The 4 Types of Tough Decisions


  • “Hard decisions in your life are the ones where both decisions are right.”
  • We all have to make tough decisions from time to time. In this episode, learn how to make these challenging choices from a place of empowerment.
  • The decision dilemma or the values dilemma is coming from four areas because see, it is right either way, when you face these dilemmas.
  • This is called a values dilemma. This is when you’re faced with a tough decision and either route you choose is right.
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[The following is the full transcript of this episode of Motivation With Brendon Burchard. Please note that this episode, like all episodes, features Brendon speaking extemporaneously–he is unscripted and unedited. Filmed in one take, Motivation With Brendon Burchard has become one of the most viewed unscripted, direct-to-camera self-help series in the history of YouTube. It has also been the #1 Podcast in all of iTunes and is regularly in the top podcasts in the Self-Help and Health categories around the globe. Subscribe to the free motivational podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.)

1. Individual Versus Community

Rushworth Kidder, K-I-D-D-E-R, wrote a book called How Good People Make Tough Decisions. How Good People Make Tough Decisions. It’s a book I recommend to all my clients. And what I loved about this book is he and I taught it differently, but I love how you framed it about how the hard decisions in your life are the ones where both decisions are right. You can justify both logically. Why is it that when you draw that, you know, line down the page and you compare and contrast, you can make the case for both angles? That’s where it’s hard, right? And he said that there are four dilemmas, what – what I call value conflicts, or I think he actually used that phrase at some points, too. A value conflict is a reason a decision is hard these four reasons and write down, it’s really powerful. Here’s why your decision is hard: based on everything we talked about, if you still can’t get there, it’s you’re stuck in a value dilemma. That’s what he called, a values dilemma or a decision dilemma. The decision dilemma or the values dilemma is coming from four areas because see, it is right either way when you face these dilemmas.

Here are the dilemmas he talks about: the first decision dilemma is individual versus community. It’s a choice where you’re like, it’s right for me to go do this for myself, but it’s also right to stay and do this for them. Right? Parents going through a divorce, right? It’s right for me to want to go be happy and live my life and get out of this relationship. It also feels right to stay and take care of the kids. And we create this dilemma in our heads. Right? Or you know what? I want to go leave this job, but I love my coworkers. I don’t want to leave them. It’s right for me to be good, you know, steward here or a good leader here. And so the decisions that are like – when, when you leave your home or you leave your town, it’s right for me as an individual to go to a new city. But it’s also right to stay here and to care for my family or be around my friends. I don’t want to leave them. Right? That’s an individual choice versus a social choice community. Individual versus community. And sometimes that’s a hard one, right? That’s a really hard one. You have to recognize when your brain is there, it’s like, oh, wait, which one right now deserves this prioritization? What’s right for me is an individual versus what’s right for the community.

2. Justice Versus Mercy

Next up, tough decisions. Oh, this one. This one’s the hardest one for me. Another dilemma is justice versus mercy. Justice versus mercy: to forgive a person and stay or to get justice and burn the house down and leave. Oh, my God. That’s a hard one, right? Oh, this one is so difficult to forgive is, you know, a spiritual or even a Christian ethic. You know, it’s like forgiving the person, but also wanting them to go to jail and suffer. Whoa. Okay. Both feel right. When someone has wronged you, you can make the case for you should forgive them. But also, gosh, I hope they get run over, you know? So this is a big decision. It’s really hard. Justice versus mercy. 

3. Truth Versus Loyalty

Third, truth versus loyalty. It’s right, to tell the truth, but it’s also right to keep the confidence or loyalty to another person. You know, it’s like, okay, it’s – it’s right to speak up for myself, but it’s also right to be loyal and not hurt feelings. Oh, these are hard, right? These are hard. 

4. Short-Term vs Long-Term Decisions

Then, the last short-term decision versus the long-term decision. This is why I started with point number one about strategic versus impulsive, because most people make a short-term decisions because of discouragement and impulse, and they forget the long term. Our culture now has really thrown out the long term. We’ve thrown out the long-term thinking in business by making its quarterly earnings reports. We threw out the long term in politics by making our election cycle so fast and so vitriolic. We have thrown out long-term thinking, which is why most Americans have never saved any money. We have completely cast aside the future for instant and immediate gratification. It’s one of the dominant reasons people make terrible decisions in their life. It’s that short-term, right? And with every addiction is a short-term pleasure, a short-term choice. Almost every negative emotional outburst was that short-term feeling being expressed. And however though, sometimes short-term makes sense, right? Short-term pleasure. Take that day off. Take that break. We got to do those things. So, again, you can argue both short-term’s good and long-term, but you got to really think through them. And once you’ve thought through these, now you’re in a strategic game.

And I would say these are all really important. I know lots of people who didn’t take a good job because they felt a loyalty to the community to stay in their hometown. Matter of fact, where I grew up in Montana, I’d say most of my friends did not ever leave their town or their state because they had loyalty to the community. Even if their personal truth was saying adventure, try new things, and go see the world. Even – but you and I could – both of those are right. Right? Both those are right. That’s where they call it a values conflict or a decision dilemma. I just want you to be aware of them and I want to I want you to read that book. Again, the book was called How Good People Make Tough Decisions by Rushworth Kidder. It’s a really great way for you if you’re stuck to know why you’re stuck right beyond what we’ve talked about so far.