How can we help our children to make good decisions? They are pummeled with choices every day and encouraged to make decisions about those choices. Smart, successful, and happy people use a clear and thoughtful process when making a decision. People usually say that they “weigh out the choices” and choose the best one. Well, what does that really mean? A few more specifics can be very helpful. I believe that any process that can be described using five or fewer steps we can remember and make a habit.
We teach our students the following five steps to make a good decision. Essentially, we begin with the end in mind.

  1. Describe specifically what the need or want is.
    • I need to purchase a …
    • I need to consider being friends with …
    • I want to eat …
    • I want to listen to or watch …
  2. Determine what personal/family values are relevant or important to the decision.
    • Health, family, faith, intelligence, security, …
    • What is good, true, and right. 
  3. Rate which values are most important to the decision.
    •  Determining what values are meaningful or critical helps to make it easier to eliminate options and narrow down good choices.
    • Give the values a rating from 1-10 (10 being extremely valuable). Values can have equal ratings.
  4. Compare the options to the values.
    1. Score each option by how well it meets the value. Use a 1-10 score.
    2. Do the math. Multiply the value rating by the score to get a final score for that option. If an option fails to meet the values, it’s probably not the best choice.
  5. Make a decision and feel confident that it was the best choice because it matches what is important to you.

The Rotary Club uses “The Four-Way Test” when considering decisions they make.  It is a nonpartisan and nonsectarian ethical guide for Rotarians to use for their personal and professional relationships. The test has been translated into more than 100 languages, and Rotarians recite it at club meetings:


Of the things we think, say or do…

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?