5 Ways to Break Out of a Decision-Making Trap

UPDATED: December 17, 2013
PUBLISHED: December 17, 2013

"We tend to define our choices too narrowly, to see them in binary terms." Combat "narrow framing" with these five steps:

1. Think AND not OR. When life seems to be handing you a choice between this OR that, first ask yourself, is there a way I could choose both? You’ll be surprised how often it’s possible.

2. Find someone who has solved your problem. If you feel stuck—unable to uncover fresh options—ask the advice of people who have faced similar dilemmas before. You’ll likely discover ideas that never would have occurred to you.

3. Distrust “whether or not” dilemmas. When you find yourself deliberating about “whether or not to do X,” that’s a warning flag signaling you may be caught in a narrow frame. Keep pushing for more options.

4. Run the “Vanishing Options Test.” If all of the options you’re currently considering suddenly disappeared, what else could you do? You’ll be surprised how easy it is to come up with unexplored options.

5. Fall in love twice. Keep searching for new options until you’ve got at least two that you’d be happy with. If you’re hiring, keep interviewing until you’ve got two good candidates, or if you’re house-shopping, hold out for two good homes. Having two options helps us be more objective about the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Read an excerpt from Chip and Dan Heath's latest book where they'll take you through processes for better decision-making.

David Bach is a 10-times New York Times best-selling author. His most recent book is The Latte Factor, a little story you can read in less than a few hours to help you live your richest life. Join David on Instagram @davidlbach and his website, DavidBach.com.