Conversations at the Crossroads.

Balancing the Scale (Risky Business, Part 2)

In this second installment of my series on facing risk-aversion, today we’ll look at an approach I call “balancing the scale.”

When we think about what we stand to lose in making a change or transition, we are in effect building a case to maintain the status quo. The more intently we focus on the potential for loss, the more challenging it is to imagine any possibility of gain, and the more likely we are to stand still. Finding oneself with an extremely powerful argument against making change, we are often quick to conclude—sometimes prematurely—that the case is closed.

Lawyers in court need to focus on one side of a case, but that approach isn’t generally beneficial outside of a courtroom, because doing so inhibits exploration of alternatives and, ultimately, a carefully reasoned decision. Think about how arguments unfold in your head when you’re trying to make an important decision, how easy it is to go down the path of one option exclusively. That’s how readily we default to playing the role of lawyer, on one side of a case. Now consider what would happen if you put yourself in the role of judge rather than lawyer. From this new vantage point, ask yourself how you could make a meaningful decision if you aren’t able to hear both sides of the story.

In coaching sessions, when a client is focused exclusively on one side of an argument it can be very effective to shift focus intentionally to the other side.

Balancing the Scale“Imagine a scale,” I’d say, “and see how all of your focus in this discussion has been adding to only one side of the scale. Let’s explore what’s on the other side. How might we balance the scale and your thoughts surrounding this argument?” It takes some work, but once the focus shifts to the potential gains, the scale adjusts and begins to level out. The weight on one side is countered by weight added to the other. The result is a more balanced perspective of the potential risks and rewards, allowing for the possibility that the rewards might outweigh the risks and support a decision for change.

That’s not to say that change is better than status quo. It would be perfectly reasonable to go through this exercise and decide that the changes under consideration don’t feel right, or that the timing isn’t right. However, in exploring the options from a balanced scale approach, we give ourselves more information and an opportunity to think it all through, and we are likely to have greater conviction about our decision either way. With blinders on to some of our choices, we are leaving the door open for self-doubt later on.

This week think about a decision you are trying to make and consider whether you’ve given as much attention to the potential gains as you have to the risks and potential loss. Balance the scale if it needs balancing, and observe how that changes your experience with decision-making. If you are willing to share your outcomes, I would love to hear from you.

With support and encouragement for your journey,

Founder, The Crossroads Coach

Published March 6, 2013