Make Decisions with POP

     A friend of mine became addicted to meth a few years ago. He had a rewarding career in the electric power industry, a beautiful wife, and three children. They lived the American dream, seemingly having everything they desired. I don’t know the circumstances of his addiction, but it all started with one tragic decision. He chose to try meth once, and his once-promising life is now history.    

     Have you suffered because of bad decision-making? If so, you are not alone. When I look back on my 46 years, my life is scattered with poor choices. Some affected me; some affected those that I loved. Fortunately, I’ve been able to recover from them. I have also learned how to avoid making bad decisions, or at least reduce their frequency and gravity, through an easy tool that anyone can use.

     I call this tool POP, and use this to keep my desires in check when I am forced with a difficult decision. POP helps me determine whether the choice I am faced with has Positive Outcome Potential (POP).  Now, I just ask myself ‘Does this have POP?’

     I created POP when I was trying to work through a difficult decision.  After struggling with this decision for quite a few days, I realized that the only reason for taking this action was short-term gratification. I wanted to do something badly.  However, other than the thought of how awesome it would be to make the choice I was contemplating, there was no positive outcome potential!

     The realization that this decision would result in temporary gratification, and significant negative consequences, made me think of all the major choices we make that impact our lives for nothing more than satisfying an urge.

     Have you committed adultery?  What good can come of that? Nothing! And yet it happens thousands of times every day.  If you had asked yourself whether the act would have POP, you may have saved your relationship and kept your family intact.

     Do you regret making a major purchase that has left you in debt and has really placed you in a financial bind?  Maybe you have made bad choices like this over and over in the past 5 years.  Can you get out of this hole?  Would taking a moment to ask ‘Does this purchase have POP?’ have made a difference?  If the only positive outcome of buying that boat was all the good times you could have with it, does that out-weigh the financial burden? Maybe. Only you can decide, but at least you asked the question.

     I get it. You’re thinking that POP is cheesy and a tool that easy won’t work. Well, why not? If you asked ‘Does this have POP’ each time you were confronted with a difficult decision, would it help you choose wisely?

     While POP helps give you clarity regarding your motivation and consequences, it will NOT keep you from making bad choices. Temptation and the desire for instant gratification will always exist, and we aren’t always strong enough to resist. That is the human condition after all!

     However, if you choose to use POP, and make a concerted effort to pause and ask this question every time you are faced with a choice, you are much more likely to resist temptation.  Think of the pain you could avoid!

     POP works with big and small decisions. Here are a few where POP could save the day:

-Going out with friends instead of doing homework

-Lying to spouse or boss

-Purchasing high-dollar items instead of paying bills or saving

-Unprotected sex

-Drug use


-Driving while intoxicated

-Calling in sick when not necessary

     Why does POP work? Because most of our bad choices come from spur of the moment decisions! Look again at the list above. Are any of those impulsive decisions? While some can come from deliberate thought, they ALL occur when we let our emotions get the best of us in situations where we rush to make a choice or don’t think at all. If you have committed any of the actions above, would it have made a difference if you had paused and asked whether that action had POP?

     I’m not a particularly strong person when it comes to wants and desires. I often act impulsively. If that sounds like you, put some POP in your life. When faced with a difficult decision, ask whether there is Positive Outcome Potential (POP) in the action you are contemplating. If there isn’t, run away. Fast. I wish my friend had.

Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work
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(price as of Jan 12, 2016)