Many of us have used a 'Pros and Cons' list to help us make an important decision. But is it the best way to come to a wise decision?
We could make a pros and cons list of using a pros and cons list, just for fun...
- provides a thorough dissection of the significant factors
- gets all the ideas out of your head
- it's a record of factors if you want to go back and second guess yourself
- easy way to consider options and the opinions of other parties
- can slow down decision making, which can cost you money or opportunities - analysis paralysis
- it equally weights all the factors - (whereas one Con could be more important than all the Pros, or vice-versa)
- it will help you rationalize a bad decision
Humans are wired to make choices based on deep-set and powerful emotional drivers. We then use logical data to rationalize and explain our decisions. 'I had to get that new $40000 truck - it gets better fuel economy than my old truck. And that old thing is gonna need new tires soon. I got a good trade in allowance and got a discount. I needed another tax write-off, and well, I couldn't afford not to do it!' Meanwhile some of our real reasons for getting it was because it's our favourite colour, it makes us feel successful, it can tow the camper better and it's pretty exciting to pull the trigger on a big purchase. But those reasons don't always go over too well with the accountant. Or our spouse.
There is a better way...
Enter the Decision Filter! Most decisions will have pros and cons. Sure, make a thorough examination of the facts. But more important, have some guiding values that never change. These make up your filter. Base all your decisions on your most important values. This way you can act quickly and decisively in the face of opportunity or at crossroads. It should prevent you from experiencing regret or anxiety over second guessing yourself.
You may occasionally have conflicting values. So it is important rank your values in priority order.
Let's create a simple Opportunity Filter - a way to quickly determine whether a new opportunity will be right for us to pursue. So for example let's say my top five values in descending priority are:
1. Keep my life simple
2. Stay out of debt
3. Spend as much time with my family as possible
4. Work toward my goals
5. Live a healthy lifestyle and help others
A close friend approaches me with an opportunity of a life time if I get in at the bottom. It's a new concept in __________ with unlimited potential if we invest some money and lots of sweat equity to get it off the ground.
Or a family member want us to partner with them, borrowing money and investing in real estate. The idea is to find fixer-uppers and flip them at a profit, as a side gig.
While both opportunities may be legitimate, they clearly don't pass this particular decision filter. If I had a different filter, maybe one that included making a million dollars by the time I was 40, or finding new ventures, etc, then the decision might be totally different for the same opportunity. But in this case the decision is clear and easy, quick to make and requires little second guessing.
Now let's create a sample Hiring Filter to help us find the type of employees that we are looking for. This will help us make good hiring decisions quickly. Let's say Your 5 most important values in a potential painter are:
3. Hard worker
4. Quality oriented
Painter 1 has 20 years experience, his own truck and tools, hasn't missed a day of work ever and is very friendly. He was fired from a job once for taking a few supplies home, but that boss was a jerk anyway. He is willing to work for cash.
Painter 2 has no experience but is very keen to learn the trade. He hasn't missed a day of school in the last two years and had excellent grades. His hobby is building model cars.
Which one do you hire? It's pretty clear who your guy is, based on your values. No need to debate pros and cons.
You can make filters for which jobs/projects you will accept and pass on or bid higher for the ones that are not an ideal fit for you.
You can apply the principle to a lot of disciplines. I just read that one of my favourite photographers uses this filter in crafting his best work and to create the most value for the world around him.
Your values may change over time, so you will have to adjust your filter accordingly. Also, some opportunities may be so good that they force you to reconsider your values, your filter. Be as flexible as you want, but the tool will be most effective when you build your filters with clear priorities and values.
Making rational decisions based on your values will help you reach your objectives and goals. A decision filter is a superior tool to other methods of decision making.
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