How many decisions do you make a day?
In today’s world, it’s got to be a fair few. And our brains are adept at handling the overload: most of our decisions happen on an unconscious level. The first “we” get to know about it is after a decision’s been reached; and our deliberations become retrospectively-attached justification.
But for the bigger decisions, we really do want to weigh the pros and cons. And if we’re serious about change, we need to bring the other side of decision making into conscious awareness. Here’s how.
The other side of our decisions
When faced with a decision, we tend to focus on the pros and cons of making the change. But that’s only half the decision-making story. To make a big change, we need also to focus on the pros and cons of not making the change.
“What I’ll get if I don’t make the change” vs. “What I won’t get if I do make the change” is complicated and starting to sound like semantic difference only. But there is a big difference; and our unconscious knows it – and acts on it.
Enduring bad habits are a great example. I might consciously focus on all the good reasons to quit smoking, stop skipping breakfast, cut-down on caffeine. But until I acknowledge what my unconscious already knows – what I’m getting from my bad habit and what I’ll lose if I stop – my chances of changing are pretty slim.
So this is a lot more than semantics. This is about acknowledging that whenever we push ourselves towards a change, there’s always a pull (both powerful and unnoticed) to the comfortable and rewarding status quo.
A thinking tool for better decision-making
To bring into awareness the other side of your decision, the Will Get Won’t Get Decision Matrix is a useful tool to help think through the positive and negative aspects of a particular choice.
Now, I know a number of coaches who prefer not to use this with their clients, for two reasons: it can get complicated; and it can get negative. And those two things can move clients into an “away” state.
But for me, I really like this tool exactly because it advocates for the status quo. And if we’re serious about making a change, then acknowledging the powerful pull of no-change is crucial.
Just be sure to think about your decision one quadrant at a time: that’ll avoid overloading your prefrontal cortex. And when complete, simply step back: what do you notice now about your decision that you hadn’t seen previously?
To do, or not to do?
In today’s fast-paced world, with its abundance of choice, convenience and access, there’s a decision at every turn. To expand your conscious awareness for the big decisions, make a habit of asking two extra questions:
- What am I really getting from the status quo?
- What am I really giving-up in making the change?