You’d imagine that the toughest decisions would be about difficult topics. For example, deciding to proceed with an organizational downsizing is bound to be heart wrenching. However, as painful as it might be, in the end you really have little choice in the matter so the “decision” is simply the acceptance of the inevitable. It’s a difficult situation but not necessarily a tough decision.
On the other hand, the choice of who must leave the organization is often a very tough decision. That’s because now, in addition to impacting people’s lives, you must weigh the future potential of these employees. You must calculate the opportunity cost of doing without the talent and resources you can no longer afford. Apart from the awful emotional factors, what makes lay-offs really tough is you are choosing between future opportunities.
If you think about it, most tough decisions actually involve choosing between opportunities. This is because choosing between opportunities involves making a commitment to allocate scarce resources. Choosing one path effectively precludes another. You must literally walk away from something. For people who spend their lives looking for opportunities, walking away from one in order to choose another is agonizing.
That’s why choosing between two job offers is often so tough. It’s why deciding to get married is a “big step”. And why making the final decision to buy a house or car keeps you up at night. The better the alternatives the more difficult the decision. By making your choice, you are closing the door on another possibility.
Or are you? If part of your decision-making criteria is an assessment of the new opportunities that will be created by your choice, you might realize that closing one door can actually open many more. This argues for thinking more carefully about future potential when making these “high-grade” tough decisions rather than just the immediate benefits. Approach these choices the way you would a long-term investment rather than a short-term bet.
Though choosing between two opportunities may be tough, it’s certainly a nice problem to have. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to find yourself in this fortunate predicament one day. But remember in life you create your own luck . . . and your own tough decisions.