The Key To Making Big Decisions

September 30, 2014

Making decisions is what leaders do, right? Then why is it when we’re faced with making our own career decisions we all of a sudden become terrible and overwhelmed decision makers?

If you’re like me, when faced with making big decisions, you can feel like you’re on a roller coaster ride. One minute you’re up, the next you’re down and before long you’ve spun and flipped so many times you’re not sure which way is straight. I’ve received and given lots of cliche advice, “You’ll know when its time.” “The right door will open up.” “It will all work out in the end.” I appreciate these hope filled statements but at the same time they don’t offer much concrete help. When you’ve been on the roller coaster ride, what you need is a clear path forward and more importantly a clear process to understand how and why to choose the right path.

When I was leaving my last role as an executive in a start up retail coffee company, I was torn. I enjoyed what I was doing but I felt like something was missing that I couldn’t put my finger on. One day it clicked, I need to prioritize what I’m looking for in my career to help me make the decision of whether I should go or stay. If you’ve read my blog long enough you’ve started to notice that I love to prioritize. It’s the single most helpful thing I’ve found to more effectively manage my life and leadership. It’s a process that can be applied to anything, including how to make a really big career decision. Beyond myself, I love helping clients walk through this process; clarity is a powerful tool.


There are so many factors that go in to making a big career decision. It’s easy to worry about making sure you’re doing the right thing and plagued by the thought of what if I made the wrong decision. The last time around I took myself through an exercise that I felt was very valuable and worth sharing. This exercise forced me to prioritize 10 important factors that go into any big career decision. The key is that you have to prioritize these factors for yourself. What’s most important to you will drive the big decision.

The 10 Career Factors

  1. Control – How important is the ability to envision the future and make decisions to build towards that future? Are you comfortable with implementing someone else’s vision or do you need it to be your vision? Do you need an environment with more freedom?
  2. Schedule – Do you have the desire to chart your own course and dictate the schedule? Want to work 3, 15 hour days, and golf the rest of the week? Are you good with constantly changing hours? The nine to five grind works for many people but others need more flexibility.
  3. Faithfulness – Do you enjoy using and maximizing your talents to better those around you? Do your gifts align with the work before you? Some careers more than others will use what you have to bless, encourage, and make the world around you a better place.
  4. Money – What kind of salary/wage/future do you want to create? What kind of financial margin are you hoping to build? How important is the right salary to your next career move? It’s not always about the money and its priority changes in different life stages.
  5. Passion – How important is it that your work align with your passions? Are you ok finding your passion after you leave the office? Or, if you’re not carrying out your deep convictions on a daily basis, do you wither? If you can’t quit thinking about it positively, that’s a good sign it’s important to you.
  6. Happiness – Are you looking to your career as your main source of happiness? Is it possible to have a job you aren’t happy in but you can live with it? For some if they don’t come home smiling about the day then it’s devastating.
  7. Fulfilling – When you wrap up your day how important is it that you feel personally fulfilled? How critical is it that your desire, expectations and reality are aligned? Nothing is perfect but you go to bed with a full heart, a good day is a meaningful day.
  8. Family – Do you love to have your family involved with your work? Does the thought of working with family make you cringe?  How important is it that your family is intimately involved and engaged in the work? Not prioritizing this high isn’t a statement of your lack of love your family, it just means you and they don’t benefit from working together.
  9. Team – Do you like to fly solo or do you need the collaboration of a good team to survive?  How important is the team around you? The people around you matters more to some than others.
  10. Community – How important is it to be connected to a larger group of like-minded people? Are you particular about your neighborhood or the type of people you want to rub shoulders with outside of the office? Or, are you so adaptable you can make it anywhere? For some it’s all about location, location, location.

No job is perfect. No career is executed flawlessly. No relationships are absent of strife. The goal here is not to remove every difficult situation from your life. The goal IS to understand how you’re made and how you thrive so that when making a difficult decision you have a prioritized rudder. For some, making a big salary is overrated so that slips down the list while being happy is a the top. For others it’s all about the team and they could care less about the long hours or lack of personal control. Still others find themselves withering away if they aren’t living in their passion every minute of their life.

There is no cookie cutter answer for everyone but there is a better answer for you. Rank these 1-10 and then evaluate your current career and future opportunities in light of them. One of my priorities is to help you and other leaders get clear on the most important things. Clarity is never overrated.


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