‘What If’: Road to Decision-Making


Hello everyone,

I want to talk about a strategy that I use when I need to make a decision and see how it resonates with you all.

We make decisions all the time. We get up and we decide whether we get out of bed at that time or not. We decide whether we want to interact with people any given day. We decide who will be our friends and who we will minimize or maximize interactions with. We decide whether to take a trip or stay home. And so on. You get the idea.

Let’s say I am trying to decide whether I want to study abroad (assume I have the money to do that via a scholarship, so money is not a big issue). It will require me to change my whole life style. It will force me to stay away from family. There are many unknowns. These could force me to stay where I am. It is scary after all. It challenges my safety. But there is one thing that suppresses all and will make me decide to go: I envision my life some time after the fact. In the scenario here, I look back at my life 20 years later. Am I asking ‘What if?’. In other words, I ask myself the question: ‘Can I possibly regret it 20 years later if I decide to stay?’. If my answer is ‘Yes, I possibly can’, then I go with the other option, in this case, studying abroad.

And that is a real-life scenario. That is how I decided to move to the US for PhD as a very family-oriented person.

This applies to smaller decisions too. If I might have brunch with a friend and I am deciding whether to go or stay home, I think about several hours after the brunch: Will I possibly regret not going? If yes, then I go. I think of a few hours after the brunch and I see myself happier (because brunches with people generally make me happier). This strengthens my decision. Then, I get up and go.

Or I am trying to decide whether I want to study now. I try to think of a few hours later and visualize myself: Am I happier then? I usually am, well, because I will have studied and be free of the responsibility. That allows me to be on track most of the time.

Do you use a similar strategy? If not, what else do you use? Would you think of using it if you are not already? Let’s talk about this strategy.


17 thoughts on “‘What If’: Road to Decision-Making

  1. Hi

    Good post again as usual.

    Decision making requires intuition, judgment and experience. And it is one of the main tasks leaders do and we also do, though the scale and impacts may be different.

    I use PACT, which stands for Problems, Alernatives, Consequences and Tradeoffs.

    Although each one of these points need to be looked at differently, it is very important to judge things as an impartial spectator. This is very important specially when dealing with a situation in which we may feel emotionally attached to and that also require tough and rational decisions.

    Other times, we face complex situations, where decision making in a linear approach may not do the job. However, by asking others for help, applying flexible approach and doing things in context where failure is survivable, we can reduce the uncertainty and achieve the desired outcome.

    Complex or otherwise, it is wise to think slowly than automatically to achieve better outcomes.

    Best regards

    Abdifatah Dhuhulow

    1. I agree that decision-making is not simply asking the question of What if?. However, I found it helpful especially in situations where one alternative is not significantly preferable to the other. Another situation is when I can’t make the expected decision because I am afraid to leave the known.

      1. Hi

        My best advice in this circumstance is: you should generate three ideas and choose the one with the least downside and more upside.

        What matters is to move forward as we learn more from doing so.

        Good luck

        Abdifatah Dhuhulow

  2. Hi I absolutely love your work and philosophy on life. You write completely from the heart and from personal experience – something many bloggers don’t seem to do. I’ve read so many post where people are spouting about the right and wrong ways to do thing but you speak real sense. In fact I’ve just today posted in my blog on The Problems With Positive thinking. Something I encountered after a lady came to me for healing. Anyway thank you for sharing and I look forward to more posts. Best wishes Julie X

  3. Great strategy and great questions. I do something similar, from Stoic philosophy. Remember you’re mortal. Remember that you don’t know your end date. Live each day like it’s your last. Not like a big party blow-out, not free of responsibilities and choices. So that when you come to the end of the day, if it turns out to be your last, it was well spent.

  4. In my training I learned that if I am present and still the apposite action would be there. For every experience there is an action that fits with the experience. Not a matter of the right or wrong action but the one that is appropriate for the circumstances. It has proven a more organic way for me to embrace what actions I need to take. And, seems to bypass conditioned personality.
    A perspective is this, “In light of my own death what’s important right now?” Perhaps it’s the same question as the one you pose phrased differently.
    Thanks so much for this post.

    1. Thanks for the contribution! I think we both want to make our lives worth living, which is why we ask these questions. Life is worth something if we utilize each moment in the best way we can.

  5. Hmmm. Maybe if you live a really boring and insular life like MS has currently forced upon me, you will just say yes to everything that you are capable of doing, like I do!

    1. As long as you say yes to whatever you can do, that will make a difference! Everyone is different but we all share it that we need to say yes to things if there are no compelling reasons to not do them.

      1. Yes that’s true. I do have a tendency to say yes when the answer should be no (ahem!) but sometimes it’s worth taking it for the team!

  6. Hi, Betul. You’re really talking about immediate gratification versus delayed gratification. You’re able to see how the actions you take now will affect your life in the future. Many people are simply not able to think beyond the next five minutes (or five seconds) when they make decisions about things. Many people are more impulsive. I’m a lot like you. I guess you could call us “planners.” We make plans and systematically try to carry them out. This requires us to do difficult things now because we know there will be a future pay off.

    1. Exactly! But it is also about how I want to see my life. When I am 50-60, I want to look back and say ‘I experienced this and that’. I can do that only if I make risky decisions.

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