Tip 8: Generate Options

One of the problems of creating an adaptable life is the question: How do I get from where I am to where I want to be? That’s where the idea of options helps.

We often see one direct path to a given end state. That end state might be a new job, a new way of working, or even a new approach to self-improvement.

We know where we want to be. We might not see how to get there.

Years ago, I decided I wanted to write more. I wanted to finish more books, write more articles, and write more blog posts. I’d tried a few things. Nothing worked. My throughput was still the same.

I didn’t do more of the same. There’s a definition for that—insanity. I decided to reduce the time I spent writing.

That might not make sense. If I reduced the time I wrote, how could I write more? I wrote more often, fewer minutes at a time. I reduced the size of my work items, so I could finish more of them.

If you use an agile approach at work, that might sound familiar to you. Reduce the story size and you finish more stories.

Not everything is like writing. When I wanted to lose weight, I’d first tried the low-fat diets (all the craze back in the 90s.) They didn’t work for me. After steadily gaining weight—while dieting—for several years, I decided to do something opposite. I started to low-carb. I steadily lost weight. And, yes, I still low-carb to this day.

My weight loss was about doing something opposite to what I’d done before.

When I started my consulting business, I looked at other people’s businesses. What about their business worked for me? What didn’t? I tried several approaches before I found my rhythm of writing, speaking, coaching, and consulting.

Here are the things I tried:

  1. For my writing, I thought I might make thing worse. Instead, I made them better.
  2. For weight loss, I did the opposite to what I had done.
  3. For consulting, I experimented.

We often think we can manage risks, and that will work. (We can ask, What’s the worst thing that might happen?) But, I knew where I wanted to go, and straight risk management wasn’t enough.

I needed new ideas. Here are some ways to consider your new options:

  • What will make things worse?
  • What might be a way to make things smaller or larger?
  • What’s the first experiment I can envision?

Consider these three questions to generate options. You might be surprised how you can create that first small step to accomplish your goal.

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