The Coin Flip

Flip a coin. Make a decision

The Coin Flip

HAVE you ever had two options, and found it difficult to choose between them?

You may have applied for MBA programs and received offers from Oxford and Cambridge. You may have been offered a new job from a competing firm. Or, you may have been trying to decide what to get for dinner: Italian or Mexican?

Tough choices.

Since you are well educated, your response to these situations is likely to be a consideration of the pros and cons. The Italian place offers home delivery. But at the same time, you have coupons for the Mexican place and you really like Burritos.

Dilemma. We have all been there.

The decision can be difficult because you are trying to justify action with logical reasoning. However, assuming you are across the facts, in many cases the decision will already have been made. Logic makes us think, but emotion makes us act. And so the option you will already be leaning towards is the one that you find more emotionally appealing.

Since emotions are controlled by a more primitive part of the brain than the parts responsible for reason, logic or language, it may not just be difficult to engage in logical reasoning in these situations, it may actually be impossible. However, even if this is the case, you can still hope to make sensible decisions if you follow these three simple steps:

  1. Acceptance: The first step is simply to accept that your actions are driven by emotion not logic.
  2. Understanding: The second step is to determine your emotional state. Some people are very in tune with their emotions (and all the better). However, for the rest of us, there is a nice trick that you can use. Take a coin from your pocket, and flip it. Heads you will go for Italian food, and tails you go for Mexican. After the coin lands, observe the result, and immediately observe how you feel about the outcome. If the coin lands heads and you feel happy, then Italian food it is. But if you are sad about the result, then you have made a discovery; you actually prefer Mexican.
  3. Reflection: The third step brings logic back into the picture. You now know which option you prefer, and so consider whether there are any logical reasons why your preferred option does not make sense. For example, you might prefer Mexican food but [you are allergic to Pinto beans / the store is closed / insert logical objections here].

[For more information on consulting concepts and frameworks, please download “The Little Blue Consulting Handbook“.]