Choice vs Tension

Choice is the act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities. Tension is the state of being stretched tight. In a decision making context, this stretch is often between two ideas seemingly in conflict. A sign of great decision making is the ability to distinguish between choice vs tension.

There are many time when we need to choose between options. Picking a restaurant, credit card or car require us to choose. However, there aren’t as many situations where we need to choose as we think there are. Most decisions, especially difficult ones, require us to embrace tension rather than a choice.

Should we be push ourselves or be content?
Must we focus or should we diversify?
Should we build toward the long term or the short term?
Must we create profits or value?
Should we pursue quality or quantity?

Every one of these tough questions (and many more) is a false choice. They look like straight-forward A or B questions. But, they aren’t. Each of these are examples of natural tensions. We can’t do one of these at the expense of the other. We have to do both. So, how do we tell the difference?

A wise friend once shared – “Whenever I am faced with such a dilemma, I ask myself [very deeply] what it would take to replace OR with AND.”

We must embrace the tension.

8 thoughts on “Choice vs Tension

  1. Great post! Similar is the idea from “The Art of Possibility” where you replace ‘but’ with ‘and’.

    A silly example:
    “I want to make chili AND I don’t have any kidney beans.”
    Accept both at once.

    Another example:
    “I want to be with him AND he lives hours of driving away.”
    Accept both at once.

  2. Wise manager once said the hardest decision is choosing between two rights – I wonder how many times those two rights could have become one.

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