Decision Making Process Part 5c – Identify and Analyze Your Alternatives

Many of us tend to think in a binary manner when it comes to decision alternatives. We think it is an “either / or” situation or “this or that”. This limits us to two options when in fact there may be more. Here are some methods you can use to expand your options:

  • Replace the “or” with “and”. For example, you may have started with “I either stay in my existing job OR change careers”. This can be replaced by “I stay with my existing job AND change careers”. This enables you to consider looking for different or additional responsibilities within your existing job or company. Try it with a decision you are now facing and see if it helps expand your thinking.
  • Remove both options. Then what? If your decision is “I either stay in an unhappy marriage or get divorced” and both options are off the table, you need to think about options to improve the relationship. Brainstorm ideas such as counseling, communication, empathy, etc.

Another consideration when making decisions is “opportunity cost”. Whenever you spend time and or money with or on something, that is time and money you are taking away from something else. For example, if you are considering upgrading your mobile phone for $700, think about what else you might do with that money that could be more satisfying. A trip? New clothes? Whatever it is, it will help expand your options and prioritize your alternatives.

If you can find someone who has solved your problem, seek them out. For example, if you are thinking of starting a consulting business, seek out others who have done this and learn from their experiences. This will help you avoid some bad decisions.

You can also look to others who had success with the alternative you are considering. You can seek online reviews for many types of decisions including purchases, places to work or live, contractors, stores, doctors, vacation spots, hotels and many more. These are valuable sources of information and should be part of your decision making methodology.

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Decision Making Process Part 5b – Begin With The End In Mind

Before starting on any journey, you need to know the destination. Stephen Covey wrote in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” that we should always “begin with the end in mind”. Our brains are wired such that if we envision a desired destination or an outcome, it immediately starts trying to figure out how to get there.

Start by listing the desired outcomes of your decision. I list here some guidelines to help you get started: Desired outcomes should satisfy one or more of the following:

  • Make or save money
  • Advance your career
  • Increase your job or general life satisfaction
  • Improve job or family relationships
  • Reduce stress
  • Increase satisfaction

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list. They are simply a starting point. When you list your desired outcomes, avoid being so specific that you limit your options or solutions. Here is an example:

  • “I want to move to Florida” is not a good desired outcome. It is too specific and excludes other options that may be more satisfying.
  • “I want to live where the weather is warm and the housing is affordable”. These are good desired outcomes. There are many places, not just Florida, that satisfy these conditions.

You also will want to think in advance how you will measure success. In the above example, what does “the weather is warm” mean to you? It may mean something different to someone born and raised in Minnesota as opposed to a life long Texan. You might measure success by stating “I can go swimming and cycling at least 9 months out of the year”. Knowing how success will be measured helps in the decision making process.

In your “portfolio of decisions”, you will want to avoid taking on too much risk, and conversely, being too conservative. You do this by toggling your efforts between preventing negative outcomes and promoting positive outcomes. An example of preventing a negative outcome is buying insurance. An example of promoting a positive outcome is a career change. I’ll post more about this in the upcoming post on the topic of risk management.