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How to make a decision when you’ve got two good options

Two professional coaches discuss what happens when faced with a decision that doesn’t immediately get an internal “hell yes” or “hell no.”

How to make a decision when you’ve got two good options
[Photo: Martin Widenka/Unsplash]

When confronted with a decision, most of us default to choosing between A and B because, at first blush, the world appears binary. Black and white, male and female, yes and no.

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When faced with a decision, if we don’t immediately get an internal “hell yes” or “hell no,” we might try to push our brain to an answer. We make lists of pros and cons. We apply logic and analysis. We weigh the risks and rewards. We agonize for hours, days, or weeks. Yet, sometimes, “hell yes” eludes us.

You need only look at the light spectrum to see how immensely varietal the colors are, offering far more nuance than initially meets the eye. In our experience, this means that another option is waiting to be uncovered.

Option C.

We began riffing on this idea while discussing a decision that Vicki was facing. There were solid justifications for both options, but neither had that deeply settling sense of yes–that feeling of knowing–when your body, mind, and heart melt into a brew of congruity. So we came at it from a different angle by teasing out the compelling parts of both options, mixing them together, and seeing what new equation began to emerge.

Kristin witnessed a similar scenario while working with a client on a career plateau. The client was a star employee but hadn’t made the jump into leadership. After clarifying that she indeed was interested in leadership, they began looking at the culture in her company and where that did/didn’t align with the type of leader she wanted to be. Then, we defined what her hallmark of leadership would look like–an approach with a deeper chance of long-term success than putting her into a mold that didn’t fit.

Vicki created her own “hell yes” job a few years ago simply by asking for it. After months of traditional job searching had produced lukewarm results, Vicki’s Option C involved approaching a new organization in another city to convey her enthusiasm for their mission along with her relevant skill set. Today, she leads her clients to move beyond the standard A/B options of “stay in the job” or “passively job search” to proactively designing their own Option C.

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Work is a common place we see the A vs. B decision crop up. Do I stay or do I go? Do I take the offer or decline it? Sometimes, however, there isn’t a choice. Kristin recalls a lunch date with a girlfriend who was sorely unhappy in her job and leaving wasn’t an option. The friend had just divorced, was a single mom, and had medical challenges. Leaving the steady salary and health benefits, or putting the steps into job hunting, was too overwhelming. “Having no choice actually makes things easy,” her friend said. Kristin applauded her healthy perspective and believes it bolstered her friend’s resiliency until the time ripened for her to move.

So while having a choice can be a luxury for some, it isn’t without complexity. Complexity might signal a need to explore more options. If you’re struggling with two opposing choices and finding your own “hell yes,” consider the following questions:

  • What about Option A do I like/not like?
  • What about Option B do I like/not like? (This is the typical pros/cons list but doesn’t stop here)
  • If I combine the “likes” from both options, what emerges?
  • What would my wildest dream be? How would my ideal day look? (Go crazy here)
  • In what ways do I tell myself it won’t work or that others won’t approve?
  • How does it feel in my whole body (not just my brain) when I imagine myself pursuing the various options? (Take these one at a time and really check)
  •  Am I willing to redefine this outcome on my own terms? (Perhaps the most crucial question of all if you want to find Option C)

Finding Option C isn’t rocket science. But it is a practice. It forces us to challenge the conditioning that tells us that choices are binary, that we must take what we are given, and that we cannot think outside the box. When we remove the glasses that see the world in black and white, a richly nuanced light spectrum is revealed, showing that Option C is only the tip of the iceberg. Scientists now know that there are trillions of colors in the light spectrum that our human eyes are unable to see. How cool would it be, with a little stretch of thinking, to see even one color we hadn’t seen before.


Kristin Brownstone and Vicki Evans are certified, professional coaches.

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