The worst decision to worry over-is the decision that's NOT even a decision!! (Decision making tips)
Updated: Jul 25, 2022
Extracts from this article are featured in Yahoo.
It’s not just necessarily “Pandemic brain” or “brain fog” causing us to become more indecisive – but our experiences in general! The one thing we have become certain about over the last 18 months plus of the pandemic is uncertainly. We don’t know if plans will remain, we are unsure if our friends’ commitments are to change; we cannot even be certain that another curveball may derail us…or have us locked into hour long queues for petrol! It is no wonder we struggle with making decisions – we really don’t know what to commit to!
When it comes to decision making the first thing to do is recognise what a decision is (I say this because people sometimes confuse it with problem solving…they are very different):
Decision making is making a choice between two or more possible paths and we do not KNOW what the outcome will be
Problem Solving is knowing what we want as the outcome, but we are not always sure how to get there.
The reason why Decision Making can sometimes confuse us, is because we judge our decision making success on the outcome…and this (as you can see above…) may not be fair…it’s known as psychology as the “outcome bias”.
Think of a good decision
Think of a bad one
…changes are you judged what was “good” and “bad” on how it turned out…that’s the outcome bias.
The reality of decisions is, all we can do is choose a pathway and ANY NUMBER OF OUTCOMES (even the most remote ones) could happen – for example, perhaps your wedding fell on the day before lockdown – was that a “good decision” or “Just lucky”…
1. The thing to focus on when it comes to big decision making is the process:
i) Framing the decision or choices we have in the context we are making it (eg: are we picking a dress for a special occasion, or just going shopping; is there a lot at stake, or are we deciding what to have for lunch later?)
ii) Gather the information that we need
iii) Make the decision
iv) and then (later on) reflect on whether it was a “good” one – based on the process we went through ie. Well done it worked out, was that because the process was sound; Oops, that wasn’t great – was that because the process was faulty in some way. (an example of the latter may be buying a house, seeing the place, checking out the schools etc – and finding out later your children are really against moving before the Christmas – perhaps not all the information was gathered when you needed to rather than “we shouldn’t have moved”)
Remember, you cannot predict the final outcome, all you can do is make the best choice in the circumstances, so know the circumstances…the process.
2. When it comes to little decisions - then don’t waste unnecessary energy agonising over something relatively inconsequential in the larger picture eg:
- If you are trying to decide what takeaway to have (Chinese or Indian say) – you might ask yourself – if these two were the only two options, would I have a preference (if so choose that), if not (choose any one and move on…there are more important things to take up your time!)
3. Sometimes you also need to have a plan B. This is not because you expect things to fail, but knowing that you’ll be able to make it work creates a sense of ease over the decision…and if it goes well, great, if not, it’s a story to tell!
4. “Reverse CBT”. If you are procrastinating, CBT would suggest that you write down all the “worst things that could happen” – so you can see it won’t be all that bad if it goes wrong…I would also suggest you consider writing down all the worst things that could happen if you DON’T make the decision – because I find that sometimes motivates me to take action.
5. Is it even a decision!? And also, make sure it’s a decision you’re agonising over…not a problem you “think” is a decision. For example I know many people who worry about leaving their current job for a new one…who haven’t even yet applied for the job in the first place. Once you have a decision to make, then begin the process, but whilst it’s not even a decision, don’t agonise over something that isn’t even there to agonise over - consider, if appropriate, taking the action to bring it on!
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author with a specialty in the "how to take action", rather than just giving explanation and advice. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience. For self development tools based within positive psychology: click Her YouTube Channel . Twitter/IG @draudreyt