Decision Making Made Easy

Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom, Walt D...

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Have you ever had to make a difficult decision?   Not necessarily a decision that’s difficult because it’s life-changing, but a decision that’s difficult because there are two phenomenally wonderful, yet mutually exclusive options?

For example:

  • Should you put caramel or strawberry sauce on your ice cream?
  • Should you go to Disney Land or Disney World?
  • Should you subscribe to Live Real, Now by email or RSS?
  • Should you take the job with the stellar benefits package or the higher salary?

These are all real decisions that you may be called on to make.

For most decisions, there are some alternatives that are easy to discard.

MadDog 20/20 isn’t a good alternative to caramel sauce on your ice cream.   The local BDSM museum probably isn’t a great choice for a family vacation.  Sending me hate mail is obviously worse than subscribing.

Then you’ve got some choices that are both okay, but one is clearly better.    You’ve got free airfare and hotel.  Do you go to Topeka, or Paris?  Neither is horribly, but I think the choice is obvious. You’re going out to dinner.  McDonald’s or…nevermind, this fits the first category.

After you’ve discarded the obvious bad choices and the okay-but-not-great choices, how can you decide between what’s left?

This is the point that starts to cause stress.  What if you make the wrong choice?  What if you regret it forever?   What if you’re still not happy?  Gridlock.

The reason your stuck is because it’s not apparent which is the better choice.  All of your experiences and knowledge are telling you–on some level–that the options are identical in terms of your life, happiness, and goals.    It truly does not matter which one you choose.  You will probably be equally happy, either way.

Given that it doesn’t matter, you have two choices for making the final decision:

  1. Pick the one you want.   The rational decision is a tie, so make it an emotional one.   Does one job match your dreams, but with a bit more risk?   Has one vacation destination been a goal since you were little?  Do it!
  2. Flip a coin.  If the decision doesn’t matter, leave it to fate.  That way, if it doesn’t work out, you can always blame the quarter.

The one thing you don’t want to do is wait.  Failing to decide is still a decision and one that is guaranteed to keep you from being satisfied with your choice.   Don’t wait until you have all of the possible information, because that kind of perfect world doesn’t exist.   Get to about 85% of fully informed and run with it.  You’ll usually be happier making a decision–even the wrong one–than sitting back wondering “What if I had done that?

How do you make hard decisions?

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    1. You crack me up. Just to let you know I decided to sign for your RSS feed. You’re lucky the quarter landed on heads. 🙂

      I really try not to wonder about decisions. It’s much better to keep moving forward.

    2. I already have you in my reader and “follow you on Twitter. So my “hard” decisions are done! Hard decisions are just choices. The decisions that require thought aren’t really that hard.

    3. I flip a coin, and sometimes heads comes up and I think to myself- lets try that again. And then I know that I really wanted the other and go with that.

    4. I find I can get into over decision mode and I really need to just sit back and think about it for a while. Great post. Sometimes I just have to go with my gut.

    5. Sometimes the hardest decisions for me are menu item to order at restaurants.

      It seems silly because they’re not important decisions. Too much choice in food is bad for me!

    6. MadDog 20/20 isn’t your ice cream topping of choice? Huh. I must be in the minority on that one 😉

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