(Hint: You Think You Are Thinking…)

Every time I ask an audience how they go about making decisions, there is always at least one person who mentions Pro vs. Con lists. While a Pro vs. Con list can be useful in helping us see at a glance where we stand on an issue, on its own, it is not a good solution. Here is why…

First, think about what a Pro vs. Con list is. Usually, it’s a page with two columns:


On the PROS side, we list all the benefits or reasons in favor of the choice we are considering–all the “good” things we see about the decision.

On the CONS side, we list all the risks and deterrents–all the “bad” things we see about the decision.

In its essence, a Pro vs. Con list is just a regurgitation of our preconceived notions. We are listing our initial thoughts and then agreeing with ourselves. This doesn’t introduce any new information nor force us to think about things we may not have previously considered. Instead, all we have done is relabel what we believe is “good” or “bad” as a “pro” or “con.”

When the list is done, one column is usually longer than the other. At a glance, a longer list of pros means the decision is favorable, whereas a longer list of cons says steer clear of this choice.

But how do you know you have taken into consideration all relevant data? How is your present state of mind influencing your list? What is the predicted outcome of your choice? What if one “con” has a lot more importance than several of the “pros”?

There is so much that a Pro vs. Con list does not cover, which is why it is not a good enough tool to guide an important decision and why it falls into the category I call “THINKING LIGHTLY.”

Thinking Lightly is a higher level of focus than an instantaneous visceral reaction, but it is also a trap for the unwary. And almost all of us are unwary–especially when we think we are thinking (like when we do Pro vs. Con lists).

The pitfall of Thinking Lightly is that we think we are using the full power of our brains when we aren’t. Using the full power of the brain takes a lot of energy, which we naturally avoid and which can’t be done all of the time.

Instead, we defer to the path of least resistance. But the path of least resistance–one that is based on your unchallenged beliefs and nothing else, may lead you down the wrong road. When it comes to decisions that could have lasting consequences, you need to employ a better navigation system.

Pro Vs. Con lists are not the only example of Thinking Lightly. They are just one of the most common. In my upcoming blogs, I will share the key to recognizing when you are Thinking Lightly, when Thinking Lightly is fine and how shift into Thinking Deeply about a decision when necessary.