Solving five choice conundrums
1. I have ‘analysis paralysis’
Set a time limit and then commit to making a decision. Remember that most decisions are unimportant and/or reversible. Also be aware of confirmatory bias where essentially we are simply looking for more information to back up our choice rather than weighing up the information.
Use a decision grid. List your options, tasks, or desired attributes, as the case may be. If there are five of them, write ‘a’, ‘b’, ‘c’, ‘d’, and ‘e’ across and down the page. In turn, rank ‘a’ vs. ‘b’, ‘a’ vs. ‘c’, ‘a’ vs. ‘d’, etc., then ‘b’ vs. ‘a’, ‘c’, ‘d’, etc., writing in the letter you prefer. It’s best to do this as fast as possible, rather than agonising. Adding up the number of times each letter appears will give a sense of priority.
2. I have too many choices
Consciously limit both the number of choices you have to make and the number of options you entertain. In The Paradox of Choice: Why more is less, Barry Schwartz discusses the difficulty of making a choice from too many options. We end up walking away, having made no choice at all. The preponderance of choice and fear of missing out exacerbate the situation. We can be left feeling frustrated and thinking that we have wasted our time. Barry Schwartz refers to this as ‘satisficing’.
3. I have limited my options but still can’t decide
Restrict the options to a small number to keep the process manageable and focused. I find three is ideal. Write down the three options on separate pieces of paper, then draw one lot. Rather than immediately opening this lot, keep it in your pocket and see if you start hoping for one elimination contender over the others. There’s nothing like something being threatened or removed for us to realise its value. If after a little while no preference emerges then read what is on this lot. Repeat the process by choosing one of the remaining two lots. Again the option on this drawn lot is the contender for elimination. If revealing your selected lot doesn’t elicit any strong response then you have your answer — there’s only a hair’s breadth separating the options … phew!
4. It feels like a big decision and I am agonising over it
Reflect on how you may think about it in say, a week, a month, or a year. In the absence of a crystal ball, there is no real way of answering this question. However, it serves the purpose of granting you a sense of perspective that helps you focus on the fact that very few decisions are ‘life and death’, even if they can feel like it.
5. It’s binary
Significant decisions are often binary. For example, ‘to stay or leave’, ‘take the new job or not’, ‘hire more staff or not’. Write down your decision, place it in an envelope and hand it over to someone you trust. Combine this with the sage advice of ‘sleeping on it’.
The very act of handing over a decision will almost certainly evoke a dominant emotion. Do you feel relieved? Do you feel contented? Do you feel regretful? The good news is that if you feel regret, then the decision can be reversed and if you feel indifferent then you know you are wasting time agonising.
For more detail, read A to Z: Your Navigator to Success. Click to buy.
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