Are you a confident decision-maker, always sure of your choices and usually pleased with your results? Or do you sometimes second-guess yourself, or feel worried and uncertain about big decisions? Or maybe you are among those who find making key decisions (or even more minor choices) utterly torturous, to the point of deciding-by-not-deciding (often a terrible mistake).
By definition, major life decisions are fraught with hope, desire, fears, expectation, and doubt, and if you are among the not-so-decisive deciders above, perhaps you've wished for some mechanism that would allow you to apply more objectivity and logic to the process.
The good news is that you are in luck! Exactly such a tool exists, and for free: the Decision Matrix [PDF]. An information design specialist has created an easily accessible explanation of the matrix and one real-life example of how to use it, plus printable forms. It's the same type of decision matrix that big businesses, corporations, and financial institutions use to make critical decisions every day - you can use it on or off the job.
And the bad news? The bad news is that your decision matrix is only as good as the criteria (key characteristics) you apply and the research you put in to weigh them... but hey, we never said the big choices can be rendered dead easy -- only that you can bring more clarity and objective light to the process.
Remember, this is only a tool. Even if your matrix gives you an answer you hate, it may have done it's job by helping to clarify what you really want or need (or what you don't!) as opposed to what you think you should do, or just feeling confused and uncertain about whole thing. If you get an answer that just feels wrong instead of enlightening, you can toss it out and forget it, or you can start again with a better idea of the weight and importance of certain key aspects of the decision, or by excluding options you now realize are unacceptable.You use the tool, the tool doesn't use you!
Oh, and returning once again to the groups we mentioned in the first paragraph -- the confident and successful decision-maker as opposed to the rest of us who are more likely to fret and dither? It is very likely that the bold, self-assured, decisive individual has a sort of "internal matrix" that helps him or her to evaluate choices naturally, and the process of applying the physical matrix and related techniques to our own decisions can help us to develop and exercise our own critical thinking and decision-making skills, even in instances where we don't have the opportunity to physically chart them out.