Decision Space Worksheet

August 29, 2016

Last week, we talked about how you could use the CASVE Cycle to help you make a career decision. For visually inclined and/or visual learners, you might find this Decision Space Worksheet to be more helpful as it is a cognitive mapping exercise.  It prompts you to map out, visualize, and hopefully get clarity on your decision at hand.

Here’s how it works.  On the first sheet, you should list all of the thoughts, feelings, circumstances, people, and/or events that are having an impact on the decision you need to make.

Then, within the larger circle on the second sheet (depicted below), you should draw smaller circles that represent each listed item on your Decision Space Worksheet. Each circle should represent the magnitude or relative importance of the item.

Florida State University has made their Decision Space Worksheet free for all to use. You can access it from their website. Here is a link to the worksheet.  For your reference, an example is depicted below focusing on career values:

Decision Space


3 Decision-Making Tips

March 21, 2016

Image of a person on a road that diverges in two different directions.We often talk about decision-making within this blog because so many decision points come up within a career.  We have discussed how people can drift into decisions and how one can use a prioritizing grid in order to help make a decision.  Making a decision is a highly personal experience, but if you are facing your next leap into the unknown, it can often help to do the following:

  1. Try it on for a while.
    Imagine yourself in both scenarios. Really try to adopt your decision, even if just for a day or for a whole week. How do you feel? Anxious? Well, try to remember that all change triggers anxiety. Even positive, exciting life changes are stressful.  So, if you feel anxious, try to tune in to that emotion. Is it an expansive almost energetic anxiety or is it one that feels constrictive to you?Still unsure? Flip a coin! Seriously, it has helped many people make a decision and not because they simply went with the outcome associated with heads or tails, but because in that instant as the coin was falling to the ground, they had a flash of a feeling. A gut feeling which helped them realize what result they were hoping for and thus helped them to make a decision.
  1. Become a thinking decider versus a feeling decider.
    Decision making is inextricably linked to emotions. Researchers discovered this when they found that patients who suffered damage to their orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in processing emotions, also often lost their decision-making abilities. It will be almost impossible to make a decision without even subconsciously factoring in your own emotions and feelings. Remember though that emotions ebb and flow. You can feel fantastic about work in the morning and leave at night thinking I have to find a new job.  Remember the often fleeting nature of feelings when you are making a decision.  You will feel much more confident in your decision if you look beyond your emotions to the actual facts.  Thinking deciders often sit down and makes pros and cons lists. Try this out as an activity, but make sure you only list facts.
  2. Remember this doesn’t have to be your last decision.
    There is a bit of a gamble in every decision. You can weigh your options carefully; however, there will always be an element of risk when you choose one thing over another.  And, sometimes the only way to know is to actually take the risk and decide once and for all. Many people relentlessly worry though. What if I make the wrong decision?  Be kind to yourself as you go through this process.  If it’s the right decision, fantastic! If it turned out to be the wrong decision, then remember this. You can always make a new decision later on and change the once decided trajectory. Sometimes remembering that every decision doesn’t have to be final can help alleviate the burden of making that initial choice.

Career choice and decision-making will be an ongoing process throughout your life, so try to find peace in the ambiguity and continually work to find an approach that works best for you.

Decision-Making Activity — Prioritizing Grid

October 26, 2015

Image of the front cover of the book "What Color Is Your Parachute?"Richard Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute?, developed a prioritization grid to help individuals make career decisions. The paper version in the book is quite cumbersome to use, so Beverly Ryle developed an interactive and easy to use online version.

This can be a great tool to utilize as you work to prioritize anything – whether it is career-related or not. Individuals use this grid to figure out what skills and values are the most important for them to have in a job. However, you can use the grid for almost anything. Do you have an overwhelming project ahead of you? You can use this grid to help you prioritize and organize your tasks.

The benefit of this particular grid is that you can write in absolutely anything. It doesn’t give you preset options from which to choose. Before you begin prioritizing, take some time to go through the examples provided just so you have a sense of the flow.

If you are interested in learning about more career activities, stop by the Main Circulating Library on the 2nd Floor of Building 2. The OITE has a Career Library with many books including the book noted above, What Color Is Your Parachute?

You can also search the library online by going to NIH Library site. From the “Research Tools” menu, chose “Online Catalog”. Finally, scan the choices under “Search all libraries” and select the “OITE Career Library”.

Maximizers – Doing Better but Feeling Worse

September 21, 2015

Arrows Choice Shows Options Alternatives Or ChoosingCareer decision making is something that everyone struggles with at some point; in a recent blog post, we wrote about this struggle, which can lead to a tendency to drift into decisions. Turns out, there are two basic decision-making styles. Which one are you — a maximizer or a satisficer?

Maximizers tend to take their time and don’t feel comfortable choosing until they feel they have explored every option and have chosen the absolute best. Satisficers on the other hand prefer to be fast rather than thorough and they tend to choose the option that first meets all of their needs because it is good enough. The word “satisficer” comes from the two words “satisfy” and “suffice”.

Most people tend to fall somewhere in the middle; however, people can be both a maximizer or a satisficer depending on what’s at stake. For example, maybe you are a maximizer about your apartment/home but a satisficer about the kind of car you drive. To determine your decision-making style, Barry Schwartz, Psychology Professor at Swarthmore, developed thirteen statements to help score your maximizing/satisficing tendencies.

For each statement, rate yourself as 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 7 (Strongly Agree). The higher your score, the higher your maximizing decision-making style.

1. No matter how satisfied I am with my job, it’s only right for me to be on the lookout for better opportunities.

2. When I am in the car listening to the radio, I often check other stations to see if something better is playing, even if I am relatively satisfied with what I’m listening to.

3. When I watch TV, I channel surf, often scanning through the available options even while attempting to watch one program.

4. I treat relationships like clothing; I expect to try on a lot before finding the perfect fit.

5. I often find it difficult to shop for a gift for a friend.

6. Choosing a movie to watch is really difficult. I’m always struggling to pick the best one.

7. When shopping, I have a hard time finding clothing that I really love.

8. I’m a big fan of lists that attempt to rank things (the best movies, the best singers, the best athletes, the best novels, etc.).

9. I find that writing is very difficult even if it’s just writing a letter to a friend, because it’s so hard to word things just right. I often do several drafts of even simple things.

10. I never settle for second best.

11. Whenever I’m faced with a choice, I try to imagine what all the other possibilities are, even ones that aren’t present at the moment.

12. I often fantasize about living in ways that are quite different from my actual life.

13. No matter what I do, I have the highest standards for myself.

A study published in Psychological Science in 2006 entitled, Doing Better but Feeling Worse found some differences between maximizers and satisficers.   Dr. Schwartz, author of “The Paradox of Choice” followed 548 job-seeking college seniors at eleven schools. They found that maximizers landed better jobs and their starting salaries were about 20% higher than their satisficer peers. According to the authors though, “maximizers were less satisfied than satisficers with the jobs they obtained and experienced more negative affect throughout the job-search process.”

How can this be when the maximizers seemingly should have been happier than the satisficers? In a world with seemingly endless options, so many possibilities can actually paralyze decision-making. Researching every last option can be daunting and extremely stressful for an individual. Plus maximizers may always wonder if they made the best decision.

How then can maximizers learn from the group of more content satisficers? If you are a maximizer making a decision, some strategies that might work include finding a way to narrow options down earlier in the process. You can do this by simply creating a list of your top three guidelines/priorities and adopting the first solution that satisfies them all. A big part of this decision-making is taking a leap of faith which can be challenging. For you maximizers out there, what has helped you make decisions?