Don't weigh "extreme outcomes" too heavily in your
We often exaggerate how likely
"extreme outcomes" are because we frequently see vivid examples
of them in the media. Extreme outcomes generate many news
headlines, regardless of whether those outcomes are good
(winning the lottery) or bad (a horrible death from dramatic
causes like earthquakes, tornados, and terrorism). The more
something is on the news, the more likely it seems. Winning the
lottery seems more likely than it is because we see TV
winners, but never with losers. Dying in a natural disaster
or airplane crash seems more likely than it is because those
events make headlines. Dying in a car crash or a swimming pool
(falsely) seem much less likely than they are because they don't
making better decisions, don't assume that extreme outcomes
are as likely as they first seem.
you are considering whether or not to start a business. As
you weigh the pros and cons, avoid placing too much
psychological weight on extremely positive outcomes (your
company goes public right away, making you an instant
zillionaire) or extremely
negative ones (you bankrupt
yourself and create an Enron-like disaster). "Middle ground"
options at both ends are much more likely.
2. Consider failure as well as
the most part, we think about
success. We make plans for success. Our plans may not be great, and
we may typically take insufficient action to get what we truly want, but
for the most part, we are mentally focused on success. In fact, setting
"approach" goals that focus on what we want to
achieve is a key
goal-setting principle – fortunately, as I review in my book, over 80%
of goals are "approach" goals rather than "avoidance" goals.
This relatively single-minded focus
on success has many psychological consequences – some good and
some bad. Research has shown that just thinking about an outcome
makes it seem more likely, because we then think about all the
ways that it might happen. As a result, we plan for success, and
typically make life decisions expecting success. Unfortunately,
failure is an all-too-common occurrence. Divorce is just as
common as staying
married. Losing weight is great, but it's much
less common than trying-and-failing to lose weight. Living
paycheck-to-paycheck and wrestling with credit card debt is more
common than great wealth. The list goes on.
making better decisions, consider possible negative
outcomes in addition to positive ones, even if they don't
seem likely at first.
Example: Me. I'm
a positive guy. Usually that works for me. But not always.
When I recently launched a joint venture with a colleague, I
knew I would work hard, and I expected success. But I didn't
consider that my partner not work hard and quickly quit,
wasting a great deal of my time. I assumed success, so I
didn't see the early warning signs of failure. Had I
considered that possible negative outcome from the start, I
would have managed my time and that partnership much
Turning Problems Into Opportunities: 6 Tips
Get input from others
The "planning fallacy" is the
tendency of people to vastly underestimate how long certain
activities will take. Again, we expect success, we expect things
to go well, and we expect things will come our way quickly and
easily. But those around us are often better able to make
judgments about how likely certain outcomes are, and how
quickly/easily we can achieve them.
Beware "happily-ever-after" thinking
Strange-but-true: people aren't
always good at predicting what will make them happy.
"Happily-ever-after" thinking is the belief that accomplishing
goal X will lead to massive, lasting
happiness. It's common, and almost always an illusion.
Learn to understand the true sources of your happiness. More
often than not, happiness comes from making progress toward
goals. It may seem odd, but actually
accomplishing goals often leads to a psychological let-down
and a feeling of "Is that all?"
Virtually everyone. From time to time, virtually everyone
falls into the trap of thinking "My life would be perfect if
only I _____" (fill in the blank: meet my soulmate, get
rich, get that promotion, etc.). Instead, remember the truth
in the old saying: "It is good to have an end to journey
toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end."
Get over the "fear of success"
I've always felt this notion was
over-rated. People talk themselves into not
because "If I do, then one great thing after another will
happen, and soon I'll be a great success, and I just can't
handle that." Uh, right. First, these folks are greatly
over-estimating how likely success is (and how easily it will
come), as well as underestimating how happy it will make them.
Does this "fear" hold some people back? Yes. Should it? No. They
should get over it, take action, and recognize that the much
more likely "moderate" successes they will experience will make
them happier than being paralyzed by fear.
"The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing."
"The more you reason, the less you create."
"Ours not to reason why, Ours is but to do and die."
Alfred Lord Tennyson
"The way to see by Faith is to shut the Eye of Reason."
"Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every
fact, every opinion."
of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat
your instinct to the end, though you can render no
Ralph Waldo Emerson
"What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
"We know what
happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get
make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen."
doesn't matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes.
What matters most is getting off. You cannot make progress
without making decisions."
making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it
advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital
matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or a profession,
the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere
within ourselves. In the important decisions of personal life,
we should be governed, I think, by the deep inner needs of our
no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is
habitual but indecision."
"It is in your
moments of decision that your destiny is shaped."
"The truth is
that many people set rules to keep from making decisions."
hard to make decisions when you know what your values are."