Intentional Leader

Build great teams, products, habits, relationships

Making strategic personal choices – think different

When you hear the phrase “strategic choices”, it’s natural to think it’s related to a business and not a personal situation. However, you and I make strategic personal choices too! For example: “Should I get that degree or stick with my current job”. Sometimes it’s a variant of this question where the latter choice is a new, exciting job. What a tough choice! Have you encountered such a choice or are you facing a similar choice?

First, off, let’s understand that strategic choices are worthy of our attention and focus because of the impact they can have on our longer-term future. At the same time, it’s important to not be paralyzed by a strategic choice though I know this is easier said than done. Finally, let’s be grateful when we are faced with choice because many others don’t get such choices. Ready to begin? There are three steps and one follow up:

An open mind

Look at the whole problem with an open mind. Too often, we are constrained by our own experience, our emotional state at that moment or the experience of others (our context) believing that this is an either-or choice, and it may as well not be. So, step out of the thinking mind, dispel judgment for a minute and ask yourself –

What if I could do both of these things?

A positive lens without attachment

Next, let your creativity begin to flow as you write down all the benefits specifically, how each choice will serve your broader intentions. Even if they make you a better person or make the world better by 1%, don’t disregard it. This is you achieving the full potential of both choices and checking if they are truly worthy by asking?

How much will I regret it if I don’t get these things?

A growth mindset to question why

Now, you can explore the constraints that prevent from achieving this full potential. This approach helps us to lead with our motivation instead of “yes, but”. It sets a high bar for a constraint to overcome and make it worth your while to ask?

Why do I have these constraints?

There is an old trick called 5 Whys from the Lean approach that can helpful here to understand the true cause of these constraints. Again, don’t overthink, but do think so you can then figure out 2 things.

1. Can I unravel them i.e., is it a limitation within my control?

2. If I truly can’t break the constraint, what can I do to bring over some of the positives from one choice in to other so I can make the most of making one choice?

Great work! Now, take a break. What you’re doing now is giving yourself the space to try to look at the problem from a different emotional context. There is plenty of evidence that our emotional and physical states have a huge impact on our judgment (You can read all about in Daniel Kahneman’s wonderful book “Noise”). So, go meditate, go for a swim or a run, spend time with a loved one etc. Then, take another look at your mind doodle seeking any new patterns. It’s amazing how a re-think in a different emotional state can open up new possibilities and answers.

The follow up and finale

Terrific work! We’re ready to test and learn. Now, you can reach out to a few people who you believe will listen to you and offer you their objective analysis. Walk them through your thinking – your full potential, what you believe are the reasons behind your constraints but don’t share your solution yet. The primary benefit of doing this is that people tend to be better at objective assessments when they are not involved in the outcome and often bring a positive mindset to reinforce a positive future. Thus, you get, for free (!), an extra set of brains to ponder your problem with you. Did someone say wisdom of the crowd?

Thoughts? You might apply a similar approach to your products and business too. Do you have similar questions about your career or a similar strategic choice about your business. Feel free to reach out to me. Send me a comment, hit like and subscribe to stay in touch!

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