Do you hear yourself often asking: “What if there are no alternatives?” Or even worse: “What alternatives do I have?“
These are common questions. For a lot of people.
It is common, especially when people want to find alternative solutions to a problem that they want to solve. Or simply if they are frustrated because they cannot think of any alternatives.
Apparently it is normal to ask such questions, because we human beings (at least the modern version) have the tendency to see lots of negative aspects in a given situation.
It often feels like walking around in a forest during sunset.
You don’t see a lot, so you are afraid to hit a tree or stumble over something which will break your leg.
What do you do?
Most people prefer to not move at all (and might instead complain about the situation there are in). On the other hand, to either not move at all, or to do little baby steps.
Today, I would like to share with you a great method to find those alternatives. So, to start taking those baby steps to get you out of that forest!
The good thing is it is easy to implement. The „bad“ thing is, it is not a magic formula, it requires practice. Regular practice.
So, are you ready?
I learned this method myself while I was driving in the car, or rather being stuck in the car in the biggest traffic jam Germany experienced this year, it was Friday, August 2nd and 38 degrees (Celsius) outside. I was on my way to Berlin to celebrate with my godchild her first day at school.
Anyway, I had all the time to listen intensively to the audio book “Choose Yourself!” read by the author James Altucher. He is not only a bestselling author, he is also an amazing serial entrepreneur – just to mention the obvious. He goes beyond being smart and inspiring, he is himself, and that is the best thing about him!
In his book, he taught me a great way on “How to Become an Idea Machine”.
This is the method I would like to encourage you to use to find alternatives when you are stuck. The principles are the same, the method is adapted.
The steps are rather simple.
Imagine you want to discuss with your boss that you would like to take a sabbatical break for one year, but you do not know how to tell her/him.
- Pick the your best time of the day (are you a morning or an evening person?)
- Sit down and spill out on a piece of paper all the reasons why you want to take a break (the ones that you could mention to your boss)
- Think of ten different ways of how you could start the conversation and ensure that all important reasons are being addressed
- If you think ten different ways is a lot, you are right, that is part of the steps. In case you cannot think of ten different ways, think again, longer and harder. Don’t take a break!
- When you are done, no matter how silly some of these ideas seem later, go and talk to a person close to you and ask them what they think how you could start such a conversation. Add those points to your list.
- In case you come up with another way when you are not actively thinking about it (like when you are in the shower), note it down straight afterwards before you forget.
As you might have guessed, the main purpose of this exercise is to practice, to practice your “idea muscle” as James says. The more often you do it over time, the more easily ideas will come to your mind.
Some good ones and some bad ones, but those ideas often present solutions (If not, throw them out and go for another try the next day!). Solutions to a problem. Solutions to your problems, so that you feel less stuck. So that you have alternatives, even before you call your best friend to ask them for support.
Maybe you want to start with a less critical topic to come up with alternatives, that is fine too. (Side note: Remember that when we are under pressure, we often come up with more creative ideas.)
What about alternative cat food? Ten things you would like to eat for dinner next month?
Or ten ideas to boost the sales of your brother’s shop? Anything!
Just don’t forget, always have a note pad or your smartphone with one dedicated app to take notes (I use the “Notes” app on my iPhone and then send it to myself as an email, very simple). The ideas will pop up when you have nothing to note it down, believe me. I have been there since I practice this for the last weeks. (Thank you, James, for introducing the “Idea Machine” to me!)
This works! Trust me!
In case you have not checked out the book in the meanwhile, please do so!
In fact, you can do it while you are still sitting in your chair, just click on this link to buy the Kindle version of currently $3.56 (or €2,68). This book is much better than you next drink at the coffee shop, trust me!
Do you already have a method in place to find alternative solutions? What do you do? Share below!