How to increase the probability of improving any situation you may be in

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To start off, let me spout some terminology that will help decipher the framework that I am going to describe here.

With any situation, there are 3 key elements – in my opinion:

  • The worst that can happen [TWTCH] in the situation
  • Best outcome for you [BOFY]
  • Worst outcome for you [WOFY]
  • If TWTCH is better than or equal to BOFY, stop worrying about the situation
  • If TWTCH is in between BOFY and WOFY, you should try force it as close to your BOFY as possible
  • IF TWTCH is worse than your WOFY, you should do your best to force it as much as you can toward your BOFY, so that at least it ends up somewhere between your BOFY and WOFY

If you find that TWTCH is the only possible outcome [OPO], then also, do not waste any time trying to outwit it. Your time would be better spent coming up with ways to cope following TWTCH.

Examples of TWTCH [better than / same as] BOFY situation

  1. Car broke down on the way to work
  2. BOFY – You get to where you want to, with only a short delay
  3. TWTCH – You get to where you want to, with only a short delay [because you have a membership with a breakdown assistance service]
  • You have a chest infection
  • BOFY – You are treated by a doctor that you choose
  • TWTCH – You are treated by a doctor that you choose [because you have an insurance policy that lets you pick your doctor]
  • You are trying to get admitted to a highly ranked university
  • BOFY – You get admitted
  • TWTCH – You get admitted [because you have the grades, test score and references needed]

If you look at these examples closely, you will realize that TWTCH > = BOFY is only when you have taken the trouble to be prepared for the situation. 

In all other situations, it is highly likely that TWTCH lies between BOFY and WOFY or even beyond WOFY.

How you manage these situations is totally dependent on your ability to Keep Calm and Move On! But surely, you should always try to move the needle from TWTCH toward your BOFY, at any cost, since even a small movement could mean a great deal less grief.

Examples [TWTCH lies between BOFY and WOFY or even beyond WOFY]:

  1. Car broke down on the way to work
  2. BOFY – You get to where you want to, with only a short delay
  3. TWTCH – You get to where you want to, after a very long delay [because you do not have a membership with a breakdown assistance service]

What do you do in this situation? You need to think of your options and list them in your mind.

But how much time do you have to mull over the options? If you think for 30 minutes, you have already lost precious time. You could devote 5 minutes to think of the options and another 5 to mull over them.

Likely options in this situation:

  1. Call your wife / partner / significant other, and ask to be picked up
  2. Call the towing company
  3. Call your neighbourhood garage and ask for assistance
  4. Call your close friend and ask to be picked up
  5. Check with any friend who may have a roadside assistance membership that goes with him / her, and not with his / her car, and then ask if they would come over and act as passenger in your car when the roadside assistance arrives!
  6. Lock your car, leave it there and call Uber, hoping that the cops don’t tow it before you can get back with assistance

Ok, you cannot spend more than 5 minutes thinking of the options since you need to now think each option through carefully and see where it lies in your BOFY – WOFY spectrum. For some, option (a) would be the closest one to BOFY. Option (b) may be the closest to BOFY for many others. Option (c) would be closest to BOFY for the extroverts out there who care to chat with the neighbourhood mechanic once in a while. Option (d) would work for many of us who have at least one friend who could be called upon in a time of need. Option (e) would be close to BOFY or even better if you happen to have a friend who would do anything for you. Option (f) is likely the only option close to BOFY, for those of us who like me, never care to network and live within a shell most of the time. 

But the key thing here is to think of quite a few options that may be possible in this situation. An option not mulled over might be a road untrodden, and an outcome closer to your TWTCH. So, when you are in a situation like this, tell yourself / prod yourself, to list out as many options as possible in the time frame you have left. The more you think, the more time it takes you. The more time that has elapsed, the closer you are to TWTCH [which in this case is just ‘You get to where you want to after a very long delay’].

  • You have a chest infection
  • BOFY – You are treated by a doctor that you choose
  • TWTCH – You get treated by a doctor that you do not feel confident in [because you do not have an insurance policy that lets you pick your doctor]

Here, you have a situation that you will need to attack with a very different strategy. Your WOFY is a chest infection that does not resolve even after treatment and your TWTCH could be a lot worse…………

In this type of a situation, you have only one option. You need to arm yourself with information – as much as you can get in a short period of time, because a delay in going to a doctor can be catastrophic. Use any of the credible consumer focused websites on health and try to understand the reasons for why you may have gotten the infection, and what is usually done in such a situation. And when you are at the doctor’s, ask questions as much as time permits – What is the diagnosis? What are the reasons the doctor has to support the diagnosis? Why is a certain drug being prescribed? By asking these questions, and hearing the answers from the doctor, you will develop confidence in the doctor. And most of the time, you will also feel good that what you are being prescribed is what is usually given to people with a similar illness. This may not always work, especially if the doctor is not straightforward with responses or is not the type that likes being asked too many questions. But as long as it works, you come back home much less anxious.

  • You are trying to get admitted to a highly ranked university
  • BOFY – You get admitted
  • TWTCH – You do not get admitted [because you do not have the grades, or the test scores or the references needed]

This is a situation where you have the liberty of time to think of your options, evaluate each of them in depth, and make a decision that delivers an outcome as close as possible to your BOFY. This is also a situation where, to arrive at a list of good options, you will need to do research [online, talk to others who have done it before, talk to admissions officers etc. etc.].

Example options could be:

  1. Apply to universities that may not be highly ranked but do a good job of placing their graduates in jobs, where your chances of getting in are higher
  2. Work for a year, take the test again, get a better score, then apply again
  3. Apply for a less competitive major in the same university for which you stand a reasonable chance of getting admitted with your current grades, test score and references. 

Option (a) might be a great one if your original BOFY was driven by the need to be in a job as soon as you graduate – you would now bring the outcome closer to your original BOFY, with a bit of a modification. Option (b) would suit someone who is hellbent on getting into the specific university and the desired major itself, but could prove risky since there is a dependency on getting a good test score when you repeat. However, this does give you an opportunity to move your TWTCH closer to your BOFY. Option (c) could be a cool option for someone who just wants to get into the highly ranked university and is willing to be flexible with what they want to study.

In a nutshell:

With any situation you happen to be in, the key driver of how to approach it, is the time you have left before the TWTCH becomes reality for you. In short time frames [as when your car breaks down], you should get your mind to spit out options quickly, and then mull over each quickly as well. It is fine to feel that you may have missed out on some options because if you had never thought of options, then you would have missed out on all of them other than what you acted on. If your timeframe is longer [as with getting admitted to a highly ranked university], collecting more information over a longer period of time and then developing your options would be the way forward. Here you will have more time to think each option over and make an informed decision. If your situation is like with a chest infection, where you are limited to what you can potentially do because of your circumstance [health insurance allowing only a specific Primary Care Physician to be seen], and there is a time element also involved, you can make the best of the situation by doing some research online [only credible websites please!], and then asking questions at the end of your doctor appointment. 

I have only tried to present a somewhat easier way to analyse situations that you may get into, using a simple, quick to use and productive framework for making decisions. TWTCH, BOFY and WOFY are what have helped me a lot in life, and hope that they may help you as well. The examples I used to illustrate the framework are only a small subset of all those bewildering situations that you may encounter in life. I will be adding new situations and workarounds in the future.

And lastly, feel free to post situations that you may need help with, and I will answer them as soon as I can.

Warning: The stuff I write is not supported by research. I may have been influenced by what I read, though there is no intent to plagiarize. 

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