Instead of either/or, again

This is a repost from a year ago; it’s worked its way back into the line-up because of a question recently posed to me.

Do you have a hard time making decisions? When faced with two equally positive or negative options have you ever felt stuck?

Most of us at sometime in our lives have been paralyzed by the thought of having to choose between door one or door two. Here’s an idea that might help:

“Instead of either/or, add one more.”

Huh? I know it sounds odd, and is counterintuitive, but it works . . .

Instead of either/or, add one more.

The idea is not mine, but turning it into a cute little rhyme is. (And, as silly as the rhyme sounds, it’s more memorable, and I think it’s a line worth remembering.)

Instead of either/or, add one more.

Picture this, you’ve inherited a huge sum of money, never have to work again, and have been house hunting for months. You finally found two homes you love, and although they are very different each offers you a lifestyle you’ve dreamed about. You can’t decide whether to go with the brownstone in Manhattan or the rambling ranch on a mountain in Colorado and rich as you are, you can’t afford both.

Or, you have two great job options, life coach in Florida or actress in Hollywood – naw, that one is way too easy, I’d choose being a life coach, anywhere! But, I digress.

A while back, I read brothers Chip and Dan Heath’s book “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die”, and their comments about the paradoxes of how we make decisions led me to come up with my little ditty:

Instead of either/or, add one more.

The decision-making research they cited reveals the value of adding one more choice to an either/or mix. Adding “one more”, helps us prioritize, which makes it easier for us to recognize what we truly prefer. We tend to think that by making things black or white, or narrowing down our choices to just two – this or that, we are making things easier on ourselves, but the opposite may be true. It appears that it’s easier for us to choose when we look at and compare three options rather than two.

Expanding on my earlier example . . . brownstone in Manhattan, rambling ranch in Colorado, or beach house in Florida? Did the picture get any clearer for you? It did for me.

  • Manhattan/Colorado/Florida
  • City life/country life/beach bum

Comparing three options rather than two, changes the way we think, and may lead us to faster and less regrettable decisions. (It’s easy to spend our lives regretting either/or decisions; I think comparing three options reduces the drama, which may in turn reduce lingering regrets.)

So, what would you choose, brownstone, ranch, beach house? There are no wrong answers – don’t over think it – pick the one that appeals most to you and go from there.

Try applying the rhyme this week. It works well on big or little stuff.


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