It is critical to know what is the ultimate problem to be solved by the decision. This is the important first step. Take plenty of time to think things through carefully. Step back and take the long view. Will this decision take me further toward my goals? Will this decision be in line with my beliefs and values? Is there a larger issue that needs to be decided first? The Decision Tree is a tool that is useful in visualizing a series of decisions.
Here’s an example: Joe initially thought his decision was whether to buy the old fixer-upper house on Cherry Street or the new townhouse on Main. In stepping back he saw that a decision first needed to be made as to whether to rent or to buy. In stepping back further he saw that a decision needed to be made as to whether he wanted to live in that town. In stepping back still further Joe realized that the most important thing he needed to decide and what he needed to know before making any other decisions was whether or not he would remain in his present job or make a career change. That was the ultimate decision to be made before considering any downstream decisions.