Break out of narrow thinking

In the new book Decisive by Dan and Chip Heath, they describe a trap we all face.  Psychologists call it “narrow framing.”  It’s our tendency to chose between two options – overlooking the full range of possibilities available to us.

Let’s take a common situation.  You hate your job but look at the options like this:NMM - New Cover 09-28-09

  1. Be responsible and keep the job – no one would quit in this economy
  2. Quit the stinking job – prove your mother-in-law right and have no income

Don’t assume too quickly that there are only two or even three possibilities. In No More Dreaded Mondays I describe that if you despise your boss, you could

  1. Quit your job
  2. Ask for a transfer
  3. Learn to love your boss
  4. Buy the company and fire the boss
  5. Do a great job search and find 2-3 new opportunities
  6. Join the Marines
  7. Go back to school
  8. Marry the boss’s daughter or her son
  9. Praise the boss’s work to facilitate a promotion for him or her
  10. Start your own business

Some options are clearly more attractive than others, and I’m confident you could think of several more as well. The point is, you always have multiple choices. There is never one option only.

More often than not, you have more choices than you first think.

Genius seems to have little to do with scoring 1600 on your SAT, mastering quantum physics at age seven, or even being especially smart.  Genius seems to be more about the ability to see solutions that others don’t. The mark of genius is a willingness to explore all the alternatives, not just the most likely solution. Asked to describe the difference between himself and an average person, Albert Einstein explained that the average person, when faced with the problem of finding a needle in a haystack, would stop when he or she found a needle. Einstein, by contrast, would tear through the entire haystack looking for all possible needles.

Are you missing choices by “narrow framing?”

Check out our Creative Thinkers Package that includes No More Dreaded Mondays, The Strangest Secret (the little book that opened my eyes to new opportunities at age 13), our famous 48 succulent peppermint candies – and more. Don’t miss the rich opportunities in choices 3-10 in any situation.

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