Have you ever faced a decision and wondered “What’s the point”?

That is exactly what you should be asking yourself before every consequential decision you face. Why are you trying to make this decision? What is the desired outcome? It might seem obvious, but spend some time really thinking about it.

Answer the following four questions to help you clarify the objective:

– Why is this decision important?

– What are the rewards for making a good decision?

– What are the consequences of a bad decision?

– By when do you need to make this decision?

Brainstorm the best case scenario. Do not edit yourself at this stage. What you are after at this point is a comprehensive list of possible objectives.

Try to state the objective as broadly as possible. If you state it too narrowly, you may be robbing yourself of some interesting options.

For example, my wife and I moved this summer. At first we thought we had to decide which house to buy. As we talked about things more, we started to think about owning two homes, or a home and an RV. What started out as a relatively simple choice between homes became a much different decision about lifestyle. A clear definition of the objective, or the desired outcome of the decision, changed our alternatives. It changed the problem we were trying to solve by making a decision.

To use a different example, perhaps you think you have to decide which college to attend. Is that truly the objective of your decision? Perhaps a trade school might be more suitable, or enlisting in the military, which would mean your objective is not to attend college, but to obtain an education. You won’t really know until you give it some thought and be sure you know why you are making this particular decision.

Do multiple people have the responsibility to take part in the decision? Do multiple people have a stake in the outcome? If the objective is not clear or understood by all the decision’s perspectives, it is hard to imagine that they will come to a consensus on the most optimal solution. Everyone involved must thoroughly understand the objective, or desired outcome, of the decision.

Take your time with this important step. It is the foundation for everything else in the decision making process. If done right, the rest of the work will be built on a solid understanding, which is essential to getting to the right conclusion.