At a workshop I attended with Anna Hunt she introduced us to a simple, but concept. The idea was at the bottom we had things then things we must do; then things we should do; things we chose to do; things we want to do and things we desire to do. I guess similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.

She was using it in a different context, but I now apply it to decision making and given I find it so useful I thought I’d share.

DESIRE

WANT

CHOOSE

SHOULD

MUST

You can use the list to make decisions. The higher up the list you get the better the decision starts to feel.

A simple shift in language is so powerful. For example, saying I choose to pay this bill rather than I must pay this bill seems simple, but makes a huge difference.

There are very few things that (if we get honest with ourselves) that we MUST do. Sometimes it feels like we must or we should, but there is a choice. Going back to paying bills. It may feel like we MUST pay the electricity bill today, but it actually is a choice. If we don’t then ultimately the electricity will get cut off and things will stop working, but that is still a choice.

We may not like the outcome of not doing something and therefore it can feel like a must, but by turning it into a choice it puts us in control.

It may seem an almost meaningless shift in words, but it makes a huge difference to decision making and the way you feel after doing something.

One way to apply this is to take a look at your To Do list and add two columns to the right. In the first of the two columns write down the outcome(s) if you don’t do the action. Try to be as realistic as possible e.g. not writing a report at work is unlikely to get you fired immediately. It might do if you repeatedly do it, but unlikely on the first time. A more likely outcome may be that your boss will be annoyed. Then in the second of the columns write down MUST, SHOULD, CHOSE, WANT or DESIRE, aiming to get as close to the top as you can.

This really helps me to feel less overwhelmed when tasks are building up AND helps me to make better decisions as to what to say no to. Putting yourself in control and making conscious decisions is very empowering.

If you found this useful you may be interested in our workshop starting on Wednesday – ‘Don’t Wait: Make 2016 Great‘. All of the details can be found here.

A Hierarchy for Decisions

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