Decision balance

Use the decision balance worksheet to weigh up the pros and cons of making an important change in your life or behaviour.

From time to time we all need to consider whether or not we need to change something in our lives. There is often a sequence of events that leads us to think about making a change. We might have spent some time thinking that things are fine as they are, even though other people might have expressed some concern - we're not yet ready to contemplate the idea that change is desirable or necessary. As feedback starts to accumulate that tells us that all is not well, we might come to the conclusion that change is a possibility, but we may still not be convinced that it is necessary, desirable or even possible.

We can use the decision balance worksheet to take stock of the reasons for maintaining the status quo or for making a change - it's a simple but powerful tool for uncovering the factors that might keep us stuck, even when we are struggling with how things are. First, we identify the specific area of change, whether it concerns health and fitness, drug or alcohol use, family and relationship issues, work and study, social interactions, socialising, or self-care.

Then, when we have identified both the desired change and the status quo, we ask ourselves what would be all the advantages, pros, or pluses about making a change. Then, we ask what would be all the disadvantages, cons, or minuses of keeping things as they are.

Next we list all the advantages, pros or pluses of keeping things as they are, and all the corresponding disadvantages, cons and minuses of trying to make a change. Once we have those four areas filled out as best we can, we ask: given what I know, what information do I lack that I need to make an informed decision? What skills would I need to develop? What resources would I need to add, and whose support would I need to obtain, in order to give myself the best chance of success, if I choose to change.

Finally, we look at the summary of factors and ask ourselves whether there is an alternative to both the status quo and the option for change that would allow us to keep more of the positives from both columns and fewest of the negatives: what might that third option be?

When you have completed the decision balance you will be in a better position to weigh up your options before deciding to keep things as they are or developing an action plan.

Show instructions
What is the current situation that is causing you concern?
What changes are you considering making?
What would be the main advantages of the changes you are considering?
What are the main disadvantages of trying to keep things as they are?
In contrast, what would be the main advantages of trying to maintain the status quo?
What would be the main disadvantages of trying to make the changes you are considering?
What information do you lack to make an informed decision about change?
What skills would you need to learn or practise?
What resources would you need to develop to make change a success?
Whose support would you need to obtain?
Looking at your summary of reasons for and against either option, what other possible courses of action could you consider that would maximise the advantages and minimise the disadvantages of either trying to keep things as they are or making the changes you are considering?

You can email the details of the form to yourself (or your CBT therapist, if appropriate), print it out, or download it as a pdf. If you want to save your entries so that you can work on them later, you can click "Save". You can delete your settings by clicking on "Cancel" when the page is reloaded and they will be deleted automatically. You can also click the "Clear" button at any time to reset the form and delete your saved data. Saving the data uses local storage, which means your data is never passed to us. Some browsers do not allow local storage. If you have a problem saving, check whether a different browser, or a different device, might work better. Your confidentiality is very important to us so your saved data will never be sent to us or shared. If you use a shared device, or think that another person might get access to it, please consider the risk of accidentally breaching your own privacy before choosing to save, email or download your use of these resources.