The Rule of 3: On Thinking Deeper About Life-Changing Decisions

There's no wrong time to make the right decision. - Dalton McGuinty

Artwork by Charles Demuth (Original from The Barnes Foundation)

Happy Monday,

A good decision is about making wise trade-offs — knowing what to ignore and the right paths to take.

When we make decisions, we choose options we think will deliver the best results. The outcome we believe our future selves want.

When we make decisions, we expect things to go right. If we think through our options, we know what could possibly happen. If we don’t, we are surprised when the unexpected happens.

“Nobody’s life is ever all balanced. It’s a conscious decision to choose your priorities every day.” Elisabeth Hasselbeck once said.

When you make any hard decision, it’s important to consider almost every possible scenario considered. To be less wrong, you have to do more than just making a decision — you have to think critically and effectively.

You have to ask yourself difficult questions. Example

  • If this works, what will I be celebrating a year from now?

  • If this goes badly, what happens to me?

  • What would it take for this choice to work?

  • How might this decision fail?

“If everything is a trade-off, then a good life means making good trades. It means getting a lot of benefits for whatever costs we incur,” writes Mark Manson.

There’s a simple rule you can use to think about life-changing decisions. You can also use it to think about the way forward when you are solving problems at work.

Think of 3 ways your decisions can go wrong

“We often trick ourselves into thinking that we possess enough knowledge or control over any given situation to make correct choices. Maybe that is why we hold on to the decisions we make so dearly even when we know we are wrong.” ― Spencer Fraseur

More often than not, we think of everything that will go right. If I invest, I can have money for my future self. If I save, I will have enough for my retirement.

If I get a good job, I will get a consistent income. If I find a great partner, everything will be alright. If I work hard, I will succeed. If I become an entrepreneur, I can make more money.

The bitter truth is, in the real world, nothing goes as planned. You won’t have a 100% success rate. It never happens. A few people plan for the alternative. They think of plan B, C and even D. That way, they won’t be surprised if things don’t turn out the way they expect.

One of the best ways to think through your decisions or problems is to think of at least three ways your plans or solutions can go wrong.

Ask yourself: what could go wrong and think hard and deep of the different scenarios things can turn out. If you can’t think of 3 worst-case scenarios, you are probably not thinking hard enough.

It’s a thinking exercise that can force you to plan and be proactive about all other eventualities. If you can come up with many reasons why something won’t work, you can then find solutions for them.

You can use the same approach to find better answers in all areas of your life. If your relationship is struggling, think of at least three things that could go wrong and what you could do about them if they happen.

What would happen if you lose your job today?

Most people would have to rethink their income sources and expenses. And they could be forced to use their savings. Whilst you still have your job, think of what you might do if it happens.

Plan ahead. Save more today. Cut down unnecessary expenses. Look into supplementary income. Start investing in low-risk and low fees investment products that can earn additional income.

Think of ways to reduce future uncertainties in your control.

In our ever-changing world, it’s essential to think through every life-changing decision carefully. Things can change quickly. To be less wrong, find facts, leverage better information, seek feedback, ask the right questions.

You could create a simple decision-making process to guide you. Decisions that have short and long term consequences require a better analysis of your assumptions. So it pays to get an objective perspective.

J.R. Rim said, “It’s not about making the right choice. It’s about making a choice and making it right.” Don’t just rely on your past experiences.

Deliberative decision-making is about considering both the best and worst-case scenarios. A better outcome largely depends on how deep you dig into every possible outcome. You are your decisions, so think harder about your next act; your future self depends on it.

Here’s the audio version.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the rest of your week!


A piece of advice worth passing on: Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements won’t steer you wrong: 1) Be impeccable with your word, 2) Don’t take anything personally, 3) Don’t make assumptions, 4) Always do your best

A quote I’m pondering: “We think, each of us, that we're much more rational than we are. And we think that we make our decisions because we have good reasons to make them. Even when it's the other way around. We believe in the reasons because we've already made the decision.” —Daniel Kahneman


Until Next Week,

Be Epic!

Thomas