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Accurately Recognizing the Alternatives

Recognizing that a decision is at hand is not all there is to it. We also must recognize what our alternatives are. Here, many decisions go awry because of failure to accurately identify the alternatives. This failure comes in two forms: 1) thinking that something is an alternative when it is not (thinking unrealistically), and 2) failing to recognize an alternative (thinking too narrowly).

Among the common decisions in the first category of failure are decisions that follow from the following types of thinking:

  • "I know he's got major faults, but he loves me and I can help him change!"

  • "I know there are lots of problems in our relationship, but we love each other and that is all that matters!"

  • "I know I'm not doing well at my job, but I will eventually be recognized!"

  • "I know I need to learn this, but I can learn it by cramming the night before the exam!"

The second category of failure (thinking too narrowly) is difficult to correct, as no one believes he is thinking too narrowly (when he is). Actually, the more narrow the thinker, the more confident the thinker that he is broad-minded. A good rule of thumb is that if you can think of only one or two options when making a decision, you probably are thinking too narrowly.

We have found the following twofold rule to be useful:

RULE ONE: THERE'S ALWAYS A WAY.

RULE TWO: THERE'S ALWAYS ANOTHER WAY.

Let's now look at the process of becoming a more skilled decision-maker, in the light of what we have considered thus far.

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