Tough Decisions Deconstructed- Deciding what Gift to Buy this Christmas

4 Dec

I got chatting to the person serving me at the bank the other day, they asked what I do and when I explained they immediately said-I’m terrible at making decisions! The fault line in the person’s decision making was easily identified, they struggled to choose between options, and at this time of year this is something which affects the majority- choosing between options or rather what should I buy or get bought for me by (insert name)? In this post I’ll try and provide a little insight into why choosing between options can be so difficult and how to deal with it. And because it’s my last post, I’ll do it quick too.

The frustration which comes from choosing between options is commonly caused by the cognitive strain of trying to make a single option more favourable than the others. The stress of producing a winner and using mental criteria you know you don’t really believe in simply ends up frustrating and exhausting you. Gary Klien identifies this as “the zone of indifference” and it basically means all the options are as good as each other but you refuse to accept it and embark on a pointless quest to find the winning option.

So, all that trouble is because of refusing to face up to indifference. When you start to feel like this the best way through it is to just flip a coin. Flipping coins means you’ll make the decision quicker, spend less time setting up criteria you have no faith in and you’ll feel better about your choice. You’ll feel better because if you try and force one option to look better and select that way you’ll continue to feel frustrated after the decision as you to start to question the basis of your choice.

A tip for assessing whether you’ve entered into legitimate coin flipping territory- ask yourself what the consequences of the decision are. If the consequence is severe, such as I’ll lose my business or my wife will leave me, then you are not at the decision making stage, you are at the problem solving stage. In this territory you need to work on solving the problems associated with each option not choosing between them. If the consequence is less severe- they can always take it back if they don’t like it, then flip that coin!

Merry Christmas to anyone and everyone who’s read these posts in 2013 and thanks!!

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