How to make a decision

I am notoriously bad at making decisions. One of my teachers at primary school used to tell me to ‘go and be MAD’ meaning go and Make A Decision. I chose my GCSE subjects, most were obvious choices, but I struggled between choosing history and textiles. I can’t actually remember which I wrote down on the form, all I know is that I got history, begged to be able to join the textiles class, started textiles, then changed back. A moment of confusion? It’s only choosing one little subject at school. Well the exact same thing happened when choosing my A-Levels. Physics or English? Chose physics, swapped to English, swapped back. Clearly didn’t learn from that mistake (though I’ve realised it usually takes me three times to work out where I’m going wrong – I very nearly tried to change university course).

And it’s not just education-wise. I always leave labels in clothes and take an average of maybe 3-6 months before wearing anything new I’ve bought. Just in case it was a bad choice and I decide to take it back.

I always like to try out all the options. Just to make sure I’ve made the best decision. As I’ll explain later, that makes me a maximiser – and that’s not a good thing.

So, in my quest to become an excellent and content decision-maker (and that is my aim) I’m reading some books on the subject, and I thought I would summarise my findings in an attempt to help any other maximisers (see below) out there who struggle like I do.

1. Maximisers and satisficers

(The paradox of choice: why more is less, by American psychologist Barry Schwartz)

Maximisers always look for the best. They want to see and try out all possible options before committing to any one choice. The problem with this strategy? Nothing is ever perfect, and as perfect doesn’t exist striving for it will just make you discontent. This is me at the moment, however what I want to be is a satisficer.

Satisficers look at the available options and choose the best from a limited selection to best fit their goals and needs. They are happy with good enough, however they do have standards and being a satisficer by no means equals settling for something that doesn’t meet those standards. The way I see it after reading the book, this is the only way to be content. You choose to be satisfied with less than perfect, and as perfect doesn’t exist anyway then good enough (or great enough, remember satisficers do have standards) is really the best you can aim for.

What I learnt from this book? The grass isn’t always greener. We have so many options – too many options – that make it difficult to focus simply on what does the job and is satisfactory. And this applies to everything, from food to clothes to technology to cars, houses, careers etc. etc.

Step 1 for becoming an excellent decision maker: Accept that perfect doesn’t exist and there are some pretty great options that will lead to far more happiness than an endless search for perfection.

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