When deciding between two or more competing solutions that each have their own strengths, it can be valuable to repeatedly and hypothetically modify each solution, reconsidering their merit each time, until the choice becomes clearer.
Imagine you are deciding to live in the Central Business District of a major city, close to work and entertaininment, or on a gorgeous rural property with sweeping vistas and unique flora and fauna all around. The difference between the two lifestyles offered up by these choices can be so overwhelming that you simply may not know where to begin in evaluating them.
One mental tool you can use to assist you in this process is a “slight modification” exercise, where you modify each deal (keeping only its core features intact) and then reconsider how they stack up against each other. This can reveal important factors or decision-making processes that you could not see previously, helping you return to the original decision with more insight.
Consider now an alternate choice – between Industryville, a productive but relatively bland suburb just a 15 minute drive from everything you’d want to do around the city, and Greensborough, a much leafier and spacier suburb that lies 45 minutes out from the CBD.
Again, you seem to be weighing up proximity against pleasantness, but the tangibility of this choice may make the decision much easier. You might decide that as you’re going to have to drive anyway, you’d really rather the natural beauty of Greensborough to come home to, and you can just put on a podcast in the car to distract you. Or perhaps that extra half hour of driving is going to be a killer for you in the long term, and you’ll get sick of driving so often, so you’ll just take Industryville and maybe throw some pot plants around the place.
Now that you have considered the modified example (and you don’t always need to make them more similar – you can also modify them in other ways, or even add to each deal!), you can take this insight back to the original question. If you can’t stand a regular 45 minute drive, how will you sit with a 3-hour drive to any entertainment prospects over the long term? Or if the simple suburbs of Industryville would make you claustrophobic, how on earth will you deal with the skyscrapers and constant city noise of the CBD?
Thinking outside the box can help you think within the box, too. If stuck with a difficult decision, consider using this mental tool to learn more about yourself and the decision you face.