How To Make Decisions In 5 Steps Without Stress (Convergent Thinking 4)

A decision is like an axe falling on the tree of possibilities, reducing it to a single branch. It can be stressful. But there’s a way to overcome challenges when deciding: don’t reinvent the wheel.

Luca Vettor
4 min readSep 22, 2023
Photo by Ioann-Mark Kuznietsov on Unsplash

Almost every activity can be done either as an amateur or a professional.

Don’t get me wrong, ‘amateur’ doesn’t mean bad; there are great amateurs who can reach even more excellent results. But they fail to succeed again and again in a consistent way. Amateurs have a superficial idea of why they fail and grow; they don’t have a method.

Think of your experience: Do you know stressed high-level professionals?

All that is even more impactful when it comes to making decisions. So, let’s explore a method to get rid of stress when you must decide.

Step 1: Write down the possibilities you have

Never underrate writing things down.

Writing puts facts and emotions outside you and makes it possible to rule them. Otherwise, they dominate you.

This first step is paramount; the following steps are much less effective if you skip Step 1.

Start with a flat list of possible decisions. Don’t try to be complete: when the flow of possibilities ends in your mind, connect the possible decisions in the list. If something is missing, connecting helps you discover what you need to add.

By ‘connection,’ I mean any relationship: cause/effect, similarity, opposition, etc.

At the end of Step 1, you get a mind map, which is the territory to explore to make your decisions: you get connected possibilities.

Step 2: Detect equivalent possibilities and cluster them

When different decisions lead to the same results, they are equal possibilities to be evaluated. Don’t waste time by analyzing twice, or even more, the same conclusion, which might appear in many slightly diverse shapes!

Step 2 allows for simplifying the mind map you got in Step 1:

  • Cluster possibilities that likely lead to the same result in only one aggregated point.
  • Replace the many clustered possibilities with the few aggregated ones and review connections accordingly.

Step 3: Label possibilities with their assumptions

Any decision implies possible logical consequences. How realistic those consequences are depends on what they assume. The problem is that assumptions often must be addressed because they are unexpressed.

Deem assumptions as your hidden enemy: you must discover and label them to be in control of your decisions. There’s a straightforward question you can leverage to go hunting for assumptions: for each statement that is not a fact, ask yourself, “If I were in court, in front of a jury about to judge me, how would I argue my claim?”

Synthesize the arguments supporting your statements with labels and attribute them to your identified possibilities.

Step 3 assigns labels to the mindmap you got in Step 2: one or more labels — assumptions — per possibility.

Step 4: Label possibilities with their consequences

Now, it’s logic and probability calculus.

You have a mindmap with the possible decisions decorated with the assumptions that give sense to each possibility. It’s time to deduce the consequences of each possibility.

The question is: “Given a possible decision, what likely consequences arise?” That’s why it’s all about logic and probability calculus.

Step 4 adds a new level to the mindmap you got in Step 3: it’s the inference level.

Step 5: Select acceptable assumptions and consequences

The last step starts with temporarily hiding possibilities from the mind map you got at the end of Step 4. The result is a new mindmap with only assumptions and consequences.

It’s now a matter of selecting:

  • The assumptions that are the most sustainable.
  • The consequences that are the most desirable.

We transformed the problem of selecting a possible decision into selecting assumptions and consequences. Why? Assumptions and consequences:

  • Detach emotionally from the decision as they are a rational analysis of it. That’s no stress.
  • Expand the structure of decisions that are always — at least implicitly — a combination of assumptions and expected consequences.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, I’m proposing to admit that emotions play a pivotal role in making decisions.

The 5-step process above helps to isolate emotions around decisions in two ways:

  • First, breaking decisions down into assumptions and consequences.
  • Second, hiding decisions when selecting which decision to make and moving the focus on assumptions and consequences.

Reach me in the comments below if you’d like to read examples where I apply the decision-making strategy I described here!

Coming soon

Follow me to get the fifth article of the Convergent Thinking series: How To Communicate Decisions In 5 Steps Without Conflicts (Convergent Thinking 5)

Already published in the series

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Luca Vettor

Solopreneur online writer and technical writer. My mission: Do you struggle to understand the software? Stop by! I'm your bridge toward the software!