Satisfaction or analysis?

Following on from my last post, I’ve been thinking about the idea of satisfactory. I guess I’ve always thought of satisfactory as a bad thing. Whenever you rate something the options are poor, satisfactory (meaning ok, not very good really), good and very good. Yet in terms of life and happiness and contentment, satisfaction is pretty great.

I’ve just finished a second decision-making book, and in some ways it seems to contradict the ideas relating to maximisation and satisficing.

2. (Over?) Analysing

(Smart choices: A practical guide to making better life decisions, by John Hammond, Ralph Keeney and Howard Raiffa)

Some good ideas in this book: Framing your decision problem well, looking for creative alternative options, and clarifying your objectives. However a huge amount of detail on qualifying and quantifying and trade-offs and risks and consequences which all seem to point towards maximisation rather than satisficing.

I definitely haven’t actively considered my objectives when making past decisions, and this really is so important. If you don’t know what you want to get from a choice, then you have little chance of making the right one. Another thing I’m definitely guilty of is falling into psychological traps, about which this book gives a great overview.

Some key psychological traps to consider when making a decision are:

1. Over-relying on first thoughts, i.e. getting an idea into your head which then anchors your thinking.

2. Sticking with the current situation because it’s easier to do that than make a decision – ask yourself whether you would actively choose your current situation if you weren’t in it and were comparing it to other options.

3. Protecting earlier choices – something I’m sure lots of people, including myself, are guilty of. It’s really important to see each decision separately without linking it to the past. Decisions only affect the future and you can’t change past mistakes, only accept them and move on. If you’re in a hole, stop digging.

4. Seeing what you want to see – trying only to confirm your own thoughts isn’t helpful, you need to be challenged by contradictions and alternative views. Get someone to play devil’s advocate and see things from a different perspective.

5. Posing the wrong question – framing questions differently affects your thoughts and choices.

(The book goes into more detail about these and more, but the above 5 definitely stood out to me)

Step 2 for becoming an excellent decision maker: Beware psychological traps. Also define objectives and alternatives.

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