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college students sitting on lawnThis month, I had the opportunity to go on several college tours with my 17-year-old niece who was visiting from out-of-town. We looked at big schools, small schools, some in the city, and some in the suburbs. It was really exciting to see all the options available to her and to learn what she liked and didn’t like. So far, she has visited eight schools in the Philadelphia area and three in other areas of the country. This got me wondering. How will she decide? What if she gets accepted to more than one school that she absolutely loves?

In life, we are often faced with difficult decisions. Some are big decisions related to our education, career, or relationships and some are smaller ones related to day-to-day activities. Some are related to positive events in our lives and some to negative ones. There are times when we have several good options, times when it seems like we only have less-than-desirable choices and times when we feel stuck, feeling like there are no solutions.

So how do we decide? Using effective problem-solving skills can be reallyblack woman reviewing two sheets of paper helpful. Accurately identifying the problem, including the facts and how you feel about it is an important first step. The next step is to brainstorm all possible solutions. If you are struggling to come up with any, seek out suggestions from people you trust. Once you have your list, identify the pros and cons of each solution so that you know what to expect if you choose that option. Pros and cons can also help to eliminate solutions that are not best, narrowing down your choices. At this point, you may be wondering what to do if the options you are left with feel equal. I often encourage people to use their gut. Which solution feels best for you?

Once you decide on a solution, state it clearly, including all the details relevant to implementing the decision (when, where, and how). Make sure not to skip the final step, which is evaluating how successful the solution was. If you are happy with the results, it’s helpful to remember it for next time. If it wasn’t helpful, take the time to figure out what you would do differently if the same or a similar problem came up in the future.

Are you struggling with a difficult decision in your life right now? If fear of making the wrong decision is leaving you feeling paralyzed, or if it seems like there aren’t any good solutions, use the steps above to help you move forward. Let me know how it works for you, and reach out if you’re looking for one-on-one support. As for my niece, I hope she chooses a college that can best meet her educational and career goals (and hopefully it will be close by).

“All life is problem-solving.”-Karl R. Popper