How to take hard decisions?

We take decisions all day long from our breakfast to the selection of a new business partner. Some decisions are "easier" than others.  This difference in difficulty comes from many factors some of them are our environment and the way our brain is wired. Some people find tiresome to choose a new car while others never have a doubt. Where does this difference comes from?

In developed countries, we can choose a variety of products and services from variety of providers and options. Decisions have become more complex to take for many products and services. We went from "one car fits all"  to "the car fits you".  The offer of almost unlimited choices is grueling because everything is subject to choice. We have a limited amount of energy to spend every day and taking decision is one energy vampire that you may have not considered as one before.

For example, few days ago, I wanted to buy a blue pen and went to a store. I was overwhelmed by the choices I was offered. I took me 20 minutes to look at all the blue pens and finally choose a BIC. It was a default choice, not a decision. At the beginning of a purchase, we may feel powerful and able to handle any choice. Unfortunately, the longer the purchase the harder the decisions are and sometimes for the worth. What can we do?

First, we have to understand the way we function when we take decisions. +Dan Ariely participated to a +TED  event where he illustrated our cognitive limitations when dealing with decisions. We are subject to visual illusion, irrational decision, and are ignorant of our own functioning. You can watch the video below to get more details.


After reading, and watching different sources about decisions making I summarized my findings here:


  1. We are influenced by the way information are presented to us. For example, Dan Ariely explained that: When presented with three options and having B and C slightly different with B better than C. We ignore A because we compare B and C to finally select B.
  2. We are faced with more and more choices that "paralyze us" and make us "regret our decisions" when our choice end up being unsatisfying as explained in another TED event by Barry Schwartz. The paradox of choice
  3. We are subject to Decision Fatigue. The more decisions we take, the less energy we have to deal with them. We will then go easily for the default choice offered to us, even if it is more expensive or of poor quality. 
Here are few tricks you can use while dealing with hard decisions. It can be applied at the individual level but also in teams and organizations.
  1. Define your benchmark and limits.
  2. Have low expectations. (Don't expect to get rich in one night after opening your own company)
  3. Take breaks often. ( Do not hesitate to say: "I need to think about it")
  4. Recharge your energy with a bit of sugar. (yes, you can have this "pain au chocolat" or "croissant") 
  5. For critical decisions: Let experts you trust choose for you. (It prevents feeling regrets once the decision is made). *** After a discussion with +rita jaskolla:  I want to add that you should look for technical advice more than subjective ones as the subjective ones are influenced by the person opinion and goals *** 
In the end, some of your decisions may be a life changing one: getting a Master degree or working full-time. Those decisions are critical and I encourage you to follow your gut feeling because it is never wrong to follow your instinct. "All roads lead to Rome"


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