You always have more than two options

two choicesMany of the decisions you face ostensibly have only two choices–often simply yes or no. That makes it easier to consider, but greatly limits your decision-making power. One technique people use to control other people is to offer them limited choices. I used to do this with my daughter when she was young. I’d give her two choices, and either one would get her to do what I wanted. This worked for a few months and then she figured it out. Some adults never figure it out. You may have other choices beyond the ones presented to you.

If you have a yes-or-no decision you’re already considering a change or action. Are there other possibilities that may be even better choices? Of the seven steps of decision-making, the step of choosing alternatives  does the most to lead you to some really good solutions.

There are always more than two choices. There are choices beyond the first ones you think of. There are choices beyond the ones presented to you. Often these less-obvious alternatives turn out to be the best. Use divergent thinking to search for them. When you put together your list of alternatives, you’ll be tempted to drop some of them immediately. If you’re really using divergent thinking, your list will include some items that are impractical, even ludicrous. Resist this temptation to throw them out for now. You want to keep yourself in a mode of divergent thinking. Evaluating the options is convergent thinking, which inhibits the open-mindedness you need right now. A good list will include one or two preposterous ideas. You’ll get to evaluate your options later.

Often the very statement of the question limits your options. Here are some typical examples

  • “We just had a baby and our house is now too small. Should we add on to the back or add a second story?” (Another option might be to buy a different, larger house.)
  • “I don’t want to move, but the company I work for is shutting down our local branch. Which of their branches in other cities should I transfer to? My family lives here and I want to be able to visit them easily.” (Another option: Get a job at another company in the area.)
  • “Production costs are too high. How can we get our employees to work harder?” (Another option: Redesign the product for more efficient production.)

Do you ever find yourself boxed in by limited options? How do you break out?

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