What Should I Do? (2 of 2)

In the last post I explained a first step in deciding what to do when you don't know what to do:
ask yourself "What is the wise thing to do?"

Now, what if you have two options and you can't definitively say that one is wise and the other is unwise? Or you can't see one as particularly wiser than the other?

I suggest you go through two phases of consideration:

The first phase is OBSERVATION.
You need to get a handle on what it is exactly that you're deciding about. To do that you have to stop, look around, and take an inventory of the situation. Some people might shrink this down to making a list of pros and cons, but I haven't found that to be very helpful. I always ended up with two static lists that failed to account for the weight and significance of each of the things I listed. Instead, I used and recommend a method I adapted from a book called Six Thinking Hats (the book is by Edward de Bono).

Here's how it works:
Start with a blank page and get a pack of markers. The different colors will indicate the different perspectives you'll take as you assess your options. To get started you want to draw a blue circle in the middle of the page, pick one of the options, and write it down in the circle.

Then take a brown marker and draw a line off the circle. Your first list here is considered from a calm, neutral perspective. You just want to name the plain facts about this option. Who? What? When? Where? Why?

Next take a red marker and draw another line off the circle. This is the emotional list, so you want to capture your gut-level feelings. What does this option "do" inside you? Do you love it? Do you hate it? Does it inspire you? Is it exciting? Is it overwhelming?

Then take a yellow marker and draw another line off the circle. Your stance here is bright and optimistic. You want to think about all the positive aspects of the option for this list. What makes this a desirable option? What would it be like if it all goes according to plan?

Next take a black marker and draw another line off the circle. This is the negative list, so you want to approach this option as if you were its biggest critic. What are the challenges? What is the downside? What are the obstacles? What are the risks?

For the last list, take a green marker and draw another line off the circle. This is the spot to let your creativity flow. Use your imagination to come up with some new possibilities and alternatives that you haven't considered before. Is there a different way to make this happen? What this had to happen within a week? Have you missed something obvious? Can you merge this option with another option?

When you finish you'll have a page with five lists, each representing a different facet of the thinking and decision-making process. This simple exercise will help you so much more than what those two columns of pros and cons ever could. But the observation phase isn't finished until you've taken each of the options through this kind of well-rounded thinking.

I know what you're probably thinking right now because every time I explain this method to people, their first reaction is, "Wow, that's a lot of work!" Yes, I agree. But it's necessary work, especially when it comes to those big decisions that will shape your future and the person you become. You owe to yourself to take the time to get the clarity necessary to make a good decision, because that's really what the observation phase is all about.

The second phase is CONVERSATION.
For this, I suggest going to an older person that you trust and respect. Talk to them about the decision you're trying to make and what you learned through the observation phase. Tell them that you value their input and insight, and ask them what they think about the options. You'll find that people who have lived longer than you can offer some valuable lessons that came from their own attempts at walking wisely.

Soliciting someone else's opinion is so valuable because you've been standing so close to the details and have such a vested interest in the outcome. Other people aren't affected by the decision like you are, so they're able to offer a perspective that you can't get on your own. They won't make the decision for you, but they can give you a listening ear and a word of advice and encouragement...and sometimes that's exactly what you need.

Related Posts:
What Should I Do? (1 of 1)
Let the Old Folks Speak


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