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Brainstorm! A Case Against "Two Choice" Decision Making

How to avoid binary thinking and discover the many options available to you.

Jeremiah Rogers
Jeremiah Rogers
2 min read
Brainstorm! A Case Against "Two Choice" Decision Making

Are you struggling to decide between A and B? Don't do that.

Deciding between A and B assumes that you have limited options. But you don't have limited options – you have infinite options, and the more of those options you uncover the more likely you will find one that genuinely excites you.

Recently I was working with the startup employee as he was trying to decide between staying in his job or taking a sabbatical and walking away from millions of dollars worth of stock.

He thought these were his only two options and they were a stressful set of extremes. On our call we brainstormed a much more complete list. The ideas that came up surprised my client...

"My Options..."

  1. Change nothing.
  2. Leave my job and take the sabbatical.
  3. Leave my job and take a very different, more exciting sabbatical.
  4. Negotiate to work fewer days per week.
  5. Negotiate one month off and keep my job.
  6. Make healthy boundaries around the time I am available.
  7. Find ways to relax at night and on weekends that take my mind off of work.
  8. Mend my relationship with my boss.
  9. Find areas to grow outside of work.
  10. Try a new diet.
  11. Go running every morning.
  12. Wake up by 7am every day.

You may notice that as we progress down the list the options go off in some unexpected directions. That's how this typically works.

As the list of options grew it showed my client what was really on his mind. The options at the top were all extreme trade offs. The options toward the bottom delivered much of what he was looking for with no trade-offs at all.

Through this process my client discovered that what he really wanted was neither of the extremes of the sabbatical or the status quo. He wanted to create boundaries, grow, and mend both his health and his relationships with the people around him.

Brainstorming options created his future instead of accepting a limited default. It's a future that's more fulfilling, easier and without trade offs. He didn't feel stuck anymore.

Today I consider a giant list of options like this one of the first steps for anyone who feels stuck or unmotivated.

Are you making a big decision? Are you stuck or unmotivated? Here some things you might try...

1.) Build a giant list of options. If you try to make the "right choice" too early you will often solve the wrong problem. Avoid A/B thinking as much as you can. Try writing out ten or more options for what to do next in work, life, or your relationships. What does this tell you about what really matters to you?

If you have trouble brainstorming these options considering asking yourself the question "What else do I really want to do next?" ten times.

2.) Do you need to make a choice? Many times our need to make a "choice" is just as false as thinking we have limited options. Do you need to choose just one thing? Can you do all of the the things? Can you do none of the things?

3.) What do you want? We often optimize for wealth or pleasing others when we don’t need to. Forget which option is "best." Which one do you want? What if you optimized for fun or learning? What if you did something crazy just to see what happens? What if you chose the option with the highest risk and the highest possible reward?

In Summary... Options are not presented to you. Options are things you make. the more options you make the easier, more enjoyable, and higher reward your life can be.