Stop Making Pros-And-Cons Lists

July 20, 2023 | Mirta Fagundes dos Santos

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Do I change jobs or stay where I am?

Do I eat in or go out for dinner?

Do I say yes or no?

Decisions, decisions!

But, unless you have a pros-and-cons list, are you even making a decision?

The reason you feel pressure to make a list is in the first place is that you see value in both choices, but they are usually mutually exclusive, so you force yourself to choose one. In this sense, you lose before you even make a decision.

If you choose A you miss out on the benefits of B, and if you chose B you miss out on the benefits of A.

Pros-and-cons lists are fundamentally flawed

Choice A and an opposing Choice B are presupposed.

When we start the decision with two choices we can get stuck into believing that one is better than the other, and that we should find out which choice is the better one, through a thorough, scientific method known colloquially as a Pros-and-Cons list.

The assumption is that these are the only available tactics that will get us to our desired outcomes. So you pit the two choices, A and B, against each other, not exploring any possibility of compromising, or choosing both, or choosing something else entirely…

But how did you get to A and B? Why A and B, and not Y and Z?

Get clear on the why(s) behind Choices A and B

What outcome do you actually want to achieve?

My family and I looked to move cities a few years back. Choice A: move vs Choice B: don’t move.

It came up when my brother suggested we move to his city because houses are cheaper where he lives, and, if we moved, we’d be mortgage-free. Our desired outcome was “be mortgage-free”… I give him that, and momentarily we fell into the trap of trying to choose whether to move or not.

But, if we moved we’d miss our friends, we’d have to uproot our kids, we’d live far from our work. Surely there was a way to have both; be mortgage free and stay where we are.

Be wary of useless binaries

Any time you start a decision off with only two, mutually exclusive options, it’s a useless choice.

There is normally a plethora of option out there for you to meet your needs, they are just not that obvious.

For us, when we actually looked into the ‘move vs don’t move’ choice, we realised this limitation! If it’s true that there’s more than one way to skin a cat, surely there is more than one way to be mortgagee-free.

We ended up hatching a plan with our mortgage broker, restructured our payments, and realised we could pay off our home in the next 3 years without moving a muscle!

So, what less-than-ideal choice have you convinced yourself of lately? To find out different, more useful ways to make decisions do our Thinking Foundations course!