why is it so hard to make decisions

A day is made up of hundreds of small decisions. Ill wear this; Ill buy this; Ill have this for lunch; Ill go here at 3oclock; Ill respond to this e-mail; Ill delete this one. For some people, none of this is a big deal. For others, however,
(big and little ones) isnt easy. They agonize over what to do, vacillating back and forth, and second-guessing themselves even after the decision has been made. Emily was in the diner with her husband. After several minutes of reading the menu, she said, Um, lets see. I dont know what to order. Maybe Ill have the burger; no wait, the pasta seems good. Or, maybe the soup and salad. Don, what are you ordering? OK; that sounds good; Ill have that too. Don gets annoyed. He doesnt understand why she finds the simplest decisions so difficult. Just decide, he tells her. And stick with it. To shortcircuit her indecisiveness, he sometimes makes decisions for the two of them. Emily does not find this helpful. Indeed, she gets annoyed with him for being so controlling. But wed never decide anything if I left it up to you, he retorts. Good decision-making is a skill that comes easily to some people, not so easily to others. Choices are confusing. Choices can make you anxious. They can cost you peace of mind, even after youve made the decision. Have you ever spent hours in your head trying to undo the choice you made? Oh my gosh, I wish I hadnt done that! The skill of good decision-making has become increasingly important. Why? Because we have an abundance of choices, both with the simple things in life (ordering from a menu) and the serious things in life (choosing your ). If you would like to improve your decision making, here are five strategies that might help you do just that. Accept that you cant have it all. Decisions force us to close the door on other possibilities, small ones and big ones. You cant order every delicious dish on the menu. And there will be paths not taken, careers not chosen, experiences not encountered. Would your marriage to your old love have worked out better? Fantasize all you like, but youll never really know. So, visit the what if scenario if you must, but do not invite it to take up space in your gray matter. Let the past be. Live in the present where what you do today will make a difference. More thinking is not always better thinking. Its often good to think through your decisions. But dont overdo it. Research can reach a point of diminishing returns, confusing more than clarifying.


Many good decisions can be made based as much on intuition as on meticulous assessment of endless data. Dont defer decisions endlessly. Yes, there is a time to put off making a decision. Perhaps you need more information. Maybe you wish to consult with your accountant, or wait for a less stressful time. Just dont wait so long that the decision is made for you by someone else (You didnt take care of it so I did it my way), by the passage of time (Sorry, the application deadline was last week) or by your being so upset with your own indecisiveness that you make an impulsive decision (oh, what the heck, Ill just sign it). Trust your intuition. Intuition is an impression, a perception, an insight whose origins you may not fully understand. It can be an important source of information. Do not ignore it. But dont confuse intuition with impulsiveness. Impulsiveness is the urge to do something to meet an emotional need of the moment that often (though not always) leads you down a path youll regret. Some decisions dont work out as expected; this doesnt mean that you did anything wrong. You decide to go on a cruise. You choose a luxury liner. Everything should work out just right. Only you didnt count on a bug that spread through the ship, making you and your family sick for five days. You berate yourself for making such a stupid decision. No, no, no. You did not make a stupid decision. Its just that sometimes the unexpected happens. Youre understandably disappointed. Just dont be hard on yourself or blame yourself for what happened. Heres to happy decision-making! fter digging into the research, I learned that there are no hard and fast rules for decision-making. (If only! ) There are, however, a number of interesting tendencies that play into how we decide, which we should all be aware of. Heres a quick stroll through some of the key findings on the art of decision-making: 1. Satisficers vs Maximizers. Coined by the economist Herbert Simon in 1956, is an approach to decision-making that prioritizes an adequate solution over an optimal solution. Gretchen Rubin sums up the difference between the two types of decision-makers well in a post over at the Youd think maximizers would at least feel content with their decision after all that work, but no! As anyone whos ever researched a possible illness on the Internet knows, more information does not necessarily lead to peace of mind or better decision-making.


Takeaway : Gathering additional information always comes at a cost. Were better off setting our criteria for making a decision in advance (as in, Ill make the call once I know X, Y, and Z). Once you have that information, make the choice and move on. 2. How less can be more. Psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer, whose work was cited in the Malcolm Gladwell bestseller Blink, argues that were designed to make smart snap decisions based on limited information. In fact, his research shows that we do it all the time. Here, Newsweek In the end, almost all of the parents based their decision on just one key piece of information: Whether or not the doctor was a good listener. Considered in this light, the wait time and other factors were just not that important. Takeaway: We are designed to process information so quickly that decisions that spring from hard thinking based on sound experience can feel more instinctive than scientific. Trust your gut. 3. The three kinds of intuition. In the creative and business worlds, you hear a lot of talk about intuition, and (see above) trusting your gut. But what does that really mean? Its less simple than you might think. Columbia Business School professor William Duggan believes that there are Takeaway: We should trust our expert intuition (based on experience) when making choices about familiar problems. But when we need a break-through solution, we shouldnt be too quick to jump to conclusions. 4. Why we should trust experience. (Anyone s experience. ) Psychologist Daniel Gilbert, author of the bestseller Stumbling on Happiness, studies the that we use to make decisions. According to Gilbert, we do not make very rational decisions in most cases, nor are we particularly good at predicting what will make us happy. (See his great for more on this. )Gilbert argues that if we dont have the knowledge or experience to make a decision, the best course of action is to. Says Gilbert: Takeaway: If youre wrestling with a difficult decision, consult a friend or colleague whos been in your situation before. Their insight will likely be significantly more valuable than almost any research. 5. Choosing your battles. Some decisions, like how to handle a dicey client situation, are worth mulling over. Others, like deciding what brand of dental floss you buy, are not. Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide, Takeaway: Ask yourself if this decision is really that meaningful. If its not, stop obsessing over it, and just make a call!

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