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A Sure-fire Way to Get Out of Any Lose-Lose Situation

You may have heard of something called a “win-win situation”. That’s when, no matter what choice you make, the result is favourable. The opposite to that is a “lose-lose situation”, where no matter what you do, the outcome kinda sucks.

There are many words and expressions that describe this sort of problem:  Catch-22; double bind; stand-off; conundrum; quandary; Pyrrhic victory; Hobson’s choice; damned if you do, damned if you don’t; making a deal with the Devil; having to choose between the lesser of two evils; being between a rock and a hard place; and being on the horns of a dilemma.

So the question is: how does one win in a no-win situation? It’s sounds paradoxical, but I can assure you it is possible. And that’s what this whole article is about. If you’ve watched my video about taking action to change any negative situation and you’d like to learn how to do this for yourself, you’ve come to the right place.

If you haven’t watched the video yet, here it is below. In it, I explain exactly how you can cause deliberate changes to any event in your life. Once you’ve watched the video, read the rest of this article to discover how to get out of any lose-lose situation.

Before I continue, I’d like to make some disclaimers. I have deliberately used the words “get out of a lose-lose situation” instead of “win a no-win situation”, because escaping the problem doesn’t necessarily mean you emerge victorious in the traditional sense. It simply means you achieve a sort of transcendence over the negative state, and it no longer impacts you in an undesirable way. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the things you can do when you’re stuck in a tight spot.

Title Icon: generally speaking you only ever have 3 options to choose from

  • you could change nothing (i.e. you just carry on and hope things change on their own)
  • you could change the way you physically respond to the situation (i.e. your actions)
  • you could change the way you mentally respond to the situation (i.e. your perception of what it all means and how it affects you)

Title Icon: option #1

Door number one is sort of a non-option, given it leaves you mired in your predicament without helping you feel any better. It involves no agency on your part, as any changes that might happen will be completely out of your control. It’s definitely not ideal, but most people tend to default to this option out of fear and habit. It’s based on the idea that it’s best to go with the devil you know rather than the devil you don’t, because the familiarity makes it feel safer. In reality, it’s not helping you at all. You’re just burying your head in the sand.

Title Icon: option #1.2

Another form of taking the ostrich view, which sometimes gets confused with option number two, is to simply refuse to comply with either of the two unacceptable options presented to you. By distancing yourself and hoping the problem doesn’t follow you – technically – you get out of the “lose-lose situation”. But most of the time the problem will remain until you actually do something to address it. So just because you are taking a different course of action to what you were previously doing, don’t convince yourself that you’re actually doing something helpful when all you’re really doing is hiding from your problems.  

Title Icon: option #2

A more effective way of tackling option number two would be to learn the art of Choice Expansion. The main reason some of us think we don’t have options is that we aren’t always aware of all the different Choice Points (i.e. the moments in time where decisions need to be made) that we encounter throughout our day. Sometimes we don’t even realize that a choice is being made while it’s happening, because we’re running on auto-pilot. And on the rare occasion that we recognize a Choice Point for what it is, we seldom slow down enough to think through our options properly.

Choice Expansion is the solution to this problem. It’s the practise of expanding the number of options available to you by focusing on the Choice Point, imagining alternatives and considering the likely outcomes of each path. To practise Choice Expansion, you must first become more mindfully aware of the choices that present themselves to you and then get used to slowing down your thought process, so you can carefully think through your options. To develop your awareness, practise mindfulness (click here for more detailed instructions on how to be mindful). Mindfulness will allow you to always be cognisant of every choice as you are making it.

Another great way to start recognizing your Choice Points is to try to remember all the choices you made at the end of each day. Ask yourself what you intended to happen when you made those choices and if the results produced were the ones you expected. Then pick the three most important Choice Points of your day and think of at least three different choices you could have made for each one. Imagine actually having made those choices and taking actions based on them. Try to play out how things might have been different in each situation. Imagine the likely outcomes for each choice and picture yourself experiencing them in full detail. Test your results in this imaginary world, so you can see which is the most viable option.

This will slowly open your eyes to every choice that is available to you in any moment that you need to make a decision. After some practise, you will be able to notice your choices and make them in real time. With time, your acuity for sizing up choices will improve and so will your ability to predict outcomes. After a while, you will be so good at it that you will be able to make a choice and watch the outcomes unfold exactly as you imagined them.

Here are some questions to consider when thinking about each option:

  • What is the probable outcome of this choice?
  • What outcomes are highly unlikely?
  • What are the likely outcomes of not choosing this one?
  • What would be the outcome of doing the exact opposite?

Make sure to think in terms of both long-term and short-term outcomes – as well as broadening your thinking to include negative outcomes as well as positive ones.

Another thing that will make it easier to see your way out of a lose-lose situation is to be crystal clear when it comes to what your core values are. An easy way to consider what is most important to you in the specific situation you’re in is to ask yourself “why” five times. By asking this over and over again, narrowing it down each time, you will eventually determine whether a choice you’re considering is in line with your values or not.


  • Why should I take this job? – Because it offers me a chance to grow in my field.
  • Why is that important? – Because I want to build a career instead of just having a job.
  • Why do you want a career? – Because I want to be respected in the field.
  • Why do you want to be respected? – Because then I will deserve to be loved.
  • Why do you want to be loved? – Because that’s what’s most important in life.

So this line of questioning has revealed that love is this person’s main core value. Respect is a close second and personal growth comes third. Notice that you sometimes have to change how you ask the “why” questions to keep the focus pointed inward (about you and how you feel) rather than outward (about irrelevant external factors). It wouldn’t do any good to ask “Why does this job offer me a chance to grow?” since the important thing is that it does. Why it does is irrelevant.

If you’d like to prioritize your values in general, take this online test. Once you’ve sorted them out, it will make decisions much easier and you’ll be more likely to know how to handle lose-lose situations, because you’ll have more clarity when it comes to what matters most to you and why.

Title Icon: option #3

So now let’s assume that you’re obligated to choose one of the unsatisfactory alternatives offered to you. Avoiding or exiting from the situation just isn’t an option. An example would be hating your job, but needing to hold onto it to stay afloat financially. In this scenario, the only practicable option is to satisfice (be satisfied with what will simply suffice). Say you have a family to support, the market at the moment isn’t that great for someone with your qualifications and you’ve already done everything you possibly can to make the situation better for yourself.

So now you’re faced with the decision to either stay at the job you hate and be miserable, or to quit and face financial ruin. In this situation, your only real option is to stay put. To do nothing and carry on as usual. But as we said at the beginning of this article, doing nothing doesn’t help. So the only way you can “win” is to change your perspective of the situation. This doesn’t mean you have to try to be happy with your current position. It means that you can put a more constructive spin on things by altering your self-talk in the following way:

“I choose to stay where I am right now because, realistically, there just aren’t any good alternatives. I could quit, but that would lead to much greater hardship than what I’m dealing with now. So I resolve to stop seeing myself as a victim, because I’m consciously choosing to stay where I am. I’m not being exploited. I am the one exploiting this position so that I can support my family as I continue to explore ways of eventually getting out of this mess. And every time this job starts to get to me, I’ll remind myself that every option I’ve looked at is actually worse. In other words, I refuse to see myself as a victim, and I’m not going to let myself get bitter about this.”

Instead of wallowing in self-pity and feeling like a victim, cultivate an attitude of acceptance and self-determination. This is not the same as resignation, which leads to resentment and internal tension. You’re not merely giving up and putting up with the situation. You’re simply recognizing that you have done all you can to handle your unchangeable situation and this attitudinal shift will help you adopt an outlook that positively addresses whatever challenging situation you’re confronted with by keeping you happy, calm and sane. That way, instead of feeling defeated and put down by this battle that can’t be won and by consciously choosing not to indulge in the negative self-talk that comes to mind, you’ll save your energy for future battles that can be won.

The steps to take when choosing to change the way you see the situation are as follows:

Title Icon: Accept the situation

How you feel about it or why it happened isn’t important. What’s important is that you recognize where you are and what your options are from here on out. Wallowing in self-pity won’t help. What will help is taking stock of the situation and gathering all the necessary information. Don’t resist the situation or pretend it’s not happening. Ignoring the facts won’t help you. Whether or not it’s fair doesn’t matter. There is no particular way things “should” be. Just because you planned and did everything right doesn’t mean the universe owes you anything. getting angry at the world will just make things worse.

Title Icon: take responsibility

When you feel as though it’s not your choice to make, and that someone is pressuring you into this situation, even positive outcomes can seem negative. So take responsibility for your choices. Recognize that you have the power to choose between them and this can make even failure feel like success, because you’ll know you did your best with what you had at your disposal and that you gained valuable experience you can put to use next time. Don’t wait for your feelings to change to take action. Take action and your feelings will change.

Title Icon: Focus on the lesson

Sometimes all you have to gain from a lose-lose situation is the lesson it’s teaching you. Sometimes you just have to submit and accept one of the two options. But if you at least learn something it will give you a sort of consolation prize that you can use to try to keep yourself into this sort of situation next time around. Focus on all the ways change can be positive and it will be. Remember it might be a blessing in disguise, but that won’t be revealed until later down the track.

Title Icon: course-correct as you go

You can always continue from this new place and start towards where you were initially going. When something throws you off track, get back on the road. Rewrite the map. Reassess your destination.


Try out these tips and if you’re still finding this advice hard to implement, ask for help in the comments below, send me a message, or book a FREE breakthrough session to see how I can help you through Skype.

You can find more Happiness Strategy videos on my YouTube channel, so subscribe to make sure you never miss an episode! I come out with a new one every single Sunday.

Until next time, remember: Happiness doesn’t require energy. It requires Strategy.

22 Responsesso far.

  1. Nigel Fearn says:

    Track back to how the situation arose ?

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