Updated: Nov 3, 2021
It’s easy to make most of our daily decisions, since they are already habitual. However, when it comes to key decisions, we can flounder, especially when certain facts are missing. Think about choosing your spouse, or that last job. What about your car, your home, or even your last vacation? We research, date, interview, and then, at some point, we simply make a decision, and hope it works out as we envision it.
Another challenging decision type is selecting what priority to give an activity, especially given how quickly expectations can shift. When a client calls with a lucrative emergency project, do you set aside the work that is necessary for your promotion and come back to that later? Is family a priority even if it comes at the expense of your business’ growth? (Or vice versa.)
I help my clients with both types of challenging decisions, with my trademarked Matrix for Key Decisions™. In it, we create a short list of their top priorities. These are their big goals that they see as non-negotiable. We also list their top personal values. These are approaches and behaviors they see as deeply satisfying to embody as a part of their authentic self. Then we map a decision by how it aligns with most, or all, of their values, and fulfills most or all of their priorities.
Here’s how it works:
Bottom Left Quadrant: Abandons Values and Priorities
In the lower left quadrant of the Matrix, the client assesses whether a particular decision will align with any, some or none of their values. For example, one of my core personal values is curiosity. If I took a job in the military, where I am expected to follow orders, I know it would require enormous effort to live out that value without making things difficult on myself and my team. So that would be in the left quadrant for me.
Additionally, if my priority was to live in Ohio, near an aging parent, and my military assignment took me overseas, it would be in the lower left, since it isn’t moving me toward a top priority. Poor for Achieving Priorities, as well as at Cost of Abandoning My Values.
If the same is true for the rest of my values and priorities, choosing to join the military will result in high stress and exhaustion (priorities unmet) as well as low fulfillment (values unmet).
Bottom Right Quadrant: Abandons Priorities and Fulfills Values
Many business owners – especially in the start-up phase – spend a good deal of their time in the lower right quadrant of the Matrix. So do new parents, home owners, and individuals who have recently taken a career leap. That’s because big life changes can throw us off our priorities initially, even while they are fulfilling most or all of our values. If that is the reason you find yourself in the bottom right quadrant, ask yourself, is the situation temporary, and how long are you willing to defer your priorities? Like the lower left quadrant, you will experience high stress and exhaustion (which cannot be sustained indefinitely!) while also experiencing enormous fulfillment from living your values.
Top Left Quadrant: Fulfills Priorities and Abandons Values
In the top left quadrant of the Matrix, we find our driven, high achievers who are also lacking fulfillment. These individuals are chasing external validation and acquisition, and it never quite feels like enough. Typically, they have a clear sense of what they want and need to do next, and they do it. At the same time, they have never stopped to consider what their core personal values are, much less how to integrate them into their decisions.
They may brag about how little sleep they had, and their resumes will be impressive, which results in them feeling highly energized, but equally unfulfilled – always searching for the next win.
Top Right “Magic” Quadrant: Fulfills Priorities and Values
When someone is confident and clear about both their priorities and their values, ensuring they measure their decisions by how well it fulfills all of both lists (without sacrificing them elsewhere!) they are both energized and fulfilled. This is where the magic happens. It is where we step into that energetic and deeply empowered space often referred to as “flow.”
If you are struggling to identify your values, priorities, or make a major decision, I would love to help you get on the path to clarity and confidence.
In the meantime, check out my Values Worksheet to get clear on your personal values now.