What To Choose And How To Decide

What To Choose And How To Decide

A friend called up recently seeking guidance on an important career choice. A senior leader in a reputed and large Indian corporation, he was now being offered a good role in a German start-up. Its CEO had worked with him in the past; and the pay on offer was almost double.


We all face moments where we need to take important decisions, like my friend. Decisions that could have an impact on your career and life in general. What could help us in taking decisions when stakes are high? Many of the important decisions that you take impact others. This could be your family, your team, your organisations etc. Individually and collectively we will have(most of the times) a purpose or a goal.

Keeping all this in mind, how do we take important decisions and what should influence us when we take important decisions?


The usual answer we hear from people is "follow your heart". But what does this mean? When you look back at your life, you will realise that just following your heart probably got you into trouble more times than not.


So here I present a simple model that you could use when you need to take important decisions.


The first step is look at yourself, your needs and wants in any situation. When you have to make an important decision and choice, think about what you need and how you need something. After all you should love yourself. Too much self-focus without focusing on others and purpose become Narcissism. Or people around you will call you selfish and self-centred. Rather if you only focus on self without focusing people involved and collective purpose, you may feel a vacuum deep inside.

Now let's look at others who are in the situation with you. In my friend's case, his family, his elderly parents, his current manager, etc. will become 'others'. How would him moving to Germany affect them? How could my friend include their views, needs and concerns also in his decision-making process? If you only focus on their needs and take a decision, you feel that you are a door mat. You may have a high need for affiliation and wanting to make others happy. But if you are only focused on others you might regret later and feel you are not able to honour yourself and your needs. You also will not experience joy and fulfilment when you know that you have not taken significant others needs into consideration.

Once you understand your needs and other's needs around specific situation, you need to look at your purpose. The word purpose is used here both at a personal level, personal purpose and at a collective level, collective purpose. Your purpose might be to create a safe and secure future for your children, or protecting an endangered species. How would this decision or choice will affect the purpose? Sometimes you are part of a collective purpose, like the purpose of your organisation or your team. So you need to be aware of how your decisions are aligned with the group purpose. The danger of only focusing on the purpose is that you do not care about self and others. Then we become like a terrorist who is willing to kill himself and others for a purpose. A lot of leaders who only focus on purpose forget to take care of self and people who are close to them.

So the model looks at Self, Others and the Purpose in any given context and the need to be mindful of all the three in taking important decisions and making choices. This helps us to avoid the trap of being a narcissist, a pushover or doormat and an extremist standing only for a purpose.


You could also notice that these three are not really separate phenomena. For example, taking care of self is not just about relaxing in a beach. It is also about learning new things, knowing what your purpose is and how you want to contribute to the happiness of people around you. So, when you expand the self to include others and purpose you are actually taking care of all the three important aspects and then could feel a deep level of satisfaction and fulfillment. 

Santhosh Babu is the Chairman of OD Alternatives(, a boutique OD consulting firm and founder of OrgLens(, social network analysis firm. Santhosh coaches some of the senior leaders and celebrities and has authored India’s first book on Coaching published by Wiley.


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