42 - Why pros and cons won’t work for me (or you)



We all have unusual friends. I had a friend who was obsessed with flossing his teeth. No matter what, at the end of the day, he would pull out a piece of thread and run it between his teeth. The thing that didn’t make as much sense was that he was flexible with brushing. There would be days he would forget to brush, or just skip.

Doing pros and cons for a decision is like flossing. It has its benefits but there’s only so much there. There are better things you could do to your teeth if you thought about it.

If you’re doing pros and cons, it means all options but one have been taken out of consideration. It means a comparison set of zero.

If you’re doing the pros and cons of buying a house_,_ for instance, it implies you’ve settled on buying a house as your only viable option. It is often a sign of narrow framing.

Pros and cons are a sign of “whether or not” decision-making.

A 2010 study of 168 organizational decisions revealed that 71% of them were “whether or not” decisions. Which means that there was only one option on the table that could be either accepted or rejected. Over the long term, less than a half of them worked out. Of the remaining 29% that considered two or more choices, more than two-thirds succeeded.

Pros and cons are a sign that you’ve probably jumped on to the first thing that came to mind. It points to a small spotlight. Focus is not a strength when you are trying to frame a decision to be made.

When you have a pros-and-cons list to make, pause and ask yourself: What’s the big picture I may be missing here? Once you do that, you’ll realize that there may be ways to widen the frame.

Question whether-or-not decisions. Question pros and cons. You want to have alternatives, not be spared of it.

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