SOO-SOO-SOO! I’m Afraid My SOODA Loop Is Broken and I’m Stuck, But I Can’t Decide!

Living the VUCA Life

Coronavirus has unexpectedly disrupted our lives.  The daily events that create our sense of normalcy have been quarantined until an unknown future date.  Our world is suddenly even more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA).  We are lacking in our two keys to confidence in our decision making:

  1. How much do you know about the actual situation? What’s really happening?
  2. How accurately can you predict the outcomes of your actions in the actual situation?

OODA Loop to SOODA Loop

Col. John Boyd, USAF, developed what he termed the OODA Loop decision-making model to describe gaining clarity of thinking during the fog of war.  Boyd envisioned the decision cycle consisting of Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action.  In working with my clients, I add Sensing to Boyd’s model to make the SOODA model. 

Here’s how the SOODA model works:


We sense and feel in our gut and emotions something is about to happen, change, is different, or possible.


We observe available real-time information about the situation.


We orient ourselves to the new reality as it is presented by making sense out of our observations using our individual values-system, experiences, knowledge base, culture, biases, and beliefs.


We reach a decision as to what is our best course of action to take in the situation to gain our desired outcomes.


We act in our best interest.

We then to the beginning and sense then observe is our actions have had their desired effect.

SOODA Keeps Us In-Control

Effectively using our SOODA Loop to make decisions in VUCA situations allows us to remain in as much control as possible of our attitudes and behaviors.  It prevents us from becoming stuck or frozen in uncertainty and fear, thus missing an opportunity to make a favorable time-sensitive decision.

Stuck in SOO-SOO-SOO

Unfortunately, we often get stuck in the SOO part of the SOODA Loop. Suffering from analysis paralysis, we fail to make a timely decision. “We don’t have enough information.” “Let’s run another simulation.” “I need to review the data again.” “What if I’ve got this wrong?” are all symptoms of a potentially fatal case of the SOODA Loop virus infecting one’s thinking and making clarity and confidence nearly impossible.  One cannot afford to hyper focus on familiar or favorable indications at the expense of unfamiliar or unfavorable data.

What can you do to break free of a stuck SOO?

Don’t ignore your feelings and gut.  Take time to sort out what you are sensing and what is triggering these senses.

Rate your observations.  Are other people you respect observing the situation in the same ways you are?  Is what you are observing first-hand or from a reliable source? Are you able to observe the whole picture? How confident on a scale of 10 to 1 with 10 being rock solid, bet your life on it, are you in the accuracy of your observations?  Can you have an outsider evaluate your interpretations?

Orient toward something that makes the most sense.  Remember, the simplest explanation to what you are observing is likely the most accurate and truthful.  Who is available with expert knowledge or experience to guide you?  Ask for different sense making stories from trusted people also dealing with the situation.  What are you most certain and uncertain about in the situation? Is it possible to become more certain or is there not enough time/resources to do so?  How can you manage around the uncertainty to minimize negative impacts of the unknown or uncertain elements of the situation?  What’s the worst that can happen? What is the probability the worst will happen? How can you deal with the worst-case scenario if it does happen?

Decide on what action you can take now and then next. Making even a small decision to act can break you free from the SOO loop and moving forward. You action will have some observable outcome and allows you to begin the SOODA Loop with additional insight and experience. This can make you more confident in making your next decisions to act based on your new learning.

Act in your best interest with your best effort and consistent with your orientation and desired outcomes.

Need Help Getting Unstuck?

If you are SOO stuck, perhaps come executive coaching can help you get moving forward like it has helped other clients of mine.  I’d be happy to talk with you to see we can get you some clarity and confidence back in these VUCA times we live in.  You can contact me at or call or text for an appointment at 317-538-3231.

“We stand on a mountain pass in the midst of whirling snow and blinding mist, through which we get glimpses now and then of the paths which may be deceptive. If we stand still we shall be frozen to death. If we take the wrong road we shall be dashed to pieces. We do not certainly know whether there is any right one. What must we do? Be strong and of good courage. Act for the best, hope for the best and take what comes. If death ends all, we cannot meet death better.”

William James
About the Author

Andy Dix, MS, BCC, CPT is President of AD Growth Advisers Inc. an Indianapolis, Indiana Executive Business Coaching and Training firm. Andy is a Board-Certified Executive Business Coach, Certified Performance Improvement Technologist and Change Manager.  He is a Certified Reiss Motivation Profile® Master and Certified Trainer for the Reiss Motivation Profile®. You can contact Andy at or call/text him at 317-538-3231.

©Copyright 2020 AD Growth Advisers Inc. All rights reserved.

What’s Motivating Displays of Extreme Behavior in this Crisis?

Special Guest Article By Jody Simpson, Ph.D.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

As the impact of the coronavirus unfolds, people are dealing with high levels of stress, learning new ways to cope with changes in everyday life, and trying to find a new “normal.”  News accounts have described displays of extreme behaviors such as the hoarding of food, paper products, and cleaning supplies.  Some people fight over the last package of toilet paper, while others hoard cases of cleaning products which they then attempt to resell at high prices.  Psychologically, how can we understand the extreme behaviors we are witnessing during this crisis?

Prof. Steven Reiss, Ph.D.
Professor Steven Reiss, Ph.D.

Professor Steven Reiss, Ph.D. conducted ground-breaking research that led to the development of his “16 Basic Desires Theory of Human Motivation.”  Reiss’s theory, which has been scientifically validated by independent researchers, can explain the extremes in human behavior that occur during a crisis.  

According to Reiss, each of us is motivated by 16 basic human needs.  This is the universal in human nature.  What makes us individuals is the priority we place on each of the 16 needs.  One need, for example, is the desire for social contact.  Some individuals (e.g., extroverts) place a high value on social contact, while others (e.g., introverts) place a low value on spending time with peers.  Reiss developed a psychological test called the Reiss Motivation Profile® (RMP) to measure individual differences in how we prioritize the 16 basic desires.  The information provided by the RMP can give us insights into why people behave the way they do.

Here is a real-time example of the different ways in which people attempt to satisfy their basic desires.  During a family’s recent visit to a ski resort, the slopes unexpectedly closed on the third day of the eight-day trip, turning the vacation into a voluntary quarantine in a small condo.  Two of the family members have a strong need for physical activity, which is one of the 16 basic desires identified by Reiss’s research.  Not surprisingly, these two individuals disliked just sitting around the condo, prompting them to hike solitary trails each day.  Two other family members with a weak need for physical activity were completely content to sit on the couch while watching endless television shows.  “I can’t sit around any longer; I’m going for a walk,” said one of the hikers, when his frustration at the lack of muscle exercise peaked, to which the sedentary television watchers replied, “Okay, have fun and be safe.”

Tranquility, or the need for personal safety, is another basic desire identified by Reiss.  While confined in the condo, the family members who place a high value on this need anxiously monitored the evolving pandemic and frequently expressed approval when government officials enacted measures to flatten the curve of the virus.  Luckily for the rest of the group, one family member with a strong need for saving, another of Reiss’s basic desires, had brought extra supplies of food and paper products including that most precious of current commodities – toilet paper.  A strong need for idealism, defined by Reiss as the desire for social justice, motivated some family members to consider donating money to their hairdresser, who was likely to suffer disproportionately from the economic downturn, given her already marginal income.

The family members in this example were motivated by the natural desire to satisfy their most intense needs – to engage in behavior consistent with the values that matter most to them.  Each person’s behavior was “normal” when viewed in this light. 

Since we feel best when our needs are satisfied by our behavior, we believe that other people would be happier if they would do what we do.  Reiss coined the term “self-hugging” to refer to the tendency to think that our values – the way we prioritize the basic desires – is best, not just for us but for everyone.  He labeled as “everyday tyranny” our tendency to try to change the values of others.  We think, “If you would do what I know works, then you would be happy just like me.” 

Reiss’s theory of motivation addresses what happens when people are under stress.  According to Reiss, stressful events are likely to exacerbate an individual’s most intense needs.  A collector, for example, becomes a hoarder.  Here is how Reiss’s theory explains some of the extremes of behavior we are witnessing during the current crisis.  During times of stress:

  • An individual with a strong need for saving who typically keeps a well-stocked pantry may begin buying and hoarding excessive supplies of food and other products. 
  • A person with a weak need for honor, defined by Reiss as an expedient person who acts out of self-interest, may engage in price gouging.
  • Confrontational people (those with a strong need for vengeance on the RMP) may push ahead of someone who has cut in front of them in a checkout line.
  • An individual with a strong need for family may initiate daily communications with extended family members with whom they normally talk only on a weekly basis.
  • A person with a strong need for order, defined by Reiss as a desire for structure and stability, may become even more rigid in following daily routines.
  • Those with a strong need for idealism may respond to just about every charity’s appeal for donations and may encourage others to do the same.
  • A risk-taker (someone with a weak need for tranquility on the RMP) may completely ignore advice to engage in social distancing despite being vulnerable due to age or an underlying health condition.
  • An individual with a strong need for understanding (Reiss’s curiosity motive) may spend many hours analyzing the pandemic.
  • A person with a weak need for physical activity may become even more sedentary.

Our tendencies to self-hug and to engage in everyday tyranny lead to conflicts based on differences in values.  Reiss emphasized the importance of understanding that our values may be different from those of others.  He also encouraged tolerance, and hopefully acceptance, of people whose values differ from our own.  This may be particularly important during times of stress.         

The extreme behaviors on display during the current crisis are not only understandable but also predictable.  As usual, people are attempting to satisfy their most important desires.  Due to the stress caused by the pandemic, the ways in which they do this may be more extreme.

For more information about human motivation, read Steven Reiss’s book, Who Am I: The 16 Basic Desires That Motivate Our Actions and Define Our Personalities.

© Copyright 2020.  Jody Simpson, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.