Would you rather…

Have you ever played the game “Would you rather?”  It starts with things like “Would you rather eat a dead cockroach or a live snake?” and usually devolves to things like “Would you rather be fat or ugly?”  It’s kind of juvenile, but often amusing.

After reading Decisive recently, I’ve started playing a grown-up version of this game.  In the book, the authors suggest that one way to make better choices is to force yourself to come up with alternatives.  Essentially, it’s a real life “Would you rather” game.

  • “Would you rather spend an hour and half going to Target with four children in tow, or spend an extra $5 to order the item from Amazon?”
  • “Would you rather spend time and money washing cloth diapers or washing baby clothes that disposable diapers leaked all over?”
  • “Would you rather have the house professionally cleaned, or do it yourself and spend the money on a really nice dinner out?”

As with games of “Would you rather…” that involve eating nasty things or different deeds of derring do, the actual decision making version doesn’t come with right or wrong answers.  But asking yourself the question can be illuminating.  It can give you some insight into how you’re thinking about your time and money, and show you patterns that aren’t really giving you what you want.  I’ve found this helpful in small decisions like whether or not to buy a sweater, but it’s also useful for helping my brain put a big expenditure (of money or of time) into perspective.  

For example, for a variety of reasons we sometimes revisit the private school vs. homeschool question.  The last time it came up, my husband pointed out that putting our three school-aged kids into the private school closest to our educational philosophy would cost the same amount as a new car.  Every year.  Shortly thereafter our minivan was declared dead by a qualified mechanic and we actually did have to get another car.  It was a big ticket item and I had sticker shock, but we plan to drive the van for over a decade, not just for a school year.  It’s not that I didn’t mentally know the costs were the same, but identifying the trade-off helped me to articulate the issues more realistically.  Thinking of a year of private school in terms of the new car helped me to wrap my brain around the cost, and think more rationally about the trade-offs.

[Which is not to say that we won’t ever make a different choice about education.  Rather, my point is that articulating alternatives can be really helpful when we’re making decisions about costly (in time or money) things.]

Do you give yourself alternatives when you’re making decisions (large or small)?  If so, do you find it helpful?