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I am building up quite a collection of books by Michael Waters! Having already reviewed ‘Becoming Guise-Wise‘ and ‘The Power of Surge‘, today I am reviewing his newest book, ‘Should I, Shouldn’t I – The best and easiest way to make a big, scary decision’.
Michael Waters is “a consultant, trainer, coach, author, conference speaker and, above all, an original thinker who has pioneered wholly new inter-disciplinary areas of study and practice.” (quoted from ‘Should I, Shouldn’t I’) What I like about Michael Waters is his originality within the personal development field. He brings his own new and unique (yet well-researched) ideas to the table rather than paraphrasing ideas that were already around. Therefore I was excited to read his newest book and see what wisdom he would impart this time.
What is ‘Should I, Shouldn’t I’ about?
As the title and catchphrase suggest, ‘Should I, Shouldn’t I’ is a book all about how to make decisions, in better, easier ways.
There are two main strategies laid out in this book. One that is targeted for small, unimportant decisions, and another for handling those that are big and potentially life-changing. I will give a very basic summary of each.
FOTS stands for ‘first one that satisfies’. This strategy can work for any decision, however big or small, but generally you might want to use it for smaller decisions. With FOTS, you go through the possible options and go with the first one that is ‘good enough’ i.e. satisfies all your criteria. Michael Waters gives the example of choosing a greeting card. Using FOTS, you’d pick the first one you see that is suitable. The idea of FOTS is that it saves you a lot of time because you are not deliberating between different options when really, any one of them would do just fine.
An important point with FOTS is not to look back over the possible options you might have missed, after making your decision. This would cancel out the time you saved and also create a risk of regretting your decision if you see that there was something better. Whereas, if you don’t look, you will never know what you missed, so it can’t hurt you.
The Balance Method
Michael Waters leads up to the other strategy by describing the method that most of us already use for making decisions, and explaining why it rarely works. He calls it ‘The Balance Method’ and it involves listing and weighing up the pros and cons of each option. This probably sounds familiar to you and it’s certainly been my go-to method for making decisions in the past!
Michael Waters asserts that the problem with the balance method is that we will tend to keep on finding new pros and cons, and tipping the balance one way and then the other in an endless cycle. It’s also difficult to know just how much weight to assign to each individual pro and con. Even if we do arrive at a decision, often it doesn’t feel right because the balance method ignores our intuitive sense of what the right decision is.
The heart of the book is the idea of ‘Killer Questions’ as a strategy for making big, complicated, important decisions. Ultimately, a Killer Question is the one, most important question you need to ask yourself in order to make a confident and certain decision. A Killer Question will often have a yes/no answer and it’s very clear cut. The difficult part is to find the right question, but Michael Waters takes you through the whole process of formulating a Killer Question, from start to finish. Once you’ve found the right question, the decision becomes easy.
I could perhaps have predicted that the main strategy would involve a question, having read ‘Becoming Guise-Wise‘ where Michael Waters introduces a similar strategy of ‘obsessive questions’ for achieving different purposes. Some form of questioning often seems to feature strongly in Michael Waters’ solutions to life’s problems.
Even when you’ve found your Killer Question and made your decision, that doesn’t mean that implementing the decision will be easy. Making a decision is just the start of the process. You must accept that there may be hard times and big changes ahead as a result of the decision. But having committed with certainty to your decision it will be easier to go through these because you will believe you are doing the right thing.
What is the book like to read?
‘Should I, Shouldn’t I’ is written in easy-to-understand language, without jargon. It is short, readable and gets straight to the point. It is not too repetitive – only enough to get the main ideas to stick. It also has a lot of examples to illustrate the ideas and make them easier to understand.
I like that the book is short – there is not too much to take in. Really, there are just two main strategies to take away from this book. On top of that, there are supplemental techniques and useful information for particular scenarios, but you only really need to take in what’s relevant for you.
Will this book help me make decisions?
I think I am quite bad at making decisions, especially big ones. With smaller decisions, I often use methods such as using a random number generator to choose for me, which takes the decision-making away. This doesn’t work so well for big decisions. I was somewhat sceptical yet hopeful that this book would help me to improve my decision-making.
I think the FOTS strategy will be useful for me. I can relate to the example given in the book of a lady who is taking ages to decide between two greeting cards. I often do the same! I think I would find it difficult to resist the temptation to look back over the other options I’ve missed, especially if I used FOTS for larger decisions. However, I do agree that it is an efficient, time-saving decision-making tool, and I have already been trying it out on some small decisions.
Michael Waters’ criticisms of the Balance Method were eye-opening to me. It feels like a logical way to make decisions, but when you look closer, it really is ineffective! The Killer Question strategy is something completely new to me and I would have never thought of making decisions that way. However, it makes a lot of sense and I can see how it would be more effective than the ‘balance method’. At the moment, I somewhat doubt my ability to find the right Killer Question, but I expect it’s just something that takes practice.
This book has certainly clarified to me what are good and bad ways of making decisions, and shown me some practical ways to make decisions more easily. I’ve also learned that I struggle with actually following through after I’ve made a decision. But by using the strategies in this book to come to a firm and confident decision, it will be easier to follow through as I will be sure that I’m on the right path.
Michael Waters addresses that even if you’ve made a decision, you don’t necessarily have the agency to act – that’s a whole different matter. Implementing your decision may be a long-term process rather than an immediate change. However, there are usually still small things you can do to act on your decision right away and pave the way for bigger changes. For example, raising funds or having a clear-out. This resonated with me and will help me to take action on some decisions I have already made but I am limited by my circumstances.
Would I recommend ‘Should I, Shouldn’t I’?
Most of us struggle to make decisions, to some extent. If that’s true for you, I’d recommend this book. It’s a short and easy read and it’s very practical – full of strategies and minimal theory. Even if you only take away one strategy, implementing it could save you a lot of time and angst in the long run.
‘Should I, Shouldn’t I’ is available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle format.
I’d like to thank Michael Waters for the opportunity to read ‘Should I, Shouldn’t I’. I look forward to seeing what he will publish next!