Decision making is not always easy. Yet if you want to make a plan, decision making is part of the process. Planning for retirement is no different. Where are you going to live? What is the best way to manage your money? Should you work part-time or start a business? What about travel–should you go to Mexico for the winter like this couple you know, or should you go to Florida instead? Do you ever wish there were a way to make deciding easier?
Make a decision maker.
Well, you’re in luck because there is. You may have heard of pros and cons. This is a refined version of doing pros and cons that can really show you which way to go. All you need are two choices, a piece of paper and something to write with. I use a sheet of notebook paper usually.
Take your paper and fold it in half lengthwise, and again widthwise. Now open it up and you have four equal areas. At the top of the top two areas you put in your first choice on the left. On the right, you put NOT that choice. So if your first choice is Eat Mexican Food, then the NOT choice is Not Eat Mexican Food. (Assume you can’t make it at home.)
Fold that part under and now you are at the top of the second two sections. Put your second choice on the left and its NOT on the right. Your second choice might be Eat at Home so that goes on the left and Not Eat at Home is on the right.
Be sure to fold under one choice and its NOT and only look at one at a time. You want to avoid thinking about the other choice while you think about this one. It works better this way.
Next, fill in under each category why that’s a good idea. Under Eat Mexican Food you can write all the reasons why that’s a good plan and then under Not Eat Mexican Food all the reasons why it is good not to do that. Then turn the paper over and do the same for eating at home.
Make your decision.
Unfold your paper fully. Now you have reasons why you should (and should not) have Mexican food. You also have reasons for and against eating at home. There may be some overlap–but not total–between the two pros and cons lists. That’s because there are more possibilities in life than just Mexican food or eating your usual at home.
Look your lists over. Cross out any duplicate entries. The list with the most convincing argument wins. Easy, right?
Can I do more than two choices?
You could do three pros and cons if you had three choices, by folding your paper in three sections by two and writing smaller. I would caution against going more than three, and not just because it takes more paper. We humans do better with a small field of options. Narrow your choices down to the best two or, if you must, three, and then do your pros and cons.
The whole point of this exercise is to get you to think about your options and have a way to see your thoughts so you don’t lose them. As you look over your lists of thoughts about the pros and cons of your choices, both rational and emotional, you can make a decision that includes both thoughts and feelings. That should make your final decision a better fit for you.
Can a couple do use this together?
Sure! You can either write one together, or each write one and have a reconciliation of both your results. In fact, if it affects both of you, you should both be involved in making the decision.
Since both are participating in making the decision, there won’t be the pressure on one to decide or the opportunity for the other to blame if they’re disappointed. Both parties get to present all their thoughts and feelings about the choices and all thoughts and feelings are valid. If a discussion arises, go with it. You might save yourselves a problem down the line, or even figure out a better choice than the two you were considering.
Still feeling resistance to a decision?
That may be your intuition saying you’re not ready. Maybe you aren’t confident that you have enough good reasons to go one way or the other. It could be you lack information. In that case, do some reading or research and get back to the process when you feel more comfortable with the knowledge you’ve gained. You might find your choices change with the added knowledge. That’s fine, too. It may lead you in a new direction.
Here’s hoping this helps you when you get stuck on choices.