Make Decisions for the Best like Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin suggested a practical decision-making method to Joseph Priestley who asked for advice about a troublesome issue. Learn from Franklin to make decision for the best here.

Do you often vacillate between two things? Are you often too hesitant to make decision and afraid to take the first step? If so, you are not alone. But don't worry. Here is a good way to determine for the best - stand on the shoulders of giants to see further like Newton said. Firstly, please read this letter.

Benjamin Franklin's letter to Joseph Priestley about Making Decision

To Joseph Priestley

London, September 19, 1772

Dear Sir,

In the Affair of so much Importance to you, wherein you ask my Advice, I cannot for want of sufficient Premises, advise you what to determine, but if you please I will tell you how.

When these difficult Cases occur, they are difficult chiefly because while we have them under Consideration all the Reasons pro and con are not present to the Mind at the same time; but sometimes one Set present themselves, and at other times another, the first being out of Sight. Hence the various Purposes or Inclinations that alternately prevail, and the Uncertainty that perplexes us.

To get over this, my Way is, to divide half a Sheet of Paper by a Line into two Columns, writing over the one Pro, and over the other Con. Then during three or four Days Consideration I put down under the different Heads short Hints of the different Motives that at different Times occur to me for or against the Measure. When I have thus got them all together in one View, I endeavor to estimate their respective Weights; and where I find two, one on each side, that seem equal, I strike them both out: If I find a Reason pro equal to some two Reasons con, I strike out the three. If I judge some two Reasons con equal to some three Reasons pro, I strike out the five; and thus proceeding I find at length where the Ballance lies; and if after a Day or two of farther Consideration nothing new that is of Importance occurs on either side, I come to a Determination accordingly.

And tho' the Weight of Reasons cannot be taken with the Precision of Algebraic Quantities, yet when each is thus considered separately and comparatively, and the whole lies before me, I think I can judge better, and am less likely to take a rash Step; and in fact I have found great Advantage from this kind of Equation, in what may be called Moral or Prudential Algebra.

Wishing sincerely that you may determine for the best, I am ever, my dear Friend, Yours most affectionately

B. Franklin

The Steps of Decision Making

To sum up, Franklin's process of decision making can be divided into 6 steps.

  1. Step 1 Frame the Decision
  2. Step 2 List Possible Pros and Cons
  3. Step 3 Evaluate the Importance of the Pros and Cons
  4. Step 4 Assess the Possibility of the Pros and Cons
  5. Step 5 Weigh the Pros and Cons
  6. Step 6 Review and Reflect
These steps can be illustrated by a list diagram so that it can be understood better.

Decision Making Process Template

The core of such process is to list pros and cons and analyze them. To do this, you can use a mind map.

Decision Making

Another way to determine something is to think about what you can offer, what you need and what you can get. If something costs you less and meets more of your needs, it may be the answer. For example, to make choice between a new car or second hand car, you can list all you need to think about in a mind map like this:

Choose A Car Template

Decision Tree

How to Create Decision Tree

Decision Tree Symbols

Examples of Decision Tree

Problem Solving Cycle

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