If you ever judge a book by its cover, this is the one.
My friend Julie had a Magic 8 Ball in our teen years that we used to decide whether to go bowling or putt-putting after church on Sunday nights (and similar difficult decisions). So I had to smile when I saw a holographic Magic 8 Ball on the cover of Decisive, a book about making better decisions. (Read what the designer says about the cover.)
But not to worry, the Magic 8 Ball is NOT recommended here for making decisions.
Instead, authors Chip and Dan Heath lay out a logical approach to making decisions using their WRAP process. I prayed through it recently to decide about going to Guatemala in September (I decided yes—I’d appreciate your prayers!)
Here’s how it works (and how it worked for me).
W – Widen your options
Consider other alternatives before you make a final decision. Don’t box yourself in with narrow choices. Oddly, weighing many options (within limits) might help you decide even quicker. When possible, aim for “this AND that” rather than “this OR that.”
For my mission trip decision, I considered other trips I could take instead, and of other ways I could use the money here if I didn’t go there.
R – Reality-test your assumptions
Dip a toe in first, if you can. Take a trial run. Also ask yourself: “What would have to be true for this option to be the right answer?” Or set a tripwire, a set of conditions that must occur first: “If X happens, I’ll do this.” Talk to experts who’ve been there, done that. Consider the opposite viewpoint as well (don’t just gather information to support your own bias).
I couldn’t take a trial-run to Guatemala, so I did more research on the previous trips my group had taken, read what they did, and asked what they thought after they got back. I also looked for both closed and open doors.
A – Attain distance before deciding
Use 10/10/10 to get a broader perspective. (I wrote about it here.) How will you feel about this decision in 10 minutes? 10 months? 10 years? Identify your core priorities and see which decision fits best. Or ask yourself: “What advice would I give a friend about this?”
For me, 10 minutes after making a decision about Guatemala, I’d be relieved either way, just to have the decision made. In 10 months, if I decided no, I’d probably be regretting it (that happened last year). And if I decided yes, I’d probably be glad, regardless of how it turned out (it would be over, after all). In 10 years, if I didn’t go, I’d probably have forgotten altogether about the opportunity. But if I did go, I imagine the memories would have stuck and hopefully changed me for the better and led to even more things. If a friend were trying to decide, I’d almost certainly say, “Do it!” And for my core priorities of love God/love others, saying yes definitely fits (although I don’t have to travel anywhere to do that!).
P – Prepare to be wrong
The authors called this “bookending the future,” thinking about a wide range of outcomes from very bad to very good. Consider what could go wrong—how likely it is and how severe the consequences could be. Then consider what could go right—because sometimes we’re unprepared for success.
What could go wrong in Guatemala? Um, lots of things! (I’m good at imagining the bad, unfortunately.) Some could be prepared for; some couldn’t. What could go right? Also lots of things!
As you now see, this WRAP process is extensive and time-consuming, so you wouldn’t want to use it fully for every decision you make.
But when you have something important or confusing to decide, it’s a great tool. I believe God walked with me through it to decide about Guatemala, leaving me with peace (although I’ll still be a tad nervous, just sayin’). But now I can just plan on showing up; the rest is on him! It’s all about trust from here on out.
It sure beats using a Magic 8 Ball.
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Visit the Heath Brothers website to find out more about this book as well as these great ones Switch and Made to Stick (all 5-star books to me!). You can also register to get helpful resources, including a one-page download of the WRAP process.
Do you have a major decisions ahead? Or have you made one lately? What helps you decide? I’d love to hear.
Related: 5 scriptures for making decisions
- When you think you’re better
- On the blog – July 2014