This is the first episode in a 5-day series to help you Master the Art of Decision-Making to Get Unstuck in Your Life. We make decisions throughout our lives, from what to eat every day, to where to search for a job, where to live, whether to buy a house, etc. You can see that the scale of these decisions is quite varied. Some of them have a bigger impact on the quality of your life than others.
As you go through your days, when do you find it difficult to make a decision? When do you feel stuck or overwhelmed? When do you put off a decision or choose to stay in the indulgent land of maybe? Understanding your decision-making process will help you see what’s going on in those situations and how to navigate them.
It introduces three approaches to decision-making, intuitive, rational, and emotional, and explains their strengths and limitations. The transcript also explains two types of decision-makers, maximizers, and satisficers, and how they approach decision-making. The common pitfalls of decision-making, confirmation bias, and decision paralysis, are discussed along with ways to overcome them. The audience is encouraged to reflect on their decision-making style and to identify how it may have influenced past decisions.
There are several possible approaches to decision-making. The three that we’ll look at today are intuitive, rational, and emotional. Intuitive decision-making relies on your gut feelings and instincts. People who are more intuitive trust their instincts in the process. On the other end of the spectrum, rational decision-making involves careful analysis and evaluation of options. Emotional decision-making is influenced by our emotions and feelings in the moment. The in the moment part is key because decisions are often a reaction to a feeling in emotional decision-making. Feel free to pause here for a moment and think about the last important decision you made. Was it intuitive, rational, emotional, or some combination of these?
Each approach has its strengths and limitations. Intuitive decision-making can be quick, but it may not always be reliable. Rational decision-making can be logical, but it may take time and effort and devalues feelings. Emotional decision-making can be influenced by our mood which can change on a whim.
You may also be a risk-taker or risk-averse. Recently, I noticed that when I’m playing card games, I’m a risk-taker. I have to clarify that we’re not playing for money, so the stakes are not that high. And I guess I don’t mind losing because I think I can always play again. I noticed that some friends play very differently from me, in a much more risk-averse way.
Maximers and Satisficers
Maximizers are people who want to make the best possible decision. To do that, they carefully evaluate all available options and consider a wide range of criteria before making a choice. The idea is to make the right decision or the best decision. They don’t want to miss out on the best thing.
On the other hand, satisficers want to make a decision that is good enough, that meets their needs and expectations. They look through options and criteria and stop when they find one that meets their minimum requirements.
Maximizers worry that they may be missing out on the perfect choice, while satisficers don’t worry about perfect.
This categorization has been around since the 50s from the work of Herbert Simon, but you can find it discussed in recent books that about choice and decision-making.
Once you start paying attention to how you make decisions, you’ll start noticing differences between yourself and others. You’re not right; they’re not wrong; we’re all different.
To make effective decisions, it’s essential to recognize common decision-making pitfalls and biases because they cloud our judgment and make it more difficult for us to make a choice that serves us well. Two common ones are confirmation bias and decision paralysis.
In confirmation bias, interpret information in a way that confirms our preconceptions. So, for example, you might ignore or downplay information that doesn’t match what you believe or want to believe. Have you ever done that, look for information that matches what you want to be true, and ignore all other points of view that may be different? This is a very human tendency. This happens a lot with food. Some people think orange juice is healthy, while others disagree. If you believe that orange juice is healthy, you may only pay attention to ads, stories, etc. that confirm that.
To overcome confirmation bias:
- be intentional about seeking information from a variety of sources and perspectives that both support and contradict your ideas.
- Weigh the various perspectives equally.
- Try to keep an open mind and consider all the evidence before coming to a conclusion.
With decision paralysis, you can’t make a decision because you let yourself be overwhelmed by the number of options, the complexity of the decision, or fear of making the wrong choice. As a result, you put off making the decision, which can result in missed opportunities. I think paralysis is a misnomer here because decision paralysis is a painful state to be in. It takes up a lot of brain energy. You don’t actually get a break from the decision, but rather spend a lot of time on it, gathering information endlessly. Imagine a person who is trying to pick out a new phone, but there are so many options with different features and prices that they can’t decide which one to choose. They might spend so much time trying to decide that they end up not buying any phone at all, even though they need one.
To escape decision paralysis:
- Decide how much research you’ll do – give yourself a just long enough, as short as possible, deadline.
- Break down the decision or your actions into smaller, manageable parts or steps.
- Set a deadline or time limit for making the decision and respect it.
- Consider the worse thing that can happen as a result of your decision and plan for that as well as the more likely positive outcome.
- Talk to a few trusted sources for input and to help clarify your thinking.
Take a moment to reflect on your decision-making style. Are you more analytical and data-driven, or do you rely on intuition and emotions? Are you risk-averse or a risk-taker? Spend 5-10 minutes journaling about your typical approach to decision-making and how it may have influenced past decisions. This self-reflection can help you gain awareness of your decision-making tendencies and identify how those approaches have been serving you (or not).
Also, what decisions have you been putting off? Create a list of things, or maybe you only have 1 or 2, where you’ve been putting off making a decision. You’ll use this list later in the week.
That’s it for this episode! In the next episode, we’ll explore the role of values in decision-making. Tune in for more tips and strategies on mastering the art of decision-making.
- Article: The Psychology of Decision-Making: Cognitive Biases and Heuristics
- Video: How to Make Better Decision
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