Cartesian Questions – the power of possibilities

When setting a goal or making a decision, it can sometimes be overwhelming. What to do? Should I take a new role in a new organisation or should I stay in my current role? Should I accept that promotion? Should I go to South America or Africa? Should I run a marathon this year? The really great thing about living in the world we do today is the possibilities and abundance of choice that we have. The not so great thing is the number of decisions we need to make on a daily basis. President Barack Obama has been open in telling the world he wears only blue or grey suits in order to cut back on his non-vital decision making.

When it comes to vital decision making, we don’t want to get it wrong. We want to ensure we have looked at all possibilities before making a decision. We also don’t want to spend a lot of time because, well, there are OTHER decisions to make!

A tool to explore the possibilities

A great tool I use with my clients and myself is Cartesian Questions. “X” equals the thing you are thinking about doing – accepting the promotion, taking a new role, traveling to South America, running a marathon etc. To get the most out of this, think of a decision you need to make and get a big piece of paper. Divide it into quarters with “will” and “won’t” at the top and “do” and “don’t” down the sides…

cartesian questions White Cat Coaching

1. What WILL happen if I DO “X”. Brainstorm all the things that will happen if you go ahead and do “X”. Not just the immediate things. What ELSE could happen as a result? You might not be 100% sure, but now is the time to get a bit creative. For example, taking a new role in a new organisation may lead to meeting new contacts and opening up opportunities for you to write your book, make a movie etc.

2. What WON’T happen if I DO “X”. So picture yourself doing “X”. What are some of the things that will not happen? Again,you are not 100% sure. Get creative. What do you think won’t happen? For example, if you take that new role, a promotion from your role in your current organisation won’t happen. Your current annual bonus won’t happen. On the flipside, some negative things about your current role and organisation won’t happen either (for example eating stale biscuits in the company kitchen). You get the idea.

This is when it gets a bit tricky…

3. What WILL happen if I DON’T do “X”. So picture yourself remaining in status quo. You’re not going to take that new role or run that marathon. What will happen? If you don’t take the new role you will get your current bonus. You might be feeling a bit jumbled at this point. That’s a good thing. It’s an opportunity to brainstorm from another perspective. There will be negatives and positives here. Some good things will happen if you don’t, some not so good things will happen if you don’t. Just write them all down.

Bear with me…

4. What WON’T happen if I DON’T do “X”. Continue to picture yourself remaining the same and not doing “X”. What are some things that won’t happen? This is when some clever people will say “All the things in the first box!” Yes, that’s right. But what else? By looking at the possibilities from another angle, what else can you think of?

Remember, when your brain is feeling a bit jumbled, that’s when amazing change can happen. You have opened your mind to new possibilities. Embrace the confusion and capture everything that comes to mind. Review your answers and you will find that you can make your decision easily and effortlessly.

What’s a big decision you need to make? Would the Cartesian Questions help? Give it a go and share your success using your favourite button!