IIt’s a new year, which means a set of new resolutions and a promise to finally make decisions about the tough calls you’re facing in your career. To do this, you’re probably jotting down a bunch of unmissable goals and lists of pros and cons to figure out whether or not to jump into a new job or quit and start that business you’ve always envisioned.


Decision-making expert Annie Duke says goals and resolutions need an outcome or “unless,” and a list of pros and cons is a “bias amplifier”; one that allows you to determine which option is best when building the list and weight different factors equally even when they are not. A toxic boss, for example, should carry far more weight than whether or not your current job gives you access to on-site brew taps.

“Once we start thinking about something, we’ve usually already made a decision. So if you want to do it, you’ll have a lot of upside, and if you don’t want to do it, you’ll have a lot of downside,” said Duke, the author of Quitting: The Power of Knowing When to Walk Away and a former professional poker player who is a decision science-focused “special partner” at venture capital fund First Round Capital Partners.

“The other problem is that [pro and cons lists] do not really express the magnitude. How bad is the thing or how good is the thing? »

Duke spoke with Forbes last month for a subscribers-only session where she talked about using helpful decision frameworks, getting a “quit coach” to meet your commitments, and developing “kill criteria” to look for factors that could help you know if a decision is right or it’s time to quit.

“What you want to think about is, what are the things that I enjoy? How much do I value time? How much do I value money? How much do I value fulfillment at work? said Duke. “Then you have to make a forecast, basically: ask [yourself] what thing is going to make me achieve the things I value at a price I’m willing to bear.

Rather than a list of pros and cons, Duke suggested people make this prediction by imagining, say, how you think you’ll feel a year from now. “Where are you happiest? I think that’s really the best way to think about it. You’re just going to fool yourself with a list of pros and cons that you’ve somehow uncovered some sort of truth. Most of the time, what you will discover is your own bias.

When trying to make decisions about change, people are usually biased against change, she says, due to the concept of loss aversion. “We are very tolerant of these losses due to the status quo, so we have to recognize that and we have to take a step back and consider this as a new decision,” Duke said. “One of the best ways to do that is to project yourself forward.”

After making this projection, Duke suggests developing “elimination criteria” – asking yourself what wouldn’t make you stay in the situation, and the signals that would tell you it’s time to leave – as well as a “letting go coach” to help plan your exit. It “could be a mentor, it could be a colleague, it could be a friend, it could be a therapist – someone who has your long-term best interests at heart.

Duke also had recommendations for people setting goals or making New Year’s resolutions for the year ahead. Too often, people fall prey to a cognitive phenomenon that behavioral economist Richard Thaler has spoken about so eloquently, Duke said. People don’t like to “close mental accounts of losses,” she says, or stop short of some kind of end point that we’re trying to reach.

“We have a loss on paper. And if we “close the account” – in other words, we stop running or we sell the shares or we quit our job, whatever it is – then we must now take that loss on paper and turn it into a realized loss. ”

She says the cognitive phenomenon “makes goals very successful in nature.” If you run a marathon and get hurt at mile 13, you feel like you’ve failed if you don’t make it to mile 26, even though a half marathon would have been a feat. If you climb Mount Everest and stray 300 feet from the summit but have to turn back for the weather, you might feel like you’ve failed, even though going that far is impressive. “That’s part of the reason a lot of people died up there, because they continued to the top in conditions they shouldn’t have. They don’t want to close the mental accounts of the losses. “, she says.

Instead, when setting goals or resolutions, be sure to include the word “unless”. I will finish this marathon unless I get hurt. I will get this promotion unless my boss expects me to do things that are notnot ethics. “I think we have a hunch that if you have a back-up plan, you won’t try so hard. But this is not true. … It’s not like you’re just going to quit willy-nilly because we’re not really wired that way. This is the thing we have to remember: we are always going to want to achieve this. It’s just going to keep us from achieving it when we have a broken leg.

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