What do pilots and surgeons have in common? They are both highly skilled professionals and yet they are both expected to follow simple protocols before they can do their jobs.
This may seem strange. After all, many pilots and surgeons have been doing their jobs for decades. With the advent of technology, the planes practically fly themselves! The “before-takeoff” and “before-landing” checklist includes seemingly obvious items, such as making sure the radio works, seat belts are fastened, and the parking brake is off. Yet history shows appalling accidents occur when pilots ignore this flight safety tool.
If such smart people need checklists to guarantee success in their respective fields, why should we be exempt? Somehow, we are above protocols and our autopilot mindset will miraculously make the right decisions? That is delusional. Lazy thinking leads to lazy living.
Welcome to the Framework
The Framework is critical thinking with heart. Take five and pause. It is stopping at five checkpoints before making any important decision. It provides a systematic way to gain clarity on the problem before determining a solution. With the Framework, you will develop a plan to get unstuck using concrete steps to help inform your final decision.
How do I feel and why do I feel this way? Feelings tend to be the first information we experience when something matters to us. The emotions are signaling “Pay attention!” to an unmet need or desire. Oftentimes, people are told to ignore “inappropriate” feelings. The funny thing about ignored feelings is that they do not go away. These suppressed emotions will find a way to get your attention, one way or another. Intense emotions then often show up at inconvenient moments that lead to poor decisions. The reason behind the emotions may not always be obvious, which is why the Framework tackles this information first. But remember that emotions are only one portion of the puzzle. People often feel something and then respond immediately, but this leads to poor decisions. You should not base your choices only on emotion. It is like determining the whole picture of a 1,000-piece puzzle from a few pieces. “Oh, I got three blue pieces that connect together. This must be a picture of the ocean with sea animals and mermaids.” Well, it may be an aquatic scene but it could also be the sky, a blue T-shirt, a Smurf—anything. Do not let your emotions give you an incomplete picture of the issue.
#2 Values of Self
What is important to me? The values of self question is about identity. Who are you and why does this matter? By uncovering more of who you are and what matters to you, you can save a lot of time regarding good decision-making. Unless you are a completely different person every day of the week, your values are going to stay relatively the same. Our values may change over time when exposed to new experiences, but they are generally stable despite varying circumstances. Values are the anchor or north star of authentic living. Optimal decisions are aligned with your values. When you make decisions that are contrary to your values, that is when your emotions begin signaling resentment, hopelessness, and frustration. It may take some time to be honest with yourself and identify your morals. This is the best investment you can make for yourself. Then there are situations when there are conflicting personal values and you cannot choose both. This is when the Values of Others and the Reality factors play a vital role.
#3 Values of Others
What is important to the people involved? What is important to you may not necessarily be important to others. Good decisions often require “theory of mind.” Theory of mind is the ability to understand that people have their own unique perspectives that may or may not be the same as your own outlook. Young children do not understand that people may not share the same thoughts and feelings as them, and thus, childish thinking lacks theory of mind. People have their own thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, we are fortunate when all the people involved want the same thing (which requires communication), so naturally the decision is agreeable to everyone (which is ideal). Potential conflict ensues when that is not the case, especially if the Values of Others are opposed to the Values of Self. It is important to identify and consider what matters to other people in order to work together. We neither want unnecessary opposition against your Values of Self nor decisions that hurt the Values of Others. By doing the challenging work of pinpointing your Values of Self, you create a foundation to understand the Values of Others in a similar situation by priming your mind to more universal needs and wants.
What are the facts of this situation? Objectivity exists despite how anyone feels about a situation. I do not care if you do not believe in gravity. When you jump off a flying airplane without equipment, you will most likely die. These realities have very little to do with what you think. These are facts. This is knowledge based on our five human senses (touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste). Reality can also be referred to as environmental or cultural factors. These variables are simply a part of our world and they are not up for debate. Reality factors are essentially shared “truths” that ground us in our current timeline. Choosing to ignore such factors will often leave people shocked, frustrated, and disappointed when outcomes do not transpire as planned. This question honors the “what is” and keeps us informed about our decisions.
Be tough and follow through. Working through the previous four checkpoints allows you to make an informed decision. Having the optimal answer, however, does not guarantee that you will implement the solution. There are opposing forces that may cause resistance. Understanding the reasons for the resistance will help you find ways to overcome those challenges and follow through with the optimal decision.
The Framework will provide the essential questions, but you may not uncover certain answers on your own. When you are really stuck, consider seeking professional counseling to navigate these questions together. There is no shame in asking for help if it is going to save you months or years of confusion and pain.