How to Make a Tough Decision

 “Hard choices are not a curse, but a godsend,” says philosopher Ruth Chang. Learn how to make a difficult decision that will shape your life. 

Lisa B. Marshall
2-minute read

A friend of mine had some tough choices to make this summer.  The house she and her family had been renting was being sold and they had to move quickly. They were faced with choosing the right location, home size, school district, child care, and on and on it went. They looked at the options over and over but were getting nowhere.

This got me wondering: Why are some choices so hard to make?

In Ruth Chang’s Ted Talk How to Make Hard Choices she says some choices are easy because one option is clearly better than another. A choice is hard when none of the alternatives are clearly better. One house may be the right size and in a good commuting location, but it’s in a low-ranked school district. The other might be in a good school district, but it’s a long commute to work. Maybe you need to decide where to place your aging parent.  Maybe you need to decide if you want to change careers.

Sometimes when faced with hard choices we simply do the one that we are least afraid of makingwe often take the least risky route. When faced with a difficult decision, my Dad used to advise, “Flip a coin.”  He didn’t mean that to be flippant.  He meant to use the coin toss as a tool to help me try on a decision to see how I felt about it. For truly hard decisions, I often just wanted to flip again, “Let me try again…best out of three!”

But that’s exactly the point Chang makes: If it’s a hard decision, then the alternatives are somewhat equal.  It’s useless to try to pick the better alternative—there isn’t one, that’s why it’s a hard choice.  Chang says the key to making hard decisions is to get behind the choice you make. What she means is to not look externally, but to look internally at who you want to be.  Decide how you want to define your future self.  Don’t just choose the easier, less risky, less scary, option. Choose who you want to become. 

Do you have a tough choice to make today? Decide how you want to define your future self and the decision will be clear.  

About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.