision in your mind than when action has already been taken. Delay is sometimes a good tactic in business and in war, and in your life too.

6. Wait for the right time

If you delay the decision, sometimes you will find that it does not have to be made at all. Circumstances will evolve to the point where momentum will carry you through. Or someone will do something that determines the course of events much better than you could have. Sometimes the crisis just peters out on its own, or your attitude changes and you learn to accept rather than try to force the situation.

Wait until a decision cannot be avoided any longer before you bite the bullet. This gives you time to think, gives circumstances time to evolve, gives others a chance to act, but basically still leaves you in control when push comes to shove.

There may be times when this critical moment comes very early, when the right time is almost immediately upon you. So be it. Your values and your gut will have to step in here.

7. Make it work

Once a decision becomes irreversible, make it work. Stop asking “What if” and wishing you’d done differently. A decision is good or bad depending on the results it brings, and you can turn a poor decision into a good one by managing its execution well.

And if on all counts you made a bad decision, make it work by learning from it. When it comes to life skills like this, you have to be bad before you can be good.

Making good decisions comes from practice

One way to start making good decisions is to start making bad ones. We learn best from experience. Or you can learn from others.

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6 replies on “Making Good Decisions: A 7 Step Approach”

Thanks Tamsin/nudgeme, receiving your comments always brighten my day too! I know what you mean about the all or nothing perspective, which I used to have and sometimes still do. I’m learning now that ‘everything is negotiable’ and that removes some of the paralysis.

I changed the blog design because I realised that the old one showed up weird on some browsers. I’m having to learn so many technical aspects of blogging. Not sure this will be the final design either… a little cluttered for my liking, but I’ll work on it a bit more.

My photo was relegated to the ‘About’ page since I thought it was tiresome seeing my face looking back at me all the time in the sidebar. But I moved it back after your comment since I guess people prefer to know who is behind the blog. Thanks again for your helpful nudges!

Happy to nudge Daphne and, like you, I’m also always learning something different about the technical aspects of websites/blogging!? I think people like to know who’s behind a blog, so nice to see your photo back!


Another great post Daphne – and I identify with your last comment here about how hard it can be to get out of the habit of pleasing others … takes lots of practice ….! I feel decisions can feel so much more difficult when we attach an all or nothing view of the outcome, which any decision rarely is! That, and one of my favourite expressions, “Wrong decision, right decision, no decision, worse decision!”

If I’m right, I think you’ve changed the design of your blog? It looks great, but where’s your photo gone?!

Love your idea of posting your weekly book review too – great idea and I look forward to hearing all about what you’re reading.

Thanks again for the post Daphne – reading your blog is a great way to brighten up a Monday!


Good to know you liked the post, Catalyst! Gosh, don’t we all want it all? I realised though that once I figured out what I really wanted (time with family, being a better person), I can have more than I ever thought possible. So the trade-off is not too bad.

Perhaps it’s the fear of loss, the unwillingness to ‘give up’ other options that makes us unwilling to choose one over the others. This fear of loss is something I have been thinking about, and maybe I’ll post about it once I’ve clarified my thoughts on this.

I love your last statement about being true to yourself. This is something I’ve had to work on for many years. It’s not easy to get over the need to please others (perhaps that contributes to indecision too) and take your direction from an inner compass. Thanks for the comment!

I’m glad you posted this Daphne, as one of my achilles’ heel is indecision. It’s hard to know what the best option is when you know that one path may close the door to another. We want it all, but of course that isn’t realistic. I suppose that it boils down to what we are willing to sacrifice.

I agree that having a clear value system is key. While the outcome may not be guaranteed, at least you know that you were true to yourself.

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