I was having an interesting conversation with someone a few days ago. We were talking about an issue he was having that, from my perspective, seemed to only have one real answer. Me being me, however, I threw out 3 possible scenarios of things that could be done, thinking that one of them was so weak that it would get thrown out immediately.

To my surprise, that was the one he really wanted to do. Okay, he was saying he wanted to do it, but as soon as he selected it, he had already started talking more about the issue, and it was contrary to this position he said he really wanted to take.

Then I asked the most important question at the time. I asked him what the pay off was for his wanting to go that route. He didn't understand the question so I went at it like this. Dr. Phil will sometimes have someone on his show who's putting up with a lot of abuse in some fashion. When they can't really explain why they're still putting up with the abuse, he'll stop and ask them that question, saying they have to be getting something out of it to keep them in it.

When it comes to abuse, and it's women, they'll usually fall back on something like "because I love him", but Dr. Phil doesn't buy that one. Instead, he usually figures it's one of a few things, and he throws it at them: Do they like the attention, is it that they like or worry about being taken care of, or are they afraid of the guy because he might try something drastic if they leave. That's happened once on the show, where this guy with an obsessive love complex basically lost his mind, even while dealing with Dr. Phil, and had to be arrested.

Luckily, most of the time it's not quite that bad, otherwise they probably would be in court or the morgue rather than on Dr. Phil. However, the point is that every person has to figure out what the pay off is for whatever actions they decide to take, and then determine if the pay off is higher than taking a different action, especially a more positive action.

This applies in both a person's personal and professional life. In business dealings, one has to think about which action to take and decide which one will give the best pay off. Managers and leaders also have to do this, but instead of just looking at monetary pay off, they need to look at the best pay off for those who they're responsible for.

What will your pay off be with the next decision you make?