Making decisions can be difficult. Heath and Heath (2013) propose a system to help called WRAP. WRAP stands for Widen Your Options, Reality-Test Your Assumptions, Attain Distance Before Deciding, and Prepare to Be Wrong.
Widen Your Frame
One of the main pitfalls in decision making is having a narrow frame. That means you don’t consider possible alternatives that might be better options.
Consider Opportunity Costs. Imagine that you are considering buying a new phone you want. If you just consider buying the phone or not buying the phone, you are more likely to buy the phone, regardless of whether it is the best decision. If you consider whether to buy the phone or keep the money for something else, you are more likely to keep your money. Just thinking about what else you could do with the money makes a significant difference in your choice.
Use Vanishing Options. Another way to widen your frame is to tell yourself that you cannot choose any of the options you are considering. You have to think of other alternatives. When you imagine that you cannot have an option, you free your mind to shift your focus to new ideas and strategies.
Multitrack. Multitracking means approaching or working on a problem in different ways, thinking “AND not OR.” If you consider different options at the same time you are less likely to become personally invested in a particular choice. Listening to feedback on multiple options is easier than for a single option, probably because you are less likely to see the feedback as personal. So if you are considering artwork for your home, bring home three or four paintings or other types of art that you really like. Consider how each looks in the room and get feedback from more than one person.
Find Someone Who’s Solved Your Problem. One way to generate new options is to find someone who has already solved your problem. For example, how have other people over 40 successfully changed careers?
Reality Test Your Assumptions
We tend to give more weight to information that is consistent with our beliefs about what is the right decision and discount information that contradicts the choice we favor. Because of this bias, we may misjudge the data even when we think we are being objective. The following ideas can help overcome that cognitive prejudice.
Consider the Opposite. Pay special attention to people who don’t agree with the option you are considering. Listen carefully to their logic. If you are only listening to people who agree, you may be missing important information.
Consider what would have to be true for each of your options to be the best choice. This challenges you to imagine conditions in which you would choose a different option than you are considering.
Ask for specific information. For example, if you are interviewing for a job and value time with your family, don’t ask if the firm values work-life balance. Ask for more specific information such as how many times last week the interviewer had dinner with his family before 8:00 pm.
Assume positive intent. Instead of thinking that others are disrespectful of your time or don’t care about your friendship, assume that they do. Then consider what their behavior might mean instead of what you assumed it meant.
Consider the “outside” view in addition to the “inside” view. The inside view draws from your own impressions and assessments of the situation you are in. The outside view ignores the specific details of the situation and instead considers the bigger picture such as how other people have experienced a certain solution to that situation. For example you might be sold on a certain weight loss program. That would be the inside view. The outside view would be the opinion of other people who have tried that plan.
Ooch. Predicting the future is impossible. When you make a decision, you may want to take small steps whenever possible and assess the results of each step. You might also run small experiements to test your ideas. For example, before launching a website to sell cars, try selling one or two cars on the internet to see the results.
Attain distance Before Deciding
Attaining distance means that you don’t make decisions based on short-term emotion. One way to do this is to consider the 10/10/10 rule. Ask yourself how you think you will feel about this decision in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years. You can also ask yourself what you would tell your best friend to do in this situation.
Honor your core priorities by paying attention to long-term emotional values, goals and aspirations. By identifying your core priorities you make it easier to resolve present and future dilemmas.
Prepare to Be Wrong
When you’ve made a decision, anticipate and prepare for both adversity and success. Add in extra time for unforeseen difficulties. Anticipate problems and identify ways of coping. Set a tripwire. A famous rock band once put a clause in their contract asking for M & Ms in their dressing room, but with all the brown ones removed. If they found brown M & Ms, they knew their contract hadn’t been read and they needed to triple check the complex set up they needed for their performance. Their tripwire was brown M & Ms.
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Heath, C. and Heath, D. Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. New York: Crown Business, 2013.