Saturday, December 28, 2013

Three Kinds of Decisions

There are only three kinds of decisions in life.  Recognizing which of these three types you are making can help you make quicker and better decisions.  You can also help others learn to make their own choices and stay away of unproductive interference in their lives.

The first kind of decision involves selecting between two alternatives where one of clearly better than the other.  Yeah, this one is really easy.  Selecting between Starbucks and a BP station for coffee?  Easy.  Wendy’s and McDonalds for a cheeseburger.  Not a problem.  We all know what we like better and making these decisions hardly seems like a making a decision.  If you have problems making these decisions, seek professional help.

The second kind of decision is deceptively difficult for most people.  Try deciding between two equally good alternatives.  An example of this I see quite often is people trying to select their dinner entree on a restaurant’s menu.  “I can’t decide between the sea bass and the stuffed pork chops”.  Then it’s ten minutes of staring at the menu waiting for divine intervention, followed by “I’ll go last” when the waiter arrives.  Then they ask you “What should I get?”, as if you know better than they should.  The silly thing about this is that you can’t make a bad decision.  By definition you’re choosing between two good alternatives, so either one will make you happy.  When you find yourself struggling with this “between equals” decision, just pick one.  If one is really a little better or just better at that moment, your feelings will make that choice. No thought needed.  If you see someone else struggling, make them pick for themselves.  Use this type decision as a learning lesson as your children are growing up to teach them to make decisions. Explain that “good-good” is the type of decision they’re making and how useless, and stressful, thinking about it over and over will be.  This really is an easy decision, although many people turn it into a long and arduous one.  Learn to make this what it is.  Easy.

The final kind of decision is truly difficult.  Deciding between two bad, but similar alternatives. They don’t even need to be equally bad, just that each decision has a component that is really undesirable.  An example of this can be deciding to file for divorce or staying in a miserable marriage.  Filing may involve losing daily contact with your children and staying is unimaginably stressful.  But while this type of decision is difficult and deserves careful thought, you will eventually have to make a decision and live with its consequences.  You may find afterwards that the fear of your choice was much worse than its reality.  

Learn to recognize the type of decision you’re making and avoid the stress of the “good-good” scenario or interfering in other’s decisions.  Save your energy for the really hard life decisions.  And I pray they do not happen often.

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