When in Doubt, “Pro-Con” it Out!


Some decisions in life are no-brainers and are easy as pie to choose and shout “yes! yes! yes!” Other decisions may seem easy to give a huge “heck no!” But what about the times when you have to tread across some difficult waters and you’re not sure what decision to make.

 What do you do?

Some may seek out external help from peers, family, or a mentor. Others may give chance or luck a try and flip a coin to lead them to the right decision.

The ultimate decision though should always lie in your hands as you will be the one dealing with the consequences of the decision. For example, if you asked a friend whether you and your significant other should split or not because the last few months have been shaky, you will be the one living with the result of the decision, not your friend.

Getting your thoughts from mind to paper is a critical step in connecting the dots. By creating a list of pros and cons it gives a physical form to the possibilities that could stem from your decision.

To Take the Job or Not Is the Question

Recently, I accepted a job offer as a college professor. I had to weigh some options mentally before I made my final decision. Will I be happy with what I am doing? Is the pay going to be worth-while? What are the benefits like? Is the travel worth the overall outcome (The campus is about a 30-min. drive away from my house)? Do I see myself growing with this institution? Does this college value some of the same things I value such as diversity, personal growth, and integrity? These are just a few of the questions that came about in my mind. Look below for the pro-con list I made prior to making a final decision.


A simple list to make the unconscious and subconscious thoughts surface up to the conscious realm is the goal. Making the list is a visual guide to decision making and helps make it a bit less stressful. In my example, it was quite clear that the pros outweighed the cons.

Symbol System

 After creating your list, take a look to see which side filled up more. Do you have more pros? Or more cons? Another strategy to keep in mind when devising your pro-con list is to add weights to each item. What I mean for example is that you will find some items on your list are more important to you than others. When this happens, make a symbol and a key for yourself.

Let’s take the first item listed in my con section from the list above. Spending time away from my daughter is a huge deal for me. I am a new mom and my baby girl is only1 years old. Any time spent away from my daughter must be significantly important. Therefore, this item has a lot of weight tied to it. This item is more important to me than the other items listed.

It is important to keep this in mind because sometimes your list may have more items on one side, but the side that has least items is actually more significant to you because of the weights you assigned to that item.

Numeric System

In his book, Get Smarter: Life and Business Lessons entrepreneur Seymour Schulich has a similar method when it comes to creating effective pro-con lists for decision making. Instead of placing a symbol next to an item for a weight value, he gives a numeric value of importance to each item. He explains the process:


On one sheet of paper, list all the positive things you can about the issue in question, then give each one a score from zero to ten—the higher the score, the more important it is to you. On another sheet, list the negative points, and score them from zero to ten—only this time, ten means it’s a major drawback...If the positive score is at least double the negative score, you should do it—whatever “it” is. But if the positives don’t outweigh the negatives by that two-to-one ratio, don’t do it, or at least think twice about it.

Hustle from the Heart

Whether you choose to use symbols or numbers is up to you, but please keep in mind that it is imperative to have a quantitative approach to the Pro-Con list rather than simply a qualitative one.

In order to make the best strategic and informed choices, you need to be able to hustle logically. You also must be able to emotionally feel from the heart through your options from several different angles before actually deciding. You can count on an effective Pro-Con list as your guy for this project!


What are some other strategies you use when making a decision? Please share in the comments section below!