Dr. Spencer Johnson, author of Who Moved My Cheese? and co-author of The One Minute Manager , once invited me to collaborate with him on a new book titled Yes or No: The Guide to Better Decisions. Over the month or so that we worked together, I observed that he was a master of decision making, so I was keen to learn his methods.
Here’s my interpretation of his method in a nutshell: First, isolate the problem to find out what you’re dealing with. Then ask yourself a practical question, one you can answer with your head. After that, ask yourself a personal question, one you’ll answer with your heart.
For example: Let’s say you’re thinking about buying a new car.
- Isolate the problem: Are you replacing an existing car? Is it because you’re tired of it, concerned about the cost of operating it, worried about breakdowns, or, have you fallen in love with a particular new car and just want to acquire it? Is this an I-love-you gift to your spouse or is it eye-candy for your mid-life crisis?By isolating your problem, you determine whether this is a transportation decision, a safety decision, an impulse buy, or something else. Let’s assume you just want to replace an older car with a newer model with updated features.
- Ask a practical question(s):
- Am I focused on what I need or just going after what I want?
- Have I explored all my options? Maybe there’s another manufacturer making a very similar car with a lower price or better technology.
- Have I thought about the domino effect of this decision? In other words, if I change brands, is there a dealer nearby? Is the service as reliable on this new brand? Will it do what my family or business needs it to do?
- Then once you’re confident that you’ve made a pretty solid, rational, practical choice, ask yourself a personal question(s):
- Am I telling myself the truth? Sometimes we do a really good job of rationalizing our choice and telling ourselves and others why we chose this path, but all the while we know, deep inside, that this is just icing on a cake that we haven’t baked yet. In other words, we haven’t thought it through but we don’t want to delay any longer. So, am I telling myself the truth?
- Does this decision really feel right to me? Do a gut check to see if your head is overruling your heart. If so, you might regret it later. Both head and heart need to be considered.
- Do my actions show that I believe in this decision? Am I honoring myself and buying what’s good for me, or just replacing an older model with a newer one? Should I consider taking the higher road and being more responsible in my decision making?
On second thought, after asking both the practical and the personal questions, make your choice and then look at your decision. Ask yourself, “How do I really feel about this?” Would you like you change your decision? You can! After all, it’s your decision. Even the smartest among us have occasionally regretted their choices.
Every day we’re faced with choices; small and large decisions to make. Most people have never been trained in decision making, nor do they take the time to consider all the personal and practical aspects of their decisions.
You and I can become the exceptions to this. Get a copy of Spencer Johnson’s book, Yes or No, The Guide to Better Decisions (it’s a story) and read it aloud with your family or coworkers. Discuss what you could do better by applying this model.
I think you’ll be very glad you did. In fact, I know you will and it worked for me, too. My sister and I read the book aloud to each other and came to many new decisions of value.
You can even use this on shop decisions: Should you buy that new equipment? Should you trust this person? Should you add a new employee or not replace a person who’s leaving? Should you acquire the insurance someone is recommending? Should you bring more members of your team to Expo this year?
Jim Cathcart is a strategic advisor to ATRA and a long-time contributor to GEARS Magazine. As the founder of Cathcart.com, he is one of the world’s leading professional speakers and the author of 18 books. Jim’s web site offers over 700 pages of free resources on how to grow your business. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.