4 ways to help you make hard choices in both work and life

Life isn’t always black or white — things happen, people change and sometimes you have to make difficult choices. Here’s what to keep in mind.

Do something to move forward

Decision coach and travel writer Nell Wulfhart writes in The Muse that you should “practice being decisive.”

“If you’re chronically indecisive, build that decision-making muscle by starting small. Give yourself 30 seconds to decide what you’ll have for dinner, what movie to watch, or whether you want to go out tonight. Follow through on that decision. Repeat. Then work up to bigger things. Does this give you anxiety? Ask yourself what the worst-case scenario is if you pick wrong.”

Think about what would happen as a result

Daniel Jacobs, CEO and co-founder of Avanoo, writes in Fortune about making difficult business decisions in Fortune. After writing about a “poor cost-saving decision” he made in the past, he lists three ways that have since helped him approach challenges “when the pressure is on.”

One of the questions he poses is, “Are you willing to live with the consequences of your decision?”

“This might seem like a rhetorical question, but it’s not. Most hard decisions are made because we’re either: a) running toward expected rewards, or b) running away from expected consequences. Strangely, humans often tend not to consider what happens if the rewards or consequences we expect don’t come to pass,” he continues.

Think about any “biases”

Catherine Price, author of 101 Places Not to See Before You Die, writes on Oprah.com about having to choose a paint color with her husband for their new apartment. She goes onto list tips for making decisions, including that you should “be aware of biases.”

“They can lead smart people to make dumb decisions. For example, we hate to lose more than we like to win, which can result in behavior such as holding on to a tanking stock instead of accepting a loss. We remember vivid examples better than facts, which is why plane crashes stick in our heads more than statistics on air safety. And we’re susceptible to how information is framed — a ‘cash discount’ is more appealing than ‘no credit card surcharge.’ Keeping these biases in mind can help you think clearly.”

Get some peace and quiet

Elaina Giolando, a nomad and freelance writer, writes in Fortune about how she ultimately turned down a business fellowship and the different ways she arrived at the decision (and others).

She writes that when making a big life choice, the first step is to “try meditation.”

“For me, this involved 10 days of intense, silent meditation in rural India. But you don’t have to travel to the other side of the world for the same effects. Instead, set aside a quiet meditation space where you can listen to your heart. What does it communicate when it’s not panicked and inundated with other people’s ideas? Temporarily removing yourself from all external stimuli and ideas of who you should be and what you should do allows you to access your own values and take ownership of the direction you want your life to take.”