Have you ever struggled with making a decision? pacing season 7 GIF by SpongeBob SquarePants

The IDEAL method is tool to help you look at a situation objectively, identify the problem, explore possible solutions, and evaluate their effectiveness.

Use IDEAL in your work or personal life to reduce the emotion in decision making and focus on action!

What Is IDEAL?

  • I - Identify it (What is the problem? What decision needs to be made?)

  • D - Define it (Why is this a problem? What is the desired outcome?)

  • E - Explore solutions (How can you solve it?)

  • A - Action (Execute the chosen strategy!)

  • L - Look back (What did you learn? Was it effective? What could you change?)

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This Is Jovan

Jovan has been laid off due to COVID-19 and needs to ensure he still has an income.

Let's go through the steps of IDEAL as an example!

Identify The Problem

  • Ask yourself what it is that needs to be solved or accomplished.

  • Can it be fixed or improved?

  • Is it a real problem, or a symptom of a bigger problem?

    sorry schitts creek GIF by CBC

Consider Jovan's scenario. His problem is real and he needs to address his income loss due to being laid off.

Define The Problem

This step is similar to Identifying the problem, but seeks to explain why it's a problem.

  • What is at stake?

  • How will you be affected?

  • What would you like to accomplish?

  • What is in the way?

Happy Jennifer Lopez GIF by NBC World Of Dance

Back to Jovan's scenario, he identified a problem after losing his job due to COVID-19.

This is a problem because:

  • He needs money to survive. He needs to pay rent, buy food, and other essentials.

  • There aren't as many alternative job opportunities because of COVID-19.

  • He is still young and doesn't have a lot of savings.

Explore Possible Solutions

Brainstorm possible solutions by:

  • Making a list.

  • Drawing a mind-map.

  • Researching options online.

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Jovan could:

  • Explore government funding available in his country for people affected by COVID-19.

  • Determine his non-essential expenses.

  • Ask his family for support.

  • Find supportive outlets that offer food and essentials to people in need.

  • Look for a new job, considering all options such as working from home/part-time.


Jovan's friend Nicole wants to dine out more often but has severe allergies to many common foods. She gets nervous eating at restaurants. Which option would Jovan NOT advise her to consider in the "explore" step of solving her problem?

Act On The Decided Solution

After weighing the pros and cons of each potential solution, choose the best strategy to execute. Animated GIF

In Jovan's scenario, he would likely benefit from more than one potential solution.

He doesn't want to rely on family support until he has tried other options, and could first:

  • Apply for any government assistance programs he is eligible for.

  • Apply to new job postings even if there aren't as many options available.

  • Stop spending money on things that aren't essential.

Look Back

Evaluate your strategy:

  • Did it work?

  • Did you achieve the desired outcome?

  • Is there still a problem?

  • Could you improve your strategy?


Jovan has applied for government assistance and new job opportunities.

If he is able to supplement his previous income sufficiently his strategy would be successful. If not, he might need to return to the "explore" step and consider alternatives.

Take Action

Is there a tough decision you've been delaying?

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