Decision-making. Need help?

Woman’s legs, sitting cross-legged on a chair, wearing black corporate style trousers, black court shoes and two different socks. You can see one foot has a rainbow coloured sock and the other a clear stocking sock. Does she need help with a decision of which pair to wear to work? What kind of decision-maker might she be?
Making a decision of which socks to wear to work?

Decision-making—need help?

Decision-making —why is it that some people struggle with making decisions and others find it easy? The answer lies in your past experiences and how you view them. If you’ve struggled with decisions in the past it is likely that this will influence your present experience. If you consider yourself a poor decision-maker you will probably find it harder to make a decision today than someone who regards him or herself as capable of making decisions.

Other factors that may come into play are your approach to learning. Do allow yourself to be in a learning mode when gathering information in order to make a new decision, or do you expect yourself to just know what to do?

“There is no right or wrong, only a series of possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that you experience.” Deepak Chopra

What is decision-making?

Do you view decision-making as a process or an action? Is a decision just a choice between possible alternatives? Is a decision something bigger? Are you giving too much weight to something by calling it a decision?

What gets in the way of you making a decision?

We all make choices and decisions every day. These may be about something small, like what socks to wear to work, or something more substantial, like what to do with your career.

Sometimes the questions alone can generate anxiety or expectations. If you get to the options stage, you might find that too many options may overwhelm you. Or that you are over-thinking things.

It is important to be aware of your thinking at this point. Do you overly focus on the consequences of getting the decision wrong? Do you tell yourself it has to be the ‘right’ decision or a ‘perfect’ decision? You may think that the consequences of getting it wrong are not worth the risk of change, and therefore not act at all. What happens when you can’t decide? Do you beat up on yourself? How helpful is all that pressure to being able to engage in the process of decision-making?

What kind of decision-maker are you?

According to economist Herbert Simon, there are two types of decision-maker. Satisficers and Maximisers. Satisficers will firstly nominate their criteria before making a decision, and happily settle for a choice that meets their criteria. In contrast, Maximisers explore all the options and aren’t satisfied until they have made sure they have the best choice.

What is the best kind? According to Shahram Heshmat, associate professor emeritus at the University of Illinois, Maximisers are ‘more likely to experience lower levels of happiness, regret, and self-esteem, (and) tend to be perfectionist’. Rather than being more satisfied with their decisions, he says that they are less satisfied and often re-think their decisions. What is not helpful is that they often make social comparisons, which makes them doubt their decisions.

What can you do about your decision-making style? Firstly, map it. Then identify what you’re not happy with and what needs to change.

Tips to be better at decision-making

    1. Be clear about what the problem is you’re trying to solve or the situation you’re trying to change. Ask yourself why it’s important to solve or change it and what this will give you.
    2. Allow yourself to be in a problem-solving phase before you make a decision or choice.
    3. Generate some options and narrow these down so that you can consider a few in detail.
    4. When you find an option that’s a good fit with your goal, sit with it for a while and commit to a decision to act on that only when you’re ready.

Psychology Today: The Science of Choice. Satisficing vs. Maximizing. The downside of rationality (2015).

Contact Linda Magson, Sydney Life coach and counsellor for help with decision-making. Call or text: 0402073086

Links to other articles by Linda Magson that may help