The Robinson Method: 4 questions I ask myself before I make a choice

It’s been several years now since I identified the four questions I ask myself before I make a choice. I call this process the Robinson Method (patent pending 🙂 ). [For those of you who want to correct me by saying, Wait, thought methods can’t be patented- yes, I know that thought methods cannot be patented. That was a joke. Now I’ve had to explain it to you. Now it’s not funny anymore. You’ve ruined my joke. What kind of person are you to go around ruining other people’s jokes?]

Robinson Method

Third Animaker video, introducing the Robinson method, patent pending. Animated Video created using Animaker – Method used to make choices.

I’ve always asked myself these questions, but I didn’t realize the process was so well defined in my brain until I described it to a friend of mine. (Sometimes I even draw diagrams. Nerd.) I always knew that highly technical techniques could be used for more intimate purposes, but it didn’t really dawn on me that I had been doing just that until the conversation with my friend. People are weird. People includes me.

Asking myself these questions has allowed me to avoid regrets. These four questions allow me to be completely honest with myself, and, once the choice is made, live with the consequences. Later, I can be confident that at the time I made the choice, I made the best choice possible with the information available to me.

The below is also cleverly animated in the above video.

  1. What CAN I do?

This question is quite literal. I’m asking myself what CAN I do regarding the choice. There are lots of things I CAN do. Not all of them are legal in this country. Or moral, regardless of religious or philosophical framework. Or ethical, no matter the industry or political framework. Or possible in this known universe. But they are on the table when talking about what CAN be done. I do not forget to consider the consequences of what CAN be done.

2. What SHOULD I do?

This question causes me to acknowledge moral, ethical, economical, and physical limitations regarding the choice. This, of course, assumes that I can acknowledge reality, the laws of the known universe, try to remain objective, and do not balk at logical derivatives. I must also have contextual knowledge, which I will use to measure benefits, costs, and risks. I must be willing to concede that some things are true, correct, unable to be proved/unproved, or simply the outcome of a defined algorithm or mathematical calculation, even if I don’t like it. I do not forget to consider the consequences (positive or negative) of the limitations.

3. What do I WANT to do?

Ah. Here’s where honesty and self-awareness is called for. It’s pretty easy at this point, because there’s no one around to criticize me in my own head but me. I don’t beat myself up for being honest about what I want, because want is based in emotion. Of course, I believe there is nothing wrong with honestly acknowledging emotions. Feelings are just feelings until they are used as support for a subsequent action. The influence of feelings must always be considered.

4. What do I CHOOSE to do?

This is where the rubber meets the road. After exploring possibilities, limitations, and emotions, here is where I CHOOSE what action to take. Here is where I also accept the consequences of said action.

Now, let’s go through the Robinson method with a simple example.

Example: I’m hungry. Maybe I’ll have a PB&J?

  1. I CAN make a PB&J.
    • I have hands that possess the motor skills necessary to make a PB&J. A plate. Utensils. All the ingredients. I know the order in which to put the ingredients together to make a PB&J.
    • I CAN also not make a PB&J, and not eat anything.
    • I CAN make something different.
  2. I SHOULD make a PB&J.
    • I am not allergic to PB&J. PB&J is filling and will satisfy my hunger. I also have all the ingredients to make a PB&J, and don’t have to spend any money to feed myself. I’m hungry right now, and PB&J is quickly made. My PB is all natural with no sugar added, and my J is made from organic, pesticide free fruit, so I don’t have any ethical environmental concerns about consuming PB&J.
    • I SHOULD eat something, because going without eating is unhealthy. I want to be healthy, so that removes the not eating option from the list. Besides, PB&J is a fairly nutritious. Also, if I don’t eat anything, I will continue to be hungry.
    • If I make something different, I’m not sure what I would make at this time. I also may not have all of the ingredients needed to make a different option. The fact that I’m really hungry right now reoccurs to me. It could take a long time to make something different, because I haven’t identified what else I might want to make, and so I cannot estimate the time needed to make it.
  3.  I WANT to make a PB&J.
    • I like PB&J. I feel like eating PB&J. I’m craving PB&J. I’m already mentally committed to a PB&J, and changing at this point could cause me some anguish. I don’t feel like experiencing anguish at this time, so that removes the make something different option from the list.
  4. I CHOOSE to make a PB&J. This is the only option left to me after the other two options were removed. I accept that once the PB&J is made, I will have fewer ingredients with which to make another PB&J or any other dish that shares the same ingredients as PB&J. I accept that I will have to wash some dishes. I accept that I will no longer be hungry after eating the PB&J.

The answer to the four questions posed by the Robinson Method can vary from person to person depending on the context, but the important thing is to bring reasons, assumptions, rationalizations, and logic to light so that choices are made sensibly, and not arbitrarily.

Do you have a defined process that you use to make choices? #GetPEOPLE.

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