I hate A or B decisions. You know, those times when you have to decide to take a job or not, move or stay, and/or sell your business or keep it. Yet I have I counseled with multiple people recently caught in the “whether or not” trap. One person had a job offer which was going to pay him significantly more money – but in a job he would not like. He told me “I think I am going to literally throw up because I feel I have no choice but to take this job.” Another told me he was going to sell his business to another company because he did not know how to grow it and they did. Both needed to step back and look at more options. We do this WAY too often in our own lives. How can we learn to automatically broaden our options?
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In their book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, Chip and Dan Heath call these A or B decisions narrow framed because we tend to narrow our view so we “see only a small sliver of the options available” to us. One area we tend to “narrow frame” is about starting companies.
1. Widen Your Options – Create Option C, D, and E.
When making decisions we tend to focus on the opportunities to analyze them. When picking between two cars to buy, we drill in and look at features vs cost, doing an in-depth analysis. In Decisive the authors remind us about sight when they point out the visual anomy “when we focus we sacrifice peripheral vision” So step back and think big picture. What are your real options? And what are the reasons for the decision?
2. Opportunity Cost – What are you giving up?
What are you giving up when you spend time or money on something. If you did NOT do this, what could you do with that time or money? This is the famous economic argument “guns or butter”. If a government uses money for defense it has less money to use for domestic issues. (This trick is often used by politicians – however they sometimes trap us in another A or B rut.)
3. Use the vanishing options test. Helps you to refocus your spotlight on what you are thinking.
What would you do if some of your options suddenly went away? For instance, if you are thinking about moving to Tennessee or Florida. What happens if you cannot move to either. What would you do then?
Anytime you find yourself in a “whether or not” decision, send up the warning flares. Stop and think broader.
Just for Fun
When you find others making “whether or not” decisions, frame the question into A and B and them ask them what option C is.
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