3/10/22: Why big decisions feel so hard (intro to the Newman Design Squiggle)

Sent 3/10/22

So many updates!

  • I spoke at UCSD's Triton Table Talk on Designing the Rest of Your Life. You can watch the video here.
  • One of the frameworks I discussed is my "3P's" for evaluating opportunities. They need to be positive, productive, purposeful.  I wrote an article about it and provide further context in this newsletter.
  • Our latest Fueling the Pursuit episode with Champion Sprinter and CEO Maurelhena Walles is out. We cover how she trains and runs a company full-time. 

This week's Think Better Newsletter is about why taking your next step--and making big decisions--can feel so hard. 

The Idea

Life is filled with big decisions, from where we want to go to school and where (and with whom) we want to live to what we want to do for a living and what experiences are going to make us feel fulfilled. These decisions come with trade-offs, risks, and opportunity costs. They very rarely feel "right" in every way.

This is particularly true when we are very early in our path or when we are considering a major pivot onto an entirely new path altogether.

My favorite representation of this challenge is the Newman Design Squiggle. It was created to visualize the experience of project management, where the beginning is confused chaos and over time it gradually becomes clear what the right path is. I think it captures the essence of many experiences.

Newman Design Squiggle for life decisions

I wrote about this previously in the Newman Design Squiggle and Finding Your Purpose. I believe any strategy for making big decisions has to acknowledge the truth of this squiggle, aka what the process feels like.

When you are just getting started, it's going to feel chaotic and unclear. Some days you feel like you're making progress. Some days you don't. You can have lots of options but not know how to compare them. No step feels "obviously right," and so we naturally struggle to do anything

The 3Ps--my system outlined below--are my approach to overcoming this. They work because they acknowledge this reality. Even if you have a clear goal, your next step may not be obvious. And if you don't have a clear goal...well, it's even more challenging.

They aren't a perfect solution because, well, perfect is not an option. That's ok. Progress is preferable to perfect.

The System

There is no such thing as "the right opportunity." There is only "the most right opportunity given my current situation at this point in time."

What is right today may be different from what is right tomorrow. What was right before may no longer feel right today. 

To decide what is "most right today," and what next steps I should pursue, I use my 3P's.

Positive: It makes me feel good about myself or improves my life in some way. If I don't feel positive, it's a huge red flag that it's not the right opportunity.

Productive: It creates an output that makes a difference. Sometimes this is based on improving a product or service, and sometimes I am the product being improved!

Purposeful: I can see myself giving 100% to it. I envision myself engaging, practicing purposefully, and mastering the necessary skills. 

Your next step is just a stepping stone. The whole point about stepping stones is that they are the right place to be only until you can move to the next one. The 3P's help to eliminate the ones that aren't going to help you progress.

The Question

Does making tough next step decisions exhaust you or invigorate you?  


Go Be More,

Bryan Green
Author of Make the Leap: Think Better, Train Better, Run Faster and the companion Think Better Workbook
Co-host of the Go Be More Podcast
Co-host of the Fueling the Pursuit Podcast

“Just keep going like crazy and look back when it's over. Otherwise you just get confused.
― Cliff Burton



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