We think of dimensions in certain instances. Buying a TV, couch or dresser. Will the refrigerator we choose fit in the space we have in the kitchen? What box do I need to ship these items? How large a patio deck do we want to build?
Rulers and tape measures are the tools we normally use for determining dimensions. Both our project and the tool are well defined. Easy to figure out. Inches or square feet are easy to understand. Usually the measurements involve more than one direction. Stated a different way – they usually describe more than one dimension.
What is confusing is our tendency to view decisions we need to make as always being one dimensional. Where point A to point B is a straight line. With only one thing to consider before making a choice. For example the washing machine breaks and we need to call a repairman. The only thing to consider is how will we get it repaired.
But a majority of life’s decisions are never that linear. What about picking a major in college? Moving to a new neighborhood? Choosing a life partner? Expanding your business? Deciding how to respond to a situation, inquiry or obstacle?
What are the dimensions to consider in any of these cases? Are they financial, involve proximity to your job, earnings potental, degree of difficulty, desired human behavior, the degree of effort, the amount of resources you have right now, the quality of schools in a new neighborhood you are considering. Do you have the skills to execute a decision or do you need help? For how long?
The easiest decisions evolve from looking at only one dimension. This tends to be the default approach to decision making. Never a guarantee as to how effective but certainly much easier to process leading up to a decision. This tends to be the most dangerous of approaches because we quickly grasp a dimension and then tailor our decision around it. Quickly, we say to do this then do that. Making it difficult to see the many dimensions of a decision you are about to make. [This is also the easiest way to generate criticism of a decision when someone only focuses on one dimension of a mutli-dimensional problem to measure it by.]
The helpful side of answering what are you trying to do is to make explicit our goal, objective & priorities before looking at the different dimensions of a choice we need to make. Then forcing ourselves to look at our choices on more than one dimension. Clarifying what is the highest priority dimension that your decision needs to satisfy to move forward.
Optimizing will take you in a different direction than maximizing. You might choose differently if instead of looking at affordability you focus on proximity to work or the quality of schools in a prospective neighborhood. Where a solution looks enticing but changes once you factor in your lack of resources or the many constraints you face in trying to push through what first looked like a good decision. What is the order of your priorities from most important to less important?
Clarity always helps us make better decisions. Exploring the dimensions or many sides of an issue, desire or problem might confuse us. Demanding we prioritize is the important step needed to bring about clarity of what we want to accomplish prior to us deciding or choosing what needs to be done next.
Giving us a chance to improve the quality of our decisions which hopefully then leads to improving the quality of our life over time.