The Decision Series – #1 Am I Making A Good Decision?

I ask myself this question a lot to make sure that what I’m doing is still in line with whatever my goal is.  Straying from the plan is sadly one of the things I have to deal with on a near constant basis; the downfall of an overactive curious mind.  There always seems to be something more fun or more interesting to do other than what I’m trying to focus on in the moment, but this is another topic altogether.  So, it can never hurt to double check to stay on track.  Measure twice, cut once right?

Or so I thought.  One day I was planning out my day and I questioned this little mantra to its’ root by continuously asking why, like a child does.

Oh boy, here we go.

Now, let me preface by saying that I am truly fascinated with how we make decisions and a lot of the time baffled by it, as in: ‘how did I get the point where I thought that this would be a good decision?’. Sometimes I’m not sure why I make the decisions I make, seemingly unconsciously, and a lot of these decisions shouldn’t be made without serious consideration.

It really does seem like a simple topic at first because it’s just one of those things that makes us human: we have the ability to weigh some of the internal and external forces that influence our decisions and not merely act on instinct.

The wormhole of questions began. What makes a decision good or bad? Why does a decision have to be good or bad? What actually is a decision on a fundamental level? What are the factors that influence a decision? What are the implications of just asking the question “Am I making a good decision” have? We have lots of choices to make, some of them really simple and yet they’re difficult: but why!? Each of these questions unpacks more questions, not to mention the countless external forces that influence our decisions that we may not have any control over. 

I could reflect on these types of questions for the rest of my life. At this point I needed to get more information to help me answer and understand the questions I was asking.

I searched for more information and came across the book titled “The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less”, By Barry Schwartz.  This book is just what I needed to understand the decision-making process better while not investing a career worth of time to understand it.

He’s given a TED Talk outlining some of the ideas he writes about in his book.

After watching a bunch of videos and reading most of Barry’s book, this topic ended up being a huge amount of information to digest and reproduce into one simple blog post, so what I’ve done is broken it down into a set of posts called “The Decision Series”.   The next few posts I will be writing about the various points he makes in his book, some of which he covers in the lecture.

He explains that the official dogma of all western and industrial society is to maximize the welfare of the people by maximizing the amount of choices the people have.  When people have more freedom to choose what they want more often they feel more in control of their own lives and are generally happier. Or simply put: more freedom of choice =  more autonomy = more happiness.

But it’s not that simple.

There are negative effects when we are presented with too many choices in any given situation.

It paradoxically creates choice paralysis in some of us – Sometimes we can’t choose anything at all. For example, you went to the grocery for salad dressing because you’ve been craving salad all day, but couldn’t pick one out all the choices available so you changed the side-dish to green beans and butter instead.

Opportunity Costs – It is easy to be less satisfied with your choice when there is a large number of alternatives with attractive features that you could have chosen. Should have ordered the AutoPilot and Full Self-Driving for the Tesla Model 3.

The escalation of expectations – When expectations  are high, the only thing that will make us happy, is perfection. Barry explains in his example of shopping for a new pair of jeans, his new pair of jeans were the most comfortable out of any jeans he had ever purchased before, but he still found himself unsatisfied at the end of the purchase experience because after trying on every style in the store, there still wasn’t a pair that fit him perfectly. Because of the amount of choices he had been presented with, a perfect fit was expected.

Fewer choices. Ignorance is bliss. The key to happiness is low expectations. There is definitely some food for thought here.

So what is “Am I making a good decision” all about then? This saying that I use to keep myself on track at times has a deeper rooted meaning to it. I want to explore and write about these deeper meanings. The good or bad part I think is a matter of perspective and depends, but not entirely upon, whether or not I am a Maximizer or Satisficer. These are descriptors for people who tend to fully maximize every decision they make (Maximizer) or maximize the best they can within the set of guidelines they’ve made for themselves (Satisficer). This is what I’m going to write about in the next installment of The Decision Series.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.

Have an awesome day!


P.S. If I have sparked your interest in this subject and you want to pick up a copy of this book for yourself and want to support me a bit too, follow the link below to the Thanks!