I'm overwhelmed. How do I make tough decisions?

What you will get from reading this article:

  • Understand that facing tough decisions is better than indecision
  • Learn the powerful 6-step decision-making model, OOC/EMR
  • Access the free Four Rules of Decision-Making audio resource

What do you do when faced with tough decisions? Many of us become paralyzed, worried that if we make the wrong decision terrible things will happen. Or maybe we become overwhelmed and have no idea where to start. But there are plenty of people who make difficult decisions daily, decisions that shape everything from countries to companies. So how do they do it?


Learn how with Tony’s powerful decision-making model

It turns out that decision-making works best when you have a system to break down what your options are and can anticipate any potential downsides. Here we’ll cover the six-step process Tony calls OOC/EMR – that stands for Outcomes, Options, Consequences / Evaluate, Mitigate, Resolve. Ready to start making tough decisions quickly and with less stress?

Before we get started, make sure to follow the first vital rule of making difficult decisions:

Write everything down on paper. If you attempt to do everything in your head, or even on a screen, your brain will end up looping over the same things. Instead of getting resolution, every possible idea will create more stress because you’ll just go back to your first thought. Putting everything on paper removes this pressure and helps you focus, which is the first step to making hard decisions.

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Phase 1: OCC – Outcomes, options, consequences
1. Get clear on your outcomes.

What’s the result you’re after? Why do you want to achieve it? You must be clear about your outcome(s) and its/their order of importance to you. Without this clarity, tough decisions just become even more difficult decisions. Remember, reasons come first; answers will come second. If you don’t know the reasons you’re doing something, your brain will be sending you mixed signals and you won’t follow through. Get as specific as possible here.

2. Know your options.

Write down all of your options, including those that initially may sound far-fetched. Remember: One option is no choice. Two options is a dilemma. Three options is a choice. Write down ALL possible options whether or not you like them. The more options you have, the more confident you’ll be in making tough decisions.

3. Assess possible consequences

Now, look at what you’ve got. What are the upsides and downsides of each option? What do you gain by each option? What would it cost you? Again, the more detail you can get here, the better equipped you’ll be for phase 2 of the process of making hard decisions.

4. Evaluate your options.

Review each of your options’ upsides and downsides. As you think about the potential consequences, ask yourself these questions:

  • What are the possible outcomes if I take this option?
  • How important (on a scale of 0-10) is each upside/downside in terms of meeting my outcomes?
  • What is the probability (0-100%) that the upside/downside will occur?
  • What is the emotional benefit or consequence if this option were to actually happen? This is an especially important question for emotionally tough decisions such as those involving your relationship or your children.

After jotting down these answers, you’ll probably be able to eliminate some options from your list. See, you’re already getting closer to the best solution.

5. Mitigate the damage.

For each of your remaining options, now it’s time to review the downsides. Brainstorm alternative ways to eliminate or reduce those downsides. Again, the more ideas you can come up with, no matter how far-fetched, the better prepared you’ll be to face that potential consequence. The reason these are difficult decisions is usually because of what could happen should the wrong decision be made. This part of the decision-making process is important because it allows you to be proactive about how to handle any fallout should it occur.

6. Resolve.

Time for the big finish. Based on the most probable consequences, select the option that provides the greatest certainty that you will meet your desired outcomes and needs. This is your best option – and because you’ve looked at so many other possibilities, you know that to be true.

Resolve that, no matter what happens, this option will give you a win. Even if your tough decision ends up in what is technically failure, you can still choose what that means to you. Instead of seeing it as failure, you can choose to view it as a learning experience or a jumping off point to go in a different direction.

Now, all that’s left is designing your plan for implementation and then taking massive action.

Addressing the fear of making difficult decisions

Having a good process to make hard decisions is clearly important. But it’s also valuable to understand why many of us are so afraid of making these tough decisions in the first place. The biggest reason people dread these decisions is because they are afraid things won’t work out as planned. They let fear motivate the process and wait until they have absolute certainty that everything will work out before moving forward. The problem is, there will never be absolute certainty surrounding any decision. At some point, you simply have to take a chance. If you’ve used a good decision-making process such as the OOC/EMR technique, you can ease some of this fear by knowing you’ve chosen the best possible option. However, you will never be able to guarantee the outcome – the only thing you can do is take action and be ready to deal with the outcome.

Remember, it’s better to make tough decisions and monitor to see if you need to shift your approach than to remain paralyzed in indecision. Find out more about the four rules to effective decision-making and say goodbye to being overwhelmed by making tough decisions.

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