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Making tough decisions

In the summer of 2012, the British government informed Virgin Trains that it had lost the bid to retain the operating rights to the UK’s West Coast rail franchise.

inspiration with Cynthia C Hakutangwi

Richard Branson
Richard Branson

Virgin Trains had been running the seven-billion-pound franchise for 15 years, expanding the line and growing its annual passenger numbers from 13 million to 30 million. Richard Branson, chair of Virgin Train’s parent company, the Virgin Group, wrote in his book The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership that he was “stunned and baffled” that he could have lost the bid to FirstGroup. He decided to stay quiet for a while, meeting with lawyers and advisors to see if Virgin had actually been beaten fairly. Everyone he spoke with seemed to conclude that FirstGroup’s numbers were unsustainable, meaning the British government had made a mistake in calculations.

Regardless, many of his senior team told Branson that he’d only be wasting his time and hurting his image with a lawsuit. But, after carefully weighing the facts, he decided to move forward with the lawsuit. A week before he was scheduled to meet the Department for Transport in the UK’s high court, Branson got a phone call from the department’s secretary who told him that on further review, the department had indeed made grave miscalculations and Virgin had offered the better deal. Branson considers his decision to sue the government, which ultimately saved his rail business, to be one of the best high-stakes decisions he’s ever made.

Forks in the road

While we may not all have the status or business empires equivalent to the size of Branson’s, sometimes we come to forks in the road that call for us to make difficult or perhaps drastic decisions. We make a million decisions a day, from what to eat for breakfast to what shoes to wear, but some choices can get a lot more complicated.

Our goals change, and we have varied priorities in different phases of our lives. These decisions can impact all areas of our lives, including the lives of those around us. I’m not talking about mild predicaments but rather points in time where we have to discern opportunity from risk. Examples include decisions about a career change, moving, buying or selling a house, ending or beginning a relationship, placing loved ones in a full-time care facility, adopting a child, buying a house, moving across the country, quitting your job, or retirement. These can all drain our willpower. The decision making process is never easy. No matter how many tricks you have up your sleeve, you are bound to lose a little sleep over the big decisions. Big decisions can cause serious stress in your life. These life choices demand careful consideration.

Questions to guide you

When you are faced with a tough decision in life, you may feel paralysed and at a loss as to what is best to do. When you are stressed, or trying to deal with a dilemma, you may question your own rationale, and worry that your final decision may not be wise. There are certain questions you can ask yourself when making a difficult decision to find out if your reasoning is good, and if you have found a wise solution to your problem.

If I don’t do this now, will I regret it?

It is sensible to consider the long-term implications of any decisions you make, because you don’t want to end up doing something you will regret in the future. But it is equally important to consider what might happen if you don’t do something. Don’t let important opportunities pass you by because they involve making some big decisions. Ask yourself what you may gain, or lose, in the long-term by making certain choices.

What am I afraid of?

People often get stuck with decisions, because they are scared of what will happen if they make a choice. Some people are afraid of failure, but others are scared of success. Ask yourself whether fear is going to make this decision, or you are, when facing a tough decision in life.

What does my heart say?

Your gut instincts are often the right ones, and you should never make a decision that doesn’t resonate with you deep inside. Put aside convention, unwanted advice and judgements from others, and ask yourself if this is something that you really want, something that speaks to you as only a heartfelt desire does.

What am I really doing this for?

The wisest decisions you can make are those that keep the end in mind. Have your goals clearly in mind when making big decisions.

Who am I really doing this for?

Don’t let others’ agendas or advice sway you from making the right decision. It is always important to have others’ interests at heart when making a decision, but you shouldn’t always sacrifice your own needs and desires to please another person. Take a balanced look at how your choices will benefit you as well as others when facing a tough decision in life.

Will I like myself after this decision?

Anyone can make a difficult decision that ticks all the boxes in terms of a solution, without taking into account how that decision may make them feel about themselves. If you make a decision that is callous or uncaring, you might not end up liking yourself very much. If you make one that is unassertive, your self-esteem is likely to drop. Consider how you will feel about yourself for making this choice, whenever you have to make a tough decision in life.

Can I cope with the fall-out?

Choices are like a dynamo. When you make one decision, it paves the way for other situations to occur, which you will then have to deal with. Making a tough decision in life can have many ramifications. Taking certain paths can affect your finances, your relationships, your friendships and your career. Think things through, and decide whether you will be able to cope with the consequences of your decision, and how you will deal with the fall-out.

Seek wise counsel

In order to avoid acting on an emotional response, it is important to seek wise counsel. Take time to talk to your mentor, counsellor or life coach as you contemplate to make critical decisions concerning your life.

Cynthia Hakutangwi is a communications and personal development consultant, life coach, author and strategist. Wholeness Incorporated Coaching offers you strategies you can implement today to become a critical thinker and pursue a significant life. E-mail: cynthia@wholenessinc.com. Facebook: Wholeness Incorporated.

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