How To Make A Big Decision

Notes from my Toast To Brynn and Isaac on their wedding DayLast summer our oldest daughter was married and I had the awesome responsibility of saying a few words at the wedding reception to the newly married bride and groom.

I do a fair amount of speaking in my job as an Evangelist at Microsoft, but this was a very different talk. After a lot of thought (over months) on what to talk about, I came to the decision that I should relay one of the better pieces of advice that I have received. This advice was actually a tool for making big decisions in life.

Sanjay Parthasarathy, one of the great mentors in my life, taught me a tool called “The Five F’s”. In your life when you need to make a difficult decision, things will get emotional and affect your judgment. Often when working through a difficult decision some people will advise you to make a  pros and cons list. The problem with that though is it impossible with a pro and con list to not introduce emotional bias. It is also difficult with that type of list to understand how the decision will the affect key pillars of your life. “The Five F’s” help prevent that.

So after the wedding ceremony I gave my toast. I thanked all the friends and family who had travelled from far and wide to attend the wedding and also took a moment to pause and remember the family we had lost over the years, I then began to talk to Brynn and Isaac about “The Five F’s”

When making a very difficult decision in my life I sketch out a table, listing Faith, Family, Friends, Finances and Fun (the Five F’s 🙂 ) alongside those columns to the right for each of the choices I have.

Here’s an example:

Choice A Choice B
Faith *
Family *
Friends *
Finances *
Fun *

With the table sketched out, I walk through each row in the table and ask myself which choice “A” or “B”, etc. favors the “F” for that row.

  1. Faith – Do I believe strongly in what the outcome will be?
  2. Family – How will this decision affect my family? Will it hurt them? Will it benefit them? Will they support me in the decision?
  3. Friends –  What will this do to my friends? Will I have more friends? Will I have Less Friends. Will it hurt the friends that I have?
  4. Finances – How does this choice affect my finances? Does it improve them? Make them worse?
  5. Fun – This is a super important one. I think we do forget so much in life that it is ok to have fun. Will the decision bring more joy in my life? Will it allow me to have fun?

After walking through the list and seeing where the choices land, I can then have a better idea of the impact of the decision and can analyze it a bit further.

Some examples:

  • Imagine you need to help a family member out financially.  Well in that case the decision will affect your finances negatively, but you are ok with that decision as it will help your family and it aligns with your faith.
  • Maybe when you list the outcomes out you’ll find that it will be a positive in your faith, great for your family, brings you more fun, but could hurt some friends and even your finances. Even with that you might decide to go ahead with the decision.

The “Five F’s” help you go into making a final decision aware of how it affect the pillars of your life.

So the wedding was wonderful, the talk was probably one of the best I’ve given in years of having a career in public speaking. The wedding day will be a memory I will cherish forever.

Here’s to wishing you a great year ahead of faith, family, friends finance and fun!

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