We are often trapped by our preference for clarity when making decisions. To be either right or wrong. Good or bad. Possibly arising from all of the tests we took in school..
Using the measures of right/wrong or good/bad to filter out wrong/bad choices to our final choice so that only one good or right decision is left for us to make.
As we age, we begin to see that there are always multiple choices, when forced to make a decision, that will work in any situation. There never is just one right or good answer. For how can anyone judge something based on good/bad or right/wrong when these words mean different things to each of us?
When considering multiple options, we need to first uncover the tradeoffs involved in each of our possible choices. Tradeoffs are underneath the choice we need to make. They influence our decision but are not “the decision itself”. Yet they do demand that we rank which side of a tradeoff we value more in the moment. It helps bring clarity to our thinking.
This is an important step to explore as an individual as well as in group decision making. When more than one person is involved in the decision, exposing tradeoffs and agreeing on what is important in them helps to minimize misunderstandings. What can each person in the group (as few as two people) agree on as to what is more important in a tradeoff that then leads to a larger decision?
Spending time on exposing all of the different ways you will either gain or what you will give up when considering a decision is time well spent. It forces us into more thoughtfullness. Giving us a higher resolve to move forward and comfort in the decision we ultimately make.
What are examples of tradeoffs?
We often hear of looking at a decision from both its short and long term impact. Now versus later. Most times this feels like NOW versus later. Looking at this type of trade off is so fundamental, as well as helpful, when considering our choices.
Wanting two different things or outcomes at the same time forces us into choosing one over the other first. Priorities and goals fit this type of tradeoff to consider. Businesses face tradeoffs constantly. Multiple projects or opportunities all seem doable. But time and resources are constrained. So what we decide as being more important to accomplish first – is how we resolve a tradeoff.
Me or them is another instance where tradeoffs need to be considered. I might choose to take my family for ice cream when I really wanted to stay home to watch the ball game. I would rather my wife be happy than to frustrate her by never washing the dishes. Something I really do not like to do.
One of the most common explorations around trade offs occurs in deciding to move to a new neighborhood. Wanting a larger house drives the search. But then commute time to work, schools for their children, how close they are to relatives and so on begin to be discussed. All of these are tradeoffs that must be made explicit and resolved as to which one(s) takes priority when choosing a new neighborhood
The mistake I see people make is they try to use a worst and best case scenario that end up being too extreme to be possible. Best/worst case scenarios hide the subtleties of tradeoffs. Keeping us from better exploring the difficult work of both seeing and then deciding what tradeoffs we are willing to make in order to see our decision through.
Finding the tradeoffs before deciding can make your decision making so much more effective. You know you have uncovered them when two, three, or five options will all seem to work. Choose a different item as being important could lead to a different option. Exploring tradeoffs may also lead to discovering new possibilities and options. Where once we decide what is important in our tradeoffs can then lead to more creative solutions.
Leading us to decisions we can both live with and for which we have few regrets. Regardless of the outcome.