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4 Questions to Help You Get Unstuck

career & business leadership & impact mind & meaning Jul 31, 2020

What do you do when faced with tough decisions?

Many of us feel worried, anxious, overwhelmed, or sometimes even paralyzed because we imagine what might happen if things don't work out as planned.

On the one hand, we'd like to commit to a decision and move forward, but on the other hand, we may not feel congruent to take action. This inner conflict is especially common when navigating rapid change without sufficient guidance or certainty.

“You cannot make progress without making decisions.” - Jim Rohn

Here's a simple tool that I use with clients to uncover the potential resistance to change so you can make decisions with even more ease. It's a set of four questions, known as Cartesian Questions, that you can ask yourself to challenge your thinking, uncover limiting mindsets (beliefs), and allow you to perceive your decision from different angles for greater clarity and certainty.

The questions are as follows. The letter “X” equals the possibility that you are exploring, such as starting a business, hiring a team member, traveling, or purchasing a home.

1. What will happen if I do ‘X’?

This first question helps you brainstorm what you expect will (or might) happen if you move forward with an intention. For example, starting a business can lead to higher income potential, flexible lifestyle, decision-making authority, and the ability to pursue an idea or follow one’s passion. On the flip side, the person might have to invest their savings to launch the business, which can be risky. Give yourself time to explore all the possible responses to this question.

2. What won’t happen I do ‘X’?

This question clarifies those things that you believe will (or might) not happen if you follow through with the possibility. It is a powerful question because it uncovers the perceived losses, which might not otherwise be conscious. This is important because the perception of a potential threat or danger could lead to self-sabotage. By becoming aware of these underlying thoughts, you can choose to shift those thought patterns into more empowering mindsets. For instance, in the example of starting a business, a person might believe that starting a business will lead to not having enough time with their family or to invest in their health. On the flip side, they will not have to continue with their current situation or wonder “what if?.” You get the idea.

3. What will happen if I don’t do ‘X’?

Asking this question often leads to an emotional response because it requires us to perceive our future reality as if nothing changes (i.e., if we maintain the status quo). you get to examine the truth of the situation. There will be negatives and positives. For instance, in the example of starting a business, not taking an action might lead to a feeling of dissatisfaction or “giving up”. On the other hand, this question could also invite us to consider new options that we had not yet considered, such as creating a transition plan to set us up for success. The important thing here is simply to capture all of your responses without needing to make sense of them yet. Allow yourself to imagine the possibilities.

4. What won’t happen if I don’t do ‘X’?

This question requires you to consider what won’t happen if you stick with the status quo. It can be a bit confusing because it is a double negative and might appear to invite the same responses as the first question. However, exploring possibilities from this unique angle can lead to ideas that you had not previously thought of.

As you explore your responses, consider the possibility that the potential upside/downside will actually occur, and come up with ways to mitigate the potential risks. Then, select the option that provides you with the greatest amount of certainty so that you can feel the highest degree of safety.

This is a fantastic tool to use with others at work or in your personal life to facilitate problem-solving and invite people to think beyond their self-imposed mental boundaries.

Now it’s your turn! I challenge you to reflect on a decision that you wish to make and put it through the Cartesian Questions to gain even more clarity and alignment.


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