No Solutions?

In a YouTube video (opens in a new link), noted economist Thomas Sowell stated that there are no solutions …only tradeoffs. Is that a defeatist attitude? Or is it a more realistic view of the challenges we face?

In some respect, this may seem a matter of semantics. We naturally think, and talk, in terms of solutions. Upon further investigation we realize that the “solution” we chose was based on the tradeoffs that were most palatable to us. This aligns well with a concept we’ve discussed in earlier posts: nothing is all good or all bad. 

Often what we bemoan as misfortune ends up being one of the best things that happened to us. I recall being shocked and dismayed over my firing at the last corporate position I held. That “misfortune” led to an opportunity that enabled me to enjoy the freedom to choose the work I perform, the hours I work and the compensation that I receive for my efforts. It’s a life I enjoy immensely; it suits my nature well.

This discussion leads us to an examination of how we choose which tradeoffs to make. There are essentially two methods: objective analysis and emotional reaction. Let’s see which produces the better result. You can already see where this is headed can’t you?


Recall times in which you consciously weighed the alternatives available to you. What results did you get. Were you happy with the results? If not, was it easier for you to make a new choice based on the information you gained from the result of your earlier choice?

How about when you made your choice based on raw emotion…without having weighed the alternatives or even being aware that these alternatives existed? How happy were you with the outcome? Were you ever happy with the outcome? If not, did it alter the approach you used in making a new choice? In other words, did you use objective analysis in your subsequent choice?

My experience has been that when I use objective analysis to identify and weigh alternatives available to me, I get better results and am happier with the outcome. My success in using this approach increases the likelihood that I’ll use it again and again when searching for “solutions.”

For you

When faced with a problem:

  • Remind yourself that there are no solutions…only tradeoffs.
  • Allow your emotional reaction to subside, then explore alternative approaches to dealing with the problem.
  • Once you’ve identified the alternatives, weigh the pros and cons of each to determine which will provide the most palatable tradeoffs for you.

By removing emotion from your decision-making process, you’ll be happier with your choice, enjoy better results and enhance the confidence you possess. That’s a lot of benefit from a simple exercise.

For our kids

Help kids understand that there are no solutions to problems. Instead there are tradeoffs to be made in dealing with every situation. Then teach them how to evaluate the tradeoffs objectively and consciously so that they are able to avoid the pitfalls of emotional decisions. In doing so, you’ll better equip them to deal with whatever life presents.

Let others know that you love them by sharing this blog post. They’ll appreciate that you care.

I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share your thoughts in a comment.

If you’d like to enjoy great confidence, check out our Confidence Self-Study programs (opens in a new link). 

If you’d like to enrich the lives of others by teaching them to be more confident, check out our Teaching Confidence Instructor Certification program (opens in a new link).

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