This Way or That Way?

How to make difficult ‘this way or that way’ decisions more easily.

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Video transcription:

Thank you for coming along today. I’d like to talk about decision making. We all know that quality decisions lead to better businesses and more successful and enjoyable lives. But how do we make quality decisions? Particularly in the times that we’re in at the moment, which are so uncertain for a lot of business owners and their employees and very challenging, which puts us under stress and pressure, and that isn’t the best state to be in to make quality decisions.

By adding a process, and a structure and the right questions, we can really make sure that we’ve got higher odds, if you like, of getting a good quality decision out of the process.

So what I’d like to do today is share with you four questions. They’re called the Cartesian questions, and a few steps that go with them to help you, or perhaps somebody you know, make a really high-quality decision if you’re looking at taking your decision to go this way or that.

Perhaps you had an opportunity that you’ve seen or someone’s offered you, and you’re just not sure whether to take it or not. Or you might be looking at staying where you are, and you want to know it’s the right for thing to do as far as you can work out.

We never have all the information we’d like to have because we can’t for the future. We haven’t got a crystal ball that does that for us, but we need to just make decisions based on past experience and the information in front of us, and then we can always adjust in the future in the game if we find new information.

So what I’d like you to do is get a piece of paper and a pen. You can stop the video for a moment perhaps and go and get that. Now with your pen and paper, at the top of the page, please write the action you are considering taking. Choose one of the two actions. Stay where you are, go in this new direction. Name it in the action statement. What’s the action you’re looking to take? Write that down.

Now I’d like you to draw a line through the middle of the page both vertically and horizontally to turn that page into four quadrants. In each of these four quadrants, we’re going to add one of these four questions I’m going to give you. You can start at the top quadrant left or right, doesn’t matter, and we’re going to go clockwise. The first question I’d like you to write at the top of that box is, what will happen if I do take this action? What will happen if I do take this action?

We’re going to move to the second box now. And the next question is, what will happen if I don’t take this action? What will happen if I don’t take this action?

The third box going clockwise is, what won’t happen if I do take this action? What won’t happen if I do take this action?
In the last quadrant, you’re going to write this question. What won’t happen if I don’t take this action? That’s an unusual one. What won’t happen if I don’t take this action? I’ll come back to that in a moment.

Okay. Now you’ve got four questions across your page. In the first box, what will happen if I do take this action, I’d like you to list down all the things that come to you under that one question. Just do one question at a time is the best idea. Keeps your mind nice and clean on that one. Then move clockwise to the next question. What will happen if I don’t? Complete that process for the whole four boxes.

When you get to the fourth question, what won’t happen if I don’t take the action, you might find it’s a bit of a mind bender. Well, it is, and it’s meant to be because it’s going to take you out of any linear thinking that might be going on. Because it’s probably part of the problem that’s keeping you stuck. We need to see we can, if you like, come from a lateral place, somewhere that’s outside the box, so to speak, and see what comes up. There might be less in there. And you might say ah, it’s directly opposite to the question in the other box. Well, it’s not quite actually, if you think about it.

So try it on. But if you get really stuck, I’ll give you a tip. You can change it around. Reverse it. Instead of what won’t happen if I don’t, you can say if I don’t, what won’t happen? And that might help you unlock some more ideas. That might not have as many ideas in that one. Don’t worry about that.

Now, when you’ve got all the quadrants done, sit back and look at that. Read everything that’s there. Look at the action statement and read all the answers that you’ve got about what you believe that situation will lead to, what that will look like for you, what you’ll be doing and seeing as you travel down that direction. And you’ll know whether that’s feeling like it’s the best way to go for you, staying where you are or going somewhere else.

Now, if you want to double check, here’s where ancient wisdom meets modern-day science. Neuroscience has found that we have got three neural networks, otherwise called brains. And our head, we know about that one. Our heart operates as a separate neural network for decision making. And our gut actually is, as they say, the ancient wisdom one, if you like.

Here’s the questions. What does your head say about that decision? That’s a logical question. That’s where logic happens in creativity. Is it a tick or is it a cross? Whatever your decision was.

Secondly, what’s your heart say about it? Are you enthusiastic about it? Does it feel right? Because this is actually about values. This is about enthusiasm. This is about whether your heart’s in it. And if it’s not, ask yourself if there’s something that you could change that maybe that would change, and you would be in it. Or if there’s someone you can call and ask, that would get some more information.

And the last one is your gut feeling, intuition, whatever you like to call it. Check in with that. You’ll probably find that two of the three of those are easier for you than the other. Don’t worry about it. So there’s a tick or a cross, and you’re going to go with the majority rule. If it’s a cross, ask yourself, what would have to change for that to be a tick? And see where that brings you.

So those are the Cartesian questions. It’s a lot more rigor than simply deciding. You won’t lie awake at night re-deciding and re-deciding and second-guessing if you go through some sort of process like that, and that’s a proven process I’ve found really useful. I hope you or someone you know finds it helpful as well. And I wish you all the very best in the coming week.

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