Posts Tagged ‘Resolving your dilemma’

Time For a Change #7: Resolving Your Dilemma

by William Reed on March 22, 2012

Make up Your Mind

One thing is certain, at some time in your life you have had and will have trouble making a decision about something important. In your career, in a relationship, a financial decision, or your health, sooner or later you will face the dilemma of a difficult decision.

A dilemma is a choice between equally undesirable alternatives, or a choice that implies sacrificing something you want to keep. Boxed in a corner, facing a predicament, damned if you do and damned if you don’t, our language is filled with expressions that describe this unpleasant bind.

Going back and forth in your mind, you end up going nowhere. This can exhaust your energy with worry, and excessive analysis can lead to paralysis. It is like sitting on a railroad track with the train coming, and wondering whether you should get off the tracks on the right side or the left! The real problem is not which side you choose, but the greater risk of postponing the decision at all.

What appears to be a complex decision is often just a complex state of mind. In the light of day circumstances are simple. There is no need to press the panic button. Better to cultivate a bias for action.

The matrix makes you smarter

When you cannot make an immediate decision, it can be helpful to map out your problem on a 2×2 matrix. Eight Archetypal Dilemmas are described in The Power of the 2 x 2 Matrix: Using 2 x 2 Thinking to Solve Business Problems and Make Better Decisions, by Alex Lowy and Phil Hood. Each of these dilemmas can be put into perspective using a 2×2 matrix.

  • Head vs Heart. The dilemma of being caught between thoughts and feelings is central to the human drama. This theme runs throughout literature and mythology. A matrix allows you to separate the two opposites into four quadrants by matching thought and feeling in terms of whether you give it a higher or lower priority.
  • Inside vs Outside. This can apply to families, to organizations, or any entity that separates itself from other entities. The difference is what defines the identity of the group, and at the same time creates tension when the difference is pronounced. A common theme is where the rate or type of change differs inside and out, and what impact it has.
  • Cost vs Benefit. The key to solving this dilemma is determining whether the benefits outweight the costs, or more subtly, if a cost should actually be seen as an investment that can bring benefits over time. That depends on many factors, such as whether or not the investment is cultivated to create benefits, or simply ends up as a wasteful expense. In the absence of an absolute answer, the decision is often influenced by personal preference.
  • Product vs. Market. Needs and wants are hard to predict. The popularity of a product may depend as much on how well it is promoted as on how well it actually meets consumer needs. The key to making sense of this is to use a matrix that matches product and market in terms of what exists and what is new.
  • Change vs. Stability. Who can say whether it is better to change, or to maintain the status quo? Conservative and progressive are relative terms, and over time one can look very much like the other, as people swing between one extreme to the other.
  • Know vs. Don’t Know. The benefit of mapping issues of known vs unknown is that it can clarify whether or not you actually know something. Knowledge is often a mask for ignorance. People who achieve deep mastery in a field may come to a realization of how little they actually know, approaching the Zen state of the Beginner’s Mind, open to new discovery rather than closed in conclusion.
  • Competing Priorities. A common dilemma is the experience of the pressure to be in two places at the same time, or to dedicate equal time when time is scarce. Both require attention, both are important, and yet there are not enough hours in the day. It takes a creative mind to have both-and rather than deciding between either-or.
  • Content vs. Process. Do you follow the manual, or go on your experience? If what was more important than how then anyone could be a master chef. Knowing the recipe is not the same as being able to cook a masterful meal. And yet processes must be standardized to some degree or they cannot be repeated. Like each of the other archetypes, it is not choosing one or the other, but rather both of the opposites balanced in an yin and yang embrace.

You can make sense of these eight archetypes by downloading here a DECISION MATRIX Mandala that summarizes the 2×2 matices on a 3×3 matrix.

Unity of thought and action

The Mandala Chart, or 3×3 matrix helps you step up to a higher perspective. To paraphrase Einstein, it shows that a dilemma cannot be solved at the same level it was created. The insight which solves your problem is often the realization that it cannot be solved just by thinking about it. The Japanese word 覚悟 (kakugo) means to resolve, literally to wake up 覚 and realize 悟. An awakening triggers the resolution to action.

The confusion clears when you are decisive enough to no longer separate thought and action. Variations on the philosophy of unity of thought and action can be found in the culture of the Samurai, in the life and works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Leonardo da Vinci, and Peter Drucker.

The next time you face a dilemma, give it some thought but take some action, and it will be much better for you if you maintain a blend of the two.