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Five Ways To Navigate Those Big Decisions

Jun 06, 2021

Navigating a relationship challenge, changing careers, starting a side hustle, making a big investment decision .. these are all things we have to potentially navigate in our lives. With big life (or business) decisions often comes anxiety, stress, worry and fear coupled with indecision or procrastination. 

Wouldn't it be helpful if you had a decision making process that could help detach you from the emotional rollercoaster and give you the tools to navigate the decision with clarity and poise?

Personally, I've navigated separation, miscarriage, natural disasters, multiple suicides within my small community, financial challenges and lots of other crazy situations. But, this doesn't make me an outlier, it just makes me human. Did I navigate them all with ease? Hell no!! But the benefit of having navigated them is the perspective it has provided me with and subsequently I have been able to devise principles to help me when future challenges arise. (And if you haven't read Ray Dalio's amazing book, Principles, you gotta!)


I shared five ways to navigate the big badass decisions that come your way, you can check it out over on my podcast, Life on Purpose. (links are on the top right of this page!)

Here's the summary:












Full Transcript

[The following is the full transcript of this episode of The Life On Purpose with James Laughlin Show. Please note that there may be small moments where grammar goes off track - this is simply due to the fact that the LIVE episode was converted to full long-form transcript.  For weekly motivation, please subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Youtube.]


James Laughlin, Life Coach and Leadership Coach, Christchurch, New Zealand


James Laughlin 00:00 

Welcome to Life on Purpose, my name is James Laughlin. Former seven-time world champion 

musician and now a success coach to leaders and high performers. Each week, I bring you an aspiring leader or expert to help you live your life on purpose. Thanks for taking the time to connect today and 

investing in yourself. Enjoy the show!  


Hey, hey, a huge welcome to anybody out there who's new, if this is your first time to life on purpose podcast, you're in for a treat. It's your host, James Laughlin. I'm super excited to connect with you. And a massive thank you for all my return listeners. So good to connect with y'all. So, hope you're having a great week. I'm actually prepping for a house move in the next 24 hours. Wish me luck. We all know what it can be like to move house. So, I'm excited, I got some beautiful things ahead, got an ocean view to look at so far, very grateful. And I'm excited to be connecting with a lot of you guys, this last two months, it's been amazing to hear from some of you guys, what you've been listening to what you've been learning from how you've been applying it to your lives. And, you know, I've been very fortunate this year to bring in some incredible guests. You know, it brought in amazing athletes, amazing influencers, cancer survivors, people who are very influential in sport and politics, multi-billionaires. It's been phenomenal real mix. So today, I wanted to really talk about how to make tough decisions, right? That's real, that’s how life goes. We've got to make tough decisions; we can't avoid them. Well, we can, a lie. We can avoid tough decisions, but with avoiding a tough decision comes pain. Indecision is incredibly painful. You're swimming around in those muddy waters of indecision. That's not fun. And you don't want to delay those things. And big tough decisions come in the form of financial decisions. You know, should we take on that $800,000 mortgage? They come in the form of relationship decisions. You know, should I ask that cute girl or guy out for the coffee? Or should I be having the conversation that I'm no longer in love with this person? Right? Those are tough decisions. Should I move careers? Should I go from this thing to that thing? That's a big, badass, tough decision. Now, none of us are going to get through life without having to make a tough decision. Fact. That is it, right? We cannot run away from tough decisions. And if we do, they will catch up with us. So, we've got to learn a bit of a system for approaching those tough decisions. And I really think you can systemize it. When emotion drives decisions, that's often when we have decisions that we may regret. Or we may maybe turn back the clock and done them differently, hey, I put my hand up.  


There are things big, tough decisions I've had to make in the past, where I was highly emotional, possibly didn't have great advisors or support around me to help me navigate those tough decisions. And would I go back, and change hire made the decisions? Yes, yes, definitely. And to me, it all comes down to a process when you can trust your decision-making process. That's powerful. A great book, I read for those of you who like to read or listen to audible books, is a book called principles by Ray Dalio. Phenomenal book. So, Ray's, one of the world's most prolific hedge fund investors, but just an all-around good guy. And he wrote this amazing book, it's a biggie, but it's amazing around how to develop principles in life that can help you navigate life in a smoother way. So, I definitely say go give that a read. But we want to come up with a very simple system to really approach these tough decisions. Now, I have had tough decisions in the past for sure. Like, let's go back and reflect. There's been lots but say one of them was back in 2011. Living in Christchurch, New Zealand, and in the middle of nowhere, an earthquake strikes, big badass earthquake, I mean, huge. He was like 7.1, or something like that. And it shook the city and everyone in it. It was crazy. But then what happened is we had like a number of large seven-ish earthquakes, and that's on the Richter scale, guys, that's what I'm talking about. For those who have not experienced earthquakes. They aren't fun. And what happened is we'd have like 7000 aftershocks so like, you get these little mini movements, the house would be shaking, or the ground would be moving. And you'd be thinking, oh my God, is it going to be another Biggie? Because they start are small and they build. But most of the aftershocks start small and then they die away. But every now and then you get another big, massive one. Right? So, I was certainly living in a state of anxiety. 100%. And my former partner Lisa, she was the same it was tough. Now what were we doing to cope back then? Well, certainly, for me, it was Sauvignon Blanc. Now, New Zealand is renowned for grit Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, however, it was not serving me very well. And at the time, you know, I'd have been drinking two or three large classes, possibly a bottle a day, around that earthquake time. That was awful. Right? And for me, that was a coping mechanism. And what was I doing there? I was literally numbing the pain. I was enjoying temporary, illusionary distractions. Right, I was taking me out of the moment and into some other area in my mind, cause the alcohol was numbing it. Now, as most of you guys know who I'm connected with, it's been about a year and a bit I've been alcohol free decision that's been relatively easy to make, and relatively easy to maintain, to be very honest, it's been great. But going back to then it really, you know that alcohol and, you know, trying to avoid the elephant in the room. Which was, hey, we've got earthquakes, they're not going away, they may get bigger, they are dangerous. What can we do? So, what we decided was at the time was let's go back to Canada. So, my former partner, Lisa was from Canada. And so, we headed back there, and we really loved just being away from the shaky ground. And it was awesome. It was like, hey, here's some stability, the grass is definitely greener here. You know, it's awesome. Maybe should we be living here and run away from the earthquakes? So, it was a pretty intense time. And, you know, obviously still a lot of psychological things we were working through there to kind of compartmentalise that earthquake and put it in its box and realise that we aren't the earthquake, the earthquake isn't always going to be around, how do we move forward? So, you might be thinking to yourself as well, you know, what are some of my big tough decisions? Maybe you have a tough decision right now. And if you do, I'd love you to drop me a line, what is your tough decision? I'm not going to tell anyone, I'd love to know. And by the end of this session, I'm going to give you a process you can go through to help you make that tough decision. And that's what it's all about, right? 

Being able to make those tough decisions, I don't want you to have to wait for months or spend 1000s of dollars talking to people to get an answer. I want you to have your own system that you can trust, a system that you can look back and go, you know what, I don't regret it, because I went through a process and that's what came out the other end, right? So got to Canada and weighing things up. Now, we were totally in our heads, right? It was all drama and high emotion as you would expect after a major natural disaster. With half your city in ruins, and hundreds of people dead, of course, you'd expect us to be a little bit all over the place. So, what we did, we went through a process. And over the years since then, I've had to make other really, really tough decisions. And this process I've refined and it's almost a subconscious process now, but it's the one that I follow all the same. So, if you've got pen and paper there, I’m going to encourage you to write this down. It'll take you a few minutes. That's a five-step process, super simple.  



But step number one is when you have to make a tough decision. You know, whether that's as a leader, a parent, a sibling, partner, CEO, a politician. When you've got to make a decision, step number one is get radically clear on all of your options. Now, if you've got one choice, you don't have options, you've got two choices, you still don't really have any options, you've got A or B. I want you to try and figure out two or more options, right? If we can get three plus, awesome. Now you've got choices. Now you've got options, right? So, get radically clear on all of your options when you make this decision. You might not have to make the decision you think you have to make. Dwell on it for a while write it down. What are all of my options now? Actually, get them on the page. 



The step number two is, write them down. That's step number two, how simple, right? Write your options down. That's so important. Someone once said this to me, and it was very blunt, and quite striking. But it was when you're in your head. You're dead. I thought, woah, that’s awful, I don’t like that. What does that mean? I'm very positive, I don't like that.  Like, but it's true. When you're in your head, you're dead. And what that means is, when you have a tough decision, a life, potentially life altering decision, you get in your head, and you get emotional, and you get lost, and you start to think and overthink. So, it's really important to get out of your head and onto the page. Write it down. It disconnects you, a better word is actually “detach”. It detaches you from that decision. So, you can be more aerial, looking down upon the decision you got to make rather than be in the thick of the emotion. Detach from it, by writing those options down and look, going back to Canada, that's exactly what happened, got a page out and wait up. Look, staying in Canada, pros and cons. Going back to New Zealand pros and cons. To me, that's it's incredibly important to do that, because it allows you to see it, rather than just think it. And often when you think you end up having a bias towards certain things in there that confirmation bias kicks in where someone will say something like, yep, that's exactly why I shouldn't be doing it. Or yet, that's exactly why I should do it. You want to remove as many of those biases as possible. 



So, step number three is, identify the cost of making the decision versus not making the decision. Or even better identify the cost of each of those individual options you could take. So, option one, I could take this approach, what's the cost of doing it versus not doing it? Option two, I could take this approach, okay, what's the cost of doing it? versus not doing it. Really important to just take your time and actually get it on the page. Write up the cost.  



Then fourth step. What is your desired outcome? Right? That's one thing a lot of people don't think about is, what is the ideal situation that I'm trying to move towards? What is it I'm trying to achieve? That's something you know, if you want to make a decision, please don't make a decision until you've really thought through your desired best outcome, right? And that's in the perfect world, you want to think about your perfect world best outcome, and work towards that. Because once you know what your desired outcome is, that actually helps shape the decision you've got to make, right? So, think through what is it going to feel like?  And guys, we are feeling beings, right? We feel things, we feel sad, we feel excited, we feel happy, we feel joyous, we feel overwhelmed, we feel sad, we feel elated. We feel all those things. So, ask yourself, what's the desired outcome going to make me feel like? What's it going to look like? You know, we'd like to picture things in our mind's eye, we like to look out towards beautiful VISTAs. So, what's my desired outcome going to look like? And write it down what it might look like for you and the people around you, what it might feel like for you and the people that are affected by that decision. But get radically clear as well on your desired outcome really important. So, I'm just going to review those four steps before I share the final one. 



So, number one, get really clear on all of your options. Number two, write them down. Number three, what's the cost of doing versus not doing? Number Four. What's your desired outcome? And last but not least here.  



Number five. The decision with the greatest upside and least downside is the logical choice. I'll repeat that the decision with the greatest upside, and the least downside is the logical choice. Now you've removed emotion. You've sat above the situation, you've got out of your head, and under the pitch, you've weighed up the pros, the cons, the costs. Now you can look at, okay, which decision well helped me get as close to my desired outcome as possible, with the least amount of collateral damage to myself and to the people around me who are going to be impacted by this decision. That in itself is a decision process. That's a decision-making process. Having something like that is powerful because it removes that, uhm, think I'll go with this because this is how I feel. We get lost in our feelings. And they often encourage us these feelings encourage us to take really quick irrational moves. I've done it myself in the past, there's been decisions I've made where I'm like, man, oh, man, I'd love to go back, press pause, go through my decision-making process. But I was so emotional that I ran and did this and it's only as time passes that you realise having processes in life are so important to having a beautiful life. And by having a beautiful life, I mean a beautiful experience, because we're all experiencing, right? We're going through this filter of what the world is and what our lives are and where we fit in. So, for me, it was like, getting clear on a decision-making process helps me sleep at night, helps me reduce collateral damage to the people I love, and the people that I serve and the people I work with. So really important to come up with our process. And if this process doesn't work for you, I am going to encourage you to develop your process. Take time to think, what was a tough decision I once had to make? How do I navigate it? What were the processes? And could I systemize that? Can I replicate that? Because that becomes one of your life principles. And guys, I'm happy for you to take this and call this yours. You can call this process one of your life principles, right? It's my thoughts. That's my experiences. 

But hey, I'm one of like, almost a billion people. So, take it, run with it, use it, adapt it, share it, do what serves you, and your life and your loved ones. And I'm so excited for you guys to just think about how to navigate these tough decisions. Because if you don't have a tough decision on the horizon, I promise you in the next six to 18 months, you will. It'll come up in your career, and your studies, in your relationships, and your finance. Somewhere, it's going to come up. And it's really beautiful to know you can get your notepads out and go to your decision-making process. Now it may become cellular at a certain level and you just you just do it, and you know how to do it and you've got this process that happens. But often when there's heightened emotions, it's good to have something written down. Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to go find my favourite cafe, get my favourite hot drink, or for some of you, it may be a cold beverage, going to sit down pen and paper or my iPad. And I'm going to go through this process. And I'm going to get to the other side. And when I get to the other side, I'm going to know what the best decision is. Now, there's a difference between best and right, the right decision. Okay, that's very, very subjective. All you can do is make the best decision with the information that you currently have on hand. If you do that, you should be proud of yourself. Because that is more than most people can do. Most people get caught up in emotion. That's not to say that they're worse or better than us. It's just as what they do. And if you can remove the emotion as a leader and when I say leader, I mean like family leader, community leader, you know, you could be a scout leader, you could be a leader in your workplace. And you don't need to be the CEO to be a leader at all. Never think that. You can be amongst your peers and lead and influence them in a beautiful way. So, use this process as you see fit.  


And I'm so excited to be connect it again today. So please do me a huge favour if you enjoyed this, share it with a friend that might benefit from it, maybe a friend that's going through a tough time and try to make a tough decision. Send it to them. Do me another massive favour as if you're on Apple podcast, please leave me a rating, star rating, and a review. Honestly, it helps me so much to impact more people. It gets the podcast in front of more people's eyes. And one last thing, please get out there and live life on purpose.