For the past almost two years, when faced with a big decision, there’s been one big factor that took precedence over anything else. In fact, in many cases, it was the only consideration when making big decisions. 

Could this potentially be harmful to my mental health?

While this is still the most important factor, I’m healthy enough to be able to look at the bigger picture and the other factors that are part of that picture. I’ve been thinking about this since last week as I’m faced with a decision at work about taking on a particular project, and was reminded that a few months ago I had recommended a framework to a friend I’ve been coaching.

Brendon Burchard has a 10 minute video from one of his live events where he lays out the framework he uses to decide if he wants to take on a potential opportunity. The formula looks like this:

TERMS < ROI + FV + L +PD

TERMS is what I (or the person taking on the project) would have to be put in. TERMS = Time, Energy, Resources, Money, and Sanity. What I put in in TERMS must be less than the rest of the equation.

ROI = Return on Investment (what I put in in TERMS)

FV = Future Value – What future opportunities is this going to create for me? What future opportunities might it cost me?

L = Lifestyle – is the opportunity going to result in me working hours that will negatively effect my lifestyle (could it lead to me working more than full time over a long period time, taking time away from my family and the other things that keep me healthy)?

PD = Personal Development – will I grow, will I learn, will I be more confident from doing this? Will it be too much for me to take on right now so instead of growing, I’ll just burn out.

Without going into the details of this particular project, I went through this framework and came back with the realization, that I don’t know enough details about the timeframe and the long term plans for the project. This could turn out to be a great opportunity to make a difference in my field, it could be a sink hole that will suck me in and prevent me from doing other important things, or it may fall somewhere in between. To make a clear decision I need more information.

Finally, when I look at the framework, it really does come down to what will be best for my mental health. Pushing myself harder and harder over several months is bad for my mental health. I know this. I’ve seen clear evidence of this. I’ve also found, however, that sitting back and doing nothing or always doing the same thing so I’m never challenged isn’t good for my mental health either. I need be push myself, challenge myself, and grow, while making time for downtime to rejuvenate. 

If the opportunity doesn’t challenge me, I’d probably say no, but I know it will. Will it provide me the downtime I need? That’s the question that needs to be answered. Will it likely be more beneficial to my well-being (challenge, sense of accomplishment, contribution to the greater good) than it will take out of me (long hours & stress over a long period of time, too much to learn / do in the time period, take me away from other important priorities)? 

Sometimes it’s impossible to know the answer before I am (or you are) in the middle of it, but if I can see what is more likely, then it will be easier to make the best decision with confidence.

Featured image courtesy of Jaggery under a CC-BY-SA license.

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