Making Big Decisions

June 21, 2017 - Making decisions is something that we all have to do, but seldom enjoy. When creating a pro-con list, a few benefits can often outweigh a lengthy list of costs due to the different values and meaning we associate with a choice. Utilize this four-step model based on Sukiennik et al’s book, The Career Fitness Program, to aid in your decision making process.


First, identify the decision at hand along with its deadline.


Second, analyze which styles you tend to use when making important or trivial decisions. People often use a combination of several styles, with one or two dominating. Out of the following nine decision making styles, note the style you adopt most often for big decisions in addition to the secondary styles that you use fairly frequently.


1. Planning: Consider values, goals, alternatives, and consequences to strike a balance between pros and cons.

2. Impulsive: Take the first option, or a random available alternative without much thinking.

3. Intuitive: Do whatever feels right.

4. Compliant: Let someone else decide.

5. Delaying: Put off thought and action as long as possible.

6. Fatalistic: Leave it up to fate.

7. Agonizing: Worry about making a wrong decision and feel overwhelmed during analysis.

8. Paralytic: Indecision and fear without action.

9. Defaulting: Select whichever is the safest alternative.


Planning implies gaining control of your life with observant investigation and careful analysis. The planning and intuitive styles are have been shown to be most effective for the majority of your big and small decisions. The other options contain a hint of fear, such as fear of failure (defaulting), fear of imperfection (agonizing), or fear of rejection (compliant). Such fears are based on “internal factors” related to your attitudes and how you view yourself. Another question to consider when struggling to make a decision is: what are you afraid of and why?


Third, explore factors that impact your current or future decisions. In general, there are two sources of factors: external and internal. The former consists of things such as family expectation, self-expectation (e.g., values, personality), family responsibilities, cultural factors (e.g., gender stereotype, systemic constraints), and survival needs (e.g., income, security). The latter contains various fears mentioned above.


Additional Questions to Ponder

If you still have not reached  a decision after these three steps, the final recommendation is to consider the following questions:

  • What are my assumptions affecting my decisions? Do I have irrational thoughts about some decisions?
  • What are my feelings regarding these decisions? Are my feelings stand in the way of my decision making process?

  • Why am I clinging to behavior that prevents me from making this decision? Have I overlooked or overestimated the possibility of certain positive consequences?

  • What further information do I need in order to generate alternatives?


In addition, it may be helpful speak with a C-SEAP counselor to explore some of the questions above. Significant life decisions can cause internal and external turmoil, and the decision-making process can often be more manageable with a trained third-party. Call 303-866-4314 to find out more about our services.


Clare Zhaoe, M.Ed. - Denver C-SEAP Office

Doctoral Extern



Sukiennik, D., Bendat, W., & Raufman, L. (2016). The Career Fitness Program: Exercising Your Options (11th). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.