Simplify Your Decision Making

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Choice. A coveted luxury yet also a nettlesome nuisance. Regardless of the significance of the choices, battling between options can oftentimes bring about internal conflict. Do we order the salad or the steak? What’s the price difference? What about the calorie difference? Why can’t life be like a choose-your-own-adventure novel so that we can steal a peek forward for each potential choice?

Decision-paralysis is the unfortunate condition of being unable to make even the simplest of choices. It affects people every day, incapacitating them with countless rounds of over-analyses. In her TED Talk, Mary Steffel, Ph.D., emphasizes the inevitable cost of indecision, whether that cost be time, money, or even happiness. To overcome decision paralysis, Steffel advocates for delegating. Steffel discovered that outsourcing decisions make people more willing to seize opportunities–admittedly, so long as an informed party could do the deciding for them.

We all know the benefits of delegating, and while this may indeed quell decision stress, not all things should be delegated. Granted, no harm is done if we ask a restaurant server to help us choose between menu items, but should we really dump the decision on which home to purchase solely on our partner? Can we trust a car salesman to have our best interest at heart when trying to decide between vehicle options?

Ultimately, the responsibility for ourselves lies with…ourselves. Portia James, Founder of Behavior Genius, suggests three simple steps for confronting decisions head-on. First and foremost, identify whether a decision actually needs to be made. Sometimes, inaction is the necessary action. If a decision is necessary, then conjure up all potential outcomes to inform the possibilities. Though the most treacherous step, this act allows you to see that though choices can seem endless, they are actually finite.

Thankfully, James’s crucial final step cuts through the aforementioned cloud of doubt. We simply must choose that which brings less harm. Light salad or heavy entree? Depending on whether you’re valuing cost, calories, or taste at the moment, choose that which won’t disappoint. Time-consuming project with distant rewards, or short-term project with immediate rewards? Choose the one that truly meets your need for accomplishment.

Today, keep in mind that you are our own captain through the murky seas of indecision. It’s up to you to use what resources and time you have on hand to cut the best possible path forward.

Come what may, the choice to act is yours.

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
— Nelson Mandela

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