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

How can I make tough decisions easier?

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

Tough decisions exist everywhere in our lives. From which car to buy to whether or not to quit your day job to start a new venture to staying or leaving a difficult relationship, tough decisions can be very overwhelming and stressful. If you don’t have a system for making these decisions, you often procrastinate and avoid making them or make rash decisions that lead to a host of problems. The key is to have a proven process to use when tough decisions crop up. 


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Tough decisions examples

Tough decisions examples reveal themselves at every stage of our lives, no matter what stage of life we’re in, where we live or the career path we’ve chosen. Here are just a few examples of tough decisions you may face:


tough decision

  • Choosing a college major
  • Choosing to go back to get a higher degree after joining the workforce
  • Choosing which state or city to live in
  • Choosing to marry or stay independent
  • Choosing whether or not (or when) to have children
  • Choosing to move aging parents into retirement communities
  • Choosing to get a divorce or work on an unhappy or unhealthy relationship
  • Choosing to stay an employee or start your own business
  • Choosing to be a stay-at-home parent or continue working
  • Choosing to remove yourself from your current peer group
  • Choosing whether to retire or continue working
  • Choosing who to hire and who to fire

How you ultimately make tough decisions can mean the difference between failure and success, as well as the difference between fulfillment and a pervasive sense of emptiness. Those who set the intention of keeping a mindset of abundance and seeing life as happening for them instead of to them are always in a better position when making tough decisions – and dealing with the consequences of those tough decisions – than those who do not. Still, even those who possess these qualities may struggle with how to make a tough decision from time to time.

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 to make a tough decision 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. Because energy flows where focus goes, this helps quiet the noise in your head and is the first step toward making tough decisions.

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. Visualize your goals and make sure that whatever you choose to experience is aligned with your values and purpose. Without this clarity, making tough decisions just becomes more difficult. 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? By fully evaluating possible consequences, you can better use fear before it uses you. If you’re clear on your goals and committed to your vision, you’ll know that even the direct consequences of making tough decisions are better than making no decision at all. Again, the more detail you can get here, the better equipped you’ll be for phase 2 of Tony’s “how to make a tough decision” process.

Phase 2: EMR – Evaluate, mitigate, resolve
 4. Evaluate your options.

In phase 2 of the making tough decisions process, 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 tough 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. This will help you beat procrastination when making tough decisions and avoid the deadliest decision of all: inaction.

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 tough decisions

Having a good process to make tough decisions is clearly important. But it’s also valuable to understand why many of us are so afraid of making 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. Accepting and embracing the beauty of uncertainty is much easier to do when you have a process to fall back on. 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 consequences.

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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