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Two Tips for Getting Clarity on Tough Decisions

Decisions I just breezed through Decisive by Dan Heath and Chip Heath (I’m on a Heath kick – John and I just listened to Switch and I have Made to Stick waiting on the bookshelf). It was another fun read! These guys tell great stories and also pack a ridiculous amount of practical advice into their books. Decisive is all about helping you develop a good process for making decisions.

I just want to give you two of the great tips they suggest when you’re agonizing over a decision. Heath and Heath talk about how our short-term emotions often tempt us to make decisions that aren’t good long-term. Maybe we’re scared of being embarrassed by failure, insecure about our talents, anxious about money, angry at our boss, infatuated with the person we just met or obsessed with an exciting business idea. Whatever the emotion, it can blind us. Distance helps us gain clarity which hopefully leads to a wiser decision.

Tip one for getting distance: 10/10/10

The authors suggest asking yourself how you’ll feel about your decision 10 minutes after making it, 10 months after making it and 10 years after making it. They use a simple example that also illustrates how short-term emotions can blow the importance of the decision out of proportion: A guy can’t decide whether to call a girl he met. Maybe you can imagine the agony of trying to get up the courage, wondering if he’ll be rejected, worrying about what to say etc. If he decides to call her how will he feel about that decision in 10 minutes? Maybe he’ll still be nervous but he might have gained some confidence about the fact that he’s taking action. How will he feel in 10 months? If the call goes well, maybe he’ll be so grateful he did because they’re now dating. If the call goes poorly, will he even remember it in 10 months? Probably not. The same can be extrapolated out to 10 years. Potentially the happy couple looks back at that phone call as the thing that started it all. More likely the momentary panic about whether or not to call the girl will be long forgotten.

This kind of distance helps us put our decisions back into proportion and can show us the “worth it” factor in our decisions.

Tip two for getting distance: “What would I tell my best friend to do?”

Simply switching shoes mentally with a friend helps us create distance from the emotions of our decision, allowing us to be more objective, just like our friends usually are when we spring crazy ideas on them. Maybe you’re tearing yourself up trying to decide whether or not you should take a job offer. Ask yourself, “What would I tell my best friend to do?” If you automatically think “I would tell her to go for it!” then consider whether you have your answer. Ask yourself why you would give that advice to your friend and what’s keeping you from giving that same advice to yourself.

If you have some decisions to make that feel daunting, this book is chock full of great ideas to make sure you’ve thought everything through as best you can. If you don’t have time to read the book, you can go over to their website, and register to access the first chapter, a one page summary and workbook (all for free!).

Do you have a favourite method for making decisions that helps you? What do you normally do to seek clarity?

 

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