I speak to a lot of people who are thinking of taking a plunge, be it opening a new business or division, launching a new product, staffing potential growth or changing careers. It’s a big decision. How do you know if you’re making the right decision?
For major decisions, I like to use a model that was shared recently by author and implementation guru Peter Cook. I have used this principle for most of my adult life when making big decisions.
When you’re facing a significant decision or opportunity, put yourself one, three and five years in the future. What year will that be? How old will you be? How long would you have owned your business or been in the role?
Then consider what happens if:
- A) You do nothing. What does your life and your business look like tracking in the same direction as the last few years?
- B) You give it a go and you’re successful. What does that look like?
- C) You try but you fail. What happens then?
Here is the fun part. In most cases, option C is not that bad… and generally it’s still better than A — better than not having a crack and never finding out. Ask yourself: what could go wrong, and if it does can I get back to my current situation?
A little over a decade ago, my wife and I moved to Adelaide for a new opportunity. With a newborn and our friends and family in Queensland, it was a tough call, but we made the call based on the future. A year ago, we made another big decision — to move from the corporate world to a not-for-profit organisation — based on this same model, looking to the future and accepting the potential risk.
This process allows you to look at any situation in simple terms and forces you to ask: is trying and failing a better option than not trying at all? It doesn’t mean you won’t choose A, but most people don’t do the thought experiment and A is the fallback — they end up doing nothing.
As leaders, when looking at making big calls, I encourage you to at least have the conversation with someone not emotionally connected to the decision. Use a mentor, friend or coach to robustly challenge the options of A, B or C. At the end of the day, it is your call.
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