Decision Making 101

Making choices can be challenging. Especially when the choices involve prominent areas of our lives. Career choices, family choices, housing choices, interpersonal choices, personal choices, there is absolutely no shortage of areas where we are forced to make choices. Have you felt like you have exhausted the traditional “pros and cons” model of making choices? Or Maybe the choice you have to make is not providing the clarity you had hoped for.

Changing the model of making choices can be a helpful way to address different angles of a decision. Cost benefit analysis, is tool used to process areas of your life that you’re looking to make changes in. This model of processing is famously used as a SMART Recovery tool, for substance use, however it is supportive in many other areas of decision making.

Where to Start

  • Begin by taking a blank piece of paper and dividing it into quadrants (4 squares).
  • At the top of the page write the choice or situation to consider.
  • Label Quadrants
  • Top 2 Boxes: Making the Choice
  • Top left: Advantages (benefits & rewards)
  • Top right: Disadvantages (cost & risks)
  • Bottom 2 Boxes: Not Making the Choice
  • Bottom left: Advantages (benefits & rewards)
  • Bottom right: Disadvantages (cost & risk)

Filling in the Boxes

As you consider how you want to address each box, focus on why making this choice is so important to you. Each choice, comes with pros and cons, some more than others; however it can be helpful to identify what will be truly gained or lost as a result of a choice being made. When making a big choice, we can often feel clouded by insecurity, pressure, worry, anxiety, or self-doubt. The best way to address these feelings is to process the depth of a choice being made. Visual learning and processing is an impactful tool for getting our thoughts outside of our head.


Once you have filled in each quadrant, give yourself some time to process what you have written. Review and reflect on what your priorities are, and how each quadrant aligns with meeting that goal or priority stated at the beginning. Do you feel comfortable with what you will gain from choosing this? Do you feel prepared to handle the cost of the choice? How can you best support any concerns that come up from making this choice?

Although it can feel like a lot of pressure to make big choice, there are many tools and resources that can be used to support making the choice that is best for you. You can even bring your cost benefit analysis to a trusted individual or therapist to discuss what you have written if you want an added layer of support.

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