When Two Roads Diverge: How to Make Decisions With a Win-Win Mindset
Even when you are deciding between two or more good options, your mindset can make all the difference.
The description in the first stanza of Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken of staring down two possible roads and having to choose which to take is an experience that most of us can relate to. The fear of making a wrong decision in our professional or personal lives can grip everyone, no matter how honed your decision-making skills have become. Even when none of the options before you are negative (which college to choose, whether to stay at home or continue working, which job offer to accept), there can still be that lingering question of “What will I be missing if I choose one over the other?”
Framing decisions through this lens pigeonholes the choice into a gain/loss category. However, most decisions we encounter will have both gains and losses embedded in them. So, I would like to offer a way of framing decisions through a lens of possibility that can alleviate much of the fear that sometimes paralyzes us from being decisive. When faced with a decision between two or more potentially positive options, ask yourself “How could either choice turn out great?” This simple rephrasing shifts your thinking from a gain/loss perspective to a win/win mindset.
An exercise I like to do with clients that are contemplating several options is to have them write the best result for each one. For example, if you are trying to decide whether to go back to school or look for a new job, ask yourself these questions and write your thoughts about each of the two options:
1. If I ______, how would I know I made a great choice?
2. What are some positive results I could expect from deciding to ____?
3. Imagine that you decide to ______ and a year from now, everything turned out great. If you could jump in a time machine and return to today to give yourself some advice, what advice would your future self give?
4. If you could write a book about how to ______ successfully, what tips would you give?
5. No matter what choice you make, what do you know will remain the same?
6. No matter what choice you make, what will you remain grateful for?
7. No matter what choice you make, what will you learn?
When we are faced with decisions that affect our professional and personal lives, even positively, it can be easy to believe the myth that one decision will lead to a better outcome than another. The reality is that one path may not be better or worse than the other. Either path could lead to great things. It’s your mindset that makes all the difference.