How to Make Difficult Decisions Quickly and Easily

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Using the “Rule of 1” to make Difficult Decisions

Difficult decisions, especially the emotionally charged ones, can be difficult to make.

There are often many considerations and compromises.

And at the end of it all, how do you know you’ve made a good decision?

So here’s a tool I use that quickly cuts through the complexity.

“Rule of 1” tool

As you’ll see in the video it’s easy to use and takes about 5 minutes to implement.

What’s involved?

  • You consider your options over 3 different time frames, for example 1 hour, 1 month, 1 year.

  • You imagine what your life would look like depending on each option you choose

  • You decide which option will impact your life best

That’s it!

I explain it all in the video above plus an interesting, no-win situation that I found myself and my family in. 😉

So how do you make complex decisions?  Have you got a technique that works or are you giving the “Rule of 1” a try?

Emotionally-Charged Decisions

Cut Through The Complexity of Decision-Making

Need to Make a Difficult Decision?


(In case my Irish accent is confusing you….)

OK, so this is one of the biggest problems that typically we face the whole time, is we get asked to make a very difficult decision, and when I say “difficult decision,” not those ones with big spreadsheets and numbers and all.

The much more difficult decision is where we’ve actually got 2, usually just 2 choices in the end, and neither are very good.

They typically seem to have huge downsides, both of them, and we feel pressure to take 1 or the other or both, but actually we’ve got to go on and make that decision. And what happens is, you know, when you’ve been in that situation, you’ve got all the self-doubt, and the worry, and “what happens if?” and maybe I’ll make the wrong one or the right one, and “what happens when this happens, and what are the implications?”, and our minds just go potty.

So you’re there at 3 o’clock in the morning, in bed, still not asleep, thinking this thing through, flying around your brain. So what I want to give you is not the magic answer to what your decision is, but a really great way of figuring out what the right decision is for you at that stage.

And the beauty of this is it’s a very simple way of running through even the most complex decisions you’ve got to make, the ones with the most amount of stress and emotion in, and by taking this approach you can very quickly figure out what the approach that’s right for you at that stage is, and go and take an action and push through it.

So, the idea is that, at the end of this video, what I want you to have is a way of having that peace of mind, that when you get hit with these decisions, that you will actually have a step-by-step approach that you’ll be able to quickly implement and make that decision and move forward, and move forward with a peace of mind knowing that you’ve done the best you can out of the situation that you were in.

So, the first thing to realize is actually, choices and decisions, they can be very scary. Actually, I’ll give you a great example of one of the ones that I had there: it was about 2 years ago.

And, it was actually, myself and my family, we were going on vacation. And, we were going over actually to the US. And to give you an idea, I’d been 18 months since my previous vacation, and at that stage, I knew it was just a very busy time at work.

Actually the holiday was all paid for by the air miles that I’d earned over the previous 18 months: I was that busy flying around and doing stuff.

It was a very busy time for me, so this was the holiday we’d looked forward to, whole family, actually we were going from Ireland to the US, we were going to Washington and then New York – the holiday of a lifetime, basically, so really excited by it.

And, all good, and as I was getting onto the plane, actually walking down the gangway so I was actually ahead, and the kids were behind, wife’s behind, and I felt the old “bzzt” in the pocket: “That’s either a message or an email.”

That was fine, so we all got set up, and pulled out the phone to have a quick look, because there was a lot going on, so I just wanted to make sure I didn’t miss something.

Looked at it: it was an email from my boss in the US, which said, “You can’t go on vacation, too much going on: cancel.”

So there I am, sitting in my seat, flight was still only just boarding, so we were one of the first on, but there’s a message from my boss, “Don’t go on vacation,” and there I am, sitting with my family, on this holiday of a lifetime.

What am I going to do?

So, I’ll tell you exactly how I went through this decision, and how it actually implemented The Rule of 1 and helped me sort-of figure out very quickly what the right decision was.

And I’m sure you can appreciate some of the complexities going through my head.

So, The Rule of 1 is very simple: it’s, you are here, right now, and you’re going to make a decision.

What The Rule of 1 says is, OK: a decision has consequences, and a decision has consequences over a time frame in the future.

So, The Rule of 1 says,

“What we’re going to do is we’re going to pick 3 time frames, and the 3 time frames, depending on the decision, are going to be, you know it could be 1 minute, 1 week, 1 month, 1 year, 1 decade.”

So, for me, the 3 things I chose, very, very quickly, was, I said, “OK, I’m going to consider the consequences of this decision over 1 day, over 1 year, and over 1 decade, so 10 years.”

Basically, there were 2 things I could do: so the first one was, let’s call it “A”, was cancel.

And the second one was “B”, which was go.

And that was really what it broke down to: yeah, horrible.

So the first thing I looked at was 1 day:

OK, so, if I cancelled, what would the effect be? So, what would the effect be on my boss, first of all?

Boss: I knew where he was coming from: I knew the CFO had asked him to do it. So, totally knew his boss had asked him to go and do it, and she had a lot of concerns about this massive project that was going live, and I understood that.

So, from my boss’ perspective, he’d be able to say, straight-away to his boss, the CFO, “I’ve done it,” and that would be a big relief for him.

So I could appreciate: 1 day, a lot of relief for him. It’d be a good thing for him.

My wife? Hmmmm, not so good, I knew exactly what would happen.

We would have the row from hell, again: it wouldn’t have been for the first time over the amount of work I’d been doing.

We’d have the row from hell, “You’ve once again put your work ahead of your family,” you know the thing. And do you know what, she’d be right again.

So I knew, on the 1 day, the consequences both ways were pretty horrible.

And on the go side, if I said to my boss, “Listen, I’m going anyway”, he would have to turn around to the CFO and say, “Listen, I can’t even control my own staff.”

It would not put him in a good positon. It would also leave him genuinely concerned about what’s going to happen.

And although there’s like, all the plans and everything in place, I had a full team working through these projects, and I was very confident that everything was going to be fine, he wouldn’t have been, so it wouldn’t have been putting him in a good positon.

My wife? Yeah, she’d be well happy to continue on our vacation and everything, and yeah, she’d be a bit annoyed that the company was trying to force us to cancel this vacation when actually all the stuff had been in place.

But for her, yeah, going is obviously a better thing.

So then I looked at 1 year ahead, so if I’m still employed, that is, because maybe one of the things about canceling, was there was a real risk, that you know this is a very, very serious thing to do.

So, if you’re still employed a year later, my boss? Well, my boss is a very progressive guy: he’s probably already moved on, he’s probably been promoted.

So, will he be remembering that email he got from me, saying OK?

No, of course he wouldn’t: that would have been gone out of his mind.

CFO? Again, she’s a very good CFO, again, progressing through her career, she has a hundred million other things to do, she’s probably already on the next fire-fight.

So again, probably not that much meaning to her.

My family? Well, would it mean much to them?

By a year’s time, we would have been on a family vacation again. I would have done absolutely everything to make it up to them.

I would have bribed right, left, and center, my wife would have so many meals out on me, I would have gotten the company to go and pay for a meal.

So, she’d be OK, but she’d still moan a lot about it, but that’s no different to normal.

If I went, what would the difference be?

Well, from the boss’ side, he’s probably gotten over me, I’ve probably had the chance to explain in much more detail, I was able to prove my team was in play, so they did a great job, and so from initial “no,” but here’s how I want to do it, I think he would have gotten over it … hopefully.

And from the CFO’s perspective?

This is just a small thing on her radar: no issues there whatsoever, next.

It’s when I got to the 1 decade that I realized something was going on.

So again, if I’d canceled it, what would have happened?

So again, my boss, he’s at a different company at this stage, a high-flyer, gone. He’s forgotten about me completely.

CFO: completely forgotten about me too.

My wife?

Guarantee, and the kids, every now and again, it’s raised again, “Do you remember the time where you basically put your work in front of us?”

And I guarantee that would be used again and again, all my friends, all my family would be able to recite by heart the time where I marched my family off the plane and back into the airport terminal and cancelled our vacation.


Whereas, if we’d gone, again, boss would have gone, CFO would have gone, and the family would have an amazing vacation we’d always look back on and think, “Wasn’t that great as a family to do?”

So, this took about no more than 3 minutes, with my mind whirling going, “Do you know what: 2 horrible choices, but actually the choice I’ve got to make is go.

And yes, I know this is a risk, and I’ve got to be up-front with my boss, and try and cover what he’s worried about.”

So straight away, email to the CFO going, “Listen I apologize if there’s been a mix-up, but this is my only opportunity for the next almost a year to go on holidays with my family: I haven’t been on holiday for a year and a half.

But here’s what I’m going to put in place: so I will phone in every single morning to the morning call.

So I got up before my family every single morning on a conference call to phone in and make sure there was nothing happening.

I attended one or two calls where I could add value in the middle of it.

Actually there was one standing outside Hershey’s World, so kids inside doing the chocolate ride and there am I, on a conference call about some technical stuff that I won’t even bore you with.

But we had the vacation, the company survived, and it all worked out.

And it was a difficult decision, no right or wrong answers, but in hindsight, I did make the right decision, and even if it hadn’t worked out the way it did, if it worked out another way, I still believe I had made the right decision.

I made the right decision for me and for the family.

So, when you’ve got a decision like that, where there is no right or wrong answer, there’s just 2, you know, lose a job or lose a family, I really suggest you take this approach, too.

Write out this exact same formula for yourself.

Choose your time frame: if the decision has got an impact that’s very, very short, then you probably are looking at 1 minute, 1 day, 1 week.

If it’s in my situation, where it’s relationship-based, you are looking at a much longer time frame. So 1 day or 1 week, 1 year, 1 decade.

But go through in your mind exactly how I went through my problem.

And it’s just a relief: you start seeing things as they actually are.

You stop seeing this wool, and you start seeing a few very clear pointers, too, OK, actually what’s underneath all of this.

It was down to my family and how do I assuage my company’s fears and worries?

So, hope that helps.

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