Decisions Based on Multiple Futures


I think parents have a singular mission whether they know it or not: to make good decision makers out of their kids.

Eventually, those under their care will burst out into the world. Personally, my parents hoped that burst would have good decision-making skills attached. And to their credit, I think they succeeded.

But making decisions in life can be quite different from making decisions in business. I make decisions about what I’m going to eat or where I’m going to buy my next pair of shoes to CrossFit in.

However, business decisions consist of who to hire, who to fire, how to make ends meet and what programs in which to invest. “How do we learn to make better decisions?” asked Charles Duhigg, the author of “Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business.”

He went on to answer his own question. “In part, by training ourselves to think probabilistically,” wrote Duhigg. “To do that, we must force ourselves to envision various futures — to hold contradictory scenarios in our minds simultaneously — and then expose ourselves to a wide spectrum of successes and failures to develop an intuition about which forecasts are more or less likely to come true.”

What Duhigg means is to think about possibilities. For example, let’s say a Coach starts consistently arriving late to class. You may want to latch onto one explanation and outcome — the Coach has been stressed out from their fulltime job, and you just want to cut them slack. But you need to think about all the possibilities. Perhaps the Coach thinks you don’t care about their tardiness, and it’ll get worse if you don’t address it. Maybe they’re running late because of another commitment, and you need to question if they are committed to you. Maybe they need to teach a new class time, and you can help make it happen.

And from all of these, you need to envision which future you want. Do you want your Coach to stay? Could you actually not care less about this staff member? Do you want to make it work or not?

“The people who make the best choices are the ones who work hardest to envision various futures, to write them down and think them through, and then ask themselves, which ones do I think are most likely and why?” wrote Duhigg.

So, Affiliate, it’s time to start visualizing the various futures ahead. Ask questions, make predictions and watch your decision-making benefit from the process.

Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at