19 Mar Make the best choices today
It’s 1pm. I’m standing at the Woolies (grocery store) across the road. My mind is stuck in neutral: “Do I take the Chicken pesto, or thai chicken curry? Oh, there’s a low-cal Beef Stroganoff option, but the cellophane on that packet looks cancerous… or should I just have a fruit-salad? But fruit have sugars, which will spike my insulin….” a full minute later, I walk out with the same meal I had yesterday. It’s just easier.
This is the human brain in action. Despite the corruption of photoshopped realities and pyramid-schemes, we still retain the ability to choose. But it seems as if more choices simply make us slower, and worse at making effective, good decisions. Sure, our liberty will always have some restraint to it, but there is always at least one decision in front of us…and usually – too many!
Not only are we spoilt for choice, but our ability to make the best possible choice is complicated by excess of information, and marketing strategies aimed at hi-jacking our liberty altogether. Forbes magazine posted an interesting article in March 2012, dealing with exactly this topic. It’s a long, but stimulating 1500 words, but I assure you: it’s not even 1 step closer to a simple solution.
Strategies to liberate your mind and make great decisions
The 5 Why’s
I may not run every grocery-list through an interrogation, but – especially with more weighty choices- you may want to ask yourself “Why”, about 5 times. This principle has been coined by the developer of Toyota, in an attempt to get to the root of engineering problems. It can just as easily be applied to yourself, to get to root motives. For example:
“Why do you want to buy take-outs?” “Because I don’t want to cook”
“Why don’t you want to cook?” “Because I am eating alone”
“Why won’t you cook if you eat alone?” “Because it’s effort to cook only for myself.”
“Why is it effort to cook only for yourself?” “Because it takes too much time to prepare the meal.”
“Why won’t you take time to prepare your own meal?” “Because I don’t have anyone to share it with.”
The answers to these questions reveal that my choice for take-outs are more connected to time-management, effort and loneliness, than simply a desire “not to cook”. This may seem like a silly example, but it is helpful to see that even the most superficial decisions are connected to deeper themes & desires. Which desires drive most of your decisions? Are you even aware of them?
Integrity of values
Once I’ve dug into the 5 whys, I can ask myself : “Is this consistent with my values? And is this true, or irrational? Will take-outs be the best way to deal with the fact that I actually just don’t want to eat alone?” Once I’ve uncovered this motive, I have the option to reconsider my choice, and perhaps invite friends over to prepare a healthy meal, instead of eating unhealthy take-outs alone.
One skill that is severely neglected in society today, is our ability to critically appraise our decisions. We prefer to trust the stranger than to investigate something for ourselves. Learning to think critically involves taking time and energy to set your emotions aside, do the research and look objectively at information. This can often be helped by discussing your options with peers, experts and researchers. If you’re looking for people that are trustworthy, it may be helpful to find those who have no vested interest (even just emotional) in your decision.
Credibility of information
There are many resources available to verify whether you actually are making the best decision, in stead of falling for the schemes of some company who’s only out to make a buck. Our problem, though, is that it just takes too much effort to do the homework, and we’re often too swept up in the moment, to truly consider our options.
This is especially true for choices with a high emotional gain, such as purchase of luxury products. Luxury products don’t charge us for the actual material and costs, but often more for the experience we get from using them.
You could be one of those people who read up extensively on a topic, speak to trustworthy people and get as much information as you can about a deal, before making a move. But, having said all this, some choices are often a matter of ‘six of one, or half-a-dozen of the other’, and your best bet would be to go with your gut. A study conducted in 2012, shows that our brians have a remarkable ability to integrate values, and ‘lead’ us towards the better option intuitively. Basically, if you’ve done your homework, and the choice still seems blurry, you should be able to leave it to your gut to mash it all together and give you a reasonable result.
We can’t control the outcome of our choices, but we’re still held responsible for making them. How do you make decisions?
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