How to Handle the Emotional Toll of Making Tough Decisions

Just as we think things are running smoothly – bang! One of life’s road-bumps comes crashing in from nowhere, and we find ourselves agonising over difficult new choices. To make matters worse, we know that any decision we make will also have a run-on effect for those close to us.

Unless we lock ourselves away from the world, blips on the radar will be as predictable as breathing. Why is it, then, that as common as these bumps are, we’re not taught techniques for managing them? Without an efficient process to follow, it’s just too easy to get lost in their distracting whirlpool of stress and emotional upheaval.

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Here are seven tips for seeing life’s tough decisions through new and empowered eyes – in fact, to play them like a chess game and win!


Obstacles and their challenging new choices can throw us off-kilter, especially when they blindside us. It helps to expect their appearance. Try being on the ready, prepared to welcome, accept, and embrace whatever it is that pops up. When it does, your response has a better chance to be more objective and far less emotional.


This term refers to putting a more positive spin on the situation. Instead of perceiving a pending decision as an obstacle, try seeing it as an opportunity for positive change. That shift in thinking will dramatically transform the quality of your emotions around the problem. With this mindset, you can move directly to the ‘how’- “How can I turn this issue into positive change?” This productive thinking will serve to move you AWAY from any tendency to procrastinate or mope, and TOWARD problem solving and strategic decision-making.


However you choose to ‘perceive’ your obstacle, there is no doubt that its existence will throw a significant amount of emotional turmoil into your days. The stress, frustration or impatience you may initially feel can be tapped in a productive way. Use it as a driving force to explore the issue and as fuel to create an effective resolution.


One of the most powerful ways to create a happy ending is to take time right up front to imagine the very best possible end result – to become crystal clear about what you want to see as an outcome. The picture of this after-effect of your new decisions must be vivid and in full detail, so that you have something specific to move toward. See it as if you’re watching a movie.


Working off the back of your newly formulated vision, you’re ready to become strategic, so reverse engineer, from your envisioned end result. Imagine… What were the things you did to get there? What decisions did you make along the way? Who did you involve? What were the action steps you took? From this vantage point you can create a realistic plan and prepare for real-time action.

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Take Action

Depending on the nature of the decision you have to make, the action steps may be quick and easy or long and involved. Either way, hold onto your plan like you would a flagpole in a big wind. It will ground you to a focus on your desired outcome and keep you from spinning emotionally, especially if you’re caught up in a particularly complex situation.


And now, bask in the glow of the success of your final decision and the rewards of your envisioning, planning and action. Whether you worked through a small or complex issue, you accomplished a resolution and you can relax in knowing that you’re prepared to manage the next one with relative ease – life is good!

Muffy Churches is a Sydney-based executive coach, speaker, and leadership specialist. She is director of Beyond Focal Point, and author of ‘COACH Yourself’ (2016). Find out more at