Derek Sivers

Entrepreneur, programmer, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

There are always more than two options

Lately I've been helping a lot of friends with decisions. The common theme I've found is that they thought they had only two options.

That's not a decision. That's a self-created dilemma! The way out is to realize there are always more than two options!

Backing up: When someone says they only have one option, they're really saying, “I have no choice,” and you know that's wrong. (At very least, add “do nothing” and “go insane” as choices.)

When they say they only have two options, beware. It means they got stuck. Once people get two options, they start comparing the pros and cons of those two, and forget to think of more options.

But remember those silly creative brainstorming exercises we did as kids? As adults, people let the “real world” wear them down so much, they forgot that those lessons were not just for kids.

As an example, a friend was trying to decide between:

  1. sticking with his well-paying boring job
  2. or quitting to start his own company

I suggested some other options:

Some of those are intentionally silly, but made him say, “You made me realize I need a vacation before making a decision. I'm just feeling really stressed because of this new manager at work, and I was wanting a quick exit, but I think I need to confront this manager about our bad communication. It wasn't the new business that was inspiring me so much, but just needing to fix my current situation.”

Anyway - to my other friends out there who haven't come to me with decisions yet: Great insight only comes from opening your mind to many options. Brainstorm them all, from the hybrids to the ridiculous.

It takes under an hour, but has always helped my friends feel less stressed, think clearly, and honestly - get excited about a decision that used to feel like a dilemma.

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