A dilemma is when you have two options which appear so finely balanced it’s difficult to decide between them. This can be stressful and waste your time. Dilemmas can involve options that seem to be equally appealing, uniformly uninspiring, or are both downright dreadful.
Follow these five steps to help resolve your dilemma.
- Recognise the type of dilemma you face
Is it a question of doing something or not doing it, having something or not? Or is it a choice between two different things? (E.g. whether to go on holiday next month or not (X or not X) v choosing a beach chill out or a city cultural holiday (X or Y). Whether to quit your job or not (X or not X) v which of two tantalising job offers to accept (X or Y)
Sometimes decisiong involve both types of dilemma. Then it’s helpful to disentangle them and usually tackle the X or not X aspect first.
- Add more options – get creative, if you can’t see any invent some
Even if the only other options you can think of seem crazy, create more to consider. To resolve X or Y dilemmas this can be the most crucial step.
Introducing even just one apparently unlikely extra possibility can tip the weighting between your original two. Add one or more options so the total of options you’re considering always adds up to an odd number: 3, 5 or even 7.
- Step back and shift your perspective
Broaden the way you look at the situation. What’s the bigger picture, what really matters here? Ask yourself how all your options stack up within that. Try ranking all the options you’ve come up with on how well they support your short term, and then your longer term needs and aims.
Talk it through with someone good at listening – Decision Treehouse for example. Vocalising the situation can help you recognise how each option fits within the overall context of your values and priorities.
- Let go of trying to get it right and choose the best option you can now
Time may tell whether your choice worked out well, but you have to decide now! The outcome of any decision can never be certain, but it can help to imagine a timeline into the future. Imagine looking back from the future, say this time next year. Will it even matter by then? How would you like circumstances generally to have evolved? From that perspective how would you like to be evaluating having made the decision you face now?
You can never be totally responsible for the outcome, but you are responsibe for how you make your decision. So focus on doing your best to make a good decision, not making the ‘right’ choice.
- If you’re still unsure and undecided toss a coin, but notice your reaction
Remember being stuck with a dilemma can waste precious time and energy. For small choices that don’t matter that much, assigning one option to heads, one to tails and simply tossing a coin can be an effective time saving device.
If you’ve followed Step 2 you’ll have several options, so toss for ‘still in the running’ or ‘out’ – until you’ve narrowed them down to a final heads or tails pair.
With important choices, notice your reaction when you learn how the coin has landed: relief or disappointment? You can make a pact with fate – letting the decision be ‘made for you’ – stop the stalemate and take action to rev up the momentum. But if you have a strong reaction agains the option the toss indicates, this is probably a good guide to your real wishes – so have the courage to follow them.
Just avoid creating another dilemma: whether to go withe the side of the coin that won or not. Stretching the toss our to best of three, five or 99 is not the way to resolve a dilemma!
For help with resolving your dilemmas and making important but difficult decisions consider booking time with Decision Treehouse
Other ‘how to’ articles on decision making
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