how to make easier decisions

I love this article on why easy decisions are so hard by the ludicrously young and authentic Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide and Proust was a Neuroscientist. I’ve mentioned it here on this blog a lot…that I struggle to make the simplest of decisions, like what toothpaste to buy. And other such”first-world problems”. (As an aside, for thyroid disease folk…indecision is a very AI trait).


I loved, mostly, how Jonah confesses that he’s crap at making toothpaste decisions, too, despite being an expert on how we decide. He picks the research apart and finds that we stall with dumb decisions because we allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking they’re important decisions simply because they’ve been made complicated (mostly by too many options):

“Call it the drug store heuristic: A cluttered store shelf leads us to automatically assume that a choice must really matter, even if it doesn’t.”

The analysis paralysis makes us think the decision is important…which intensifies the paralysis. And around and around we go. It’s a very real issue for more of us. We’re bombarded with more stupid options daily.

This is how I simplify decisions?

  • Narrow your choices. Actively.
  • Avoid megaplexes with too many unnecessary choices.
  • In fact, avoid shopping where possible. People are prompted to go shopping when they notice they’ve run out of coconut milk. Use the tin of coconut cream down the back instead – or cook something Mediterranean instead – and put off shopping another few days. More shopping trips = more analysis paralysis spiralling.
  • Have a brand that works for you and stick to it.
  • And develop a criteria, an approach to life, that cancels out as many options as possible (I won’t buy non-free range, organic eggs – this wipes out 70% of options at Woolies).
  • Be happy – thrilled!! – with imperfection. Choose the crappiest cafe. The most garish brand of tooth floss. Choose the first thing you see on the menu and see what happens. I interviewed renowned medical intuitive Caroline Myss once. She’d been writing about making decisions by going against reason. I asked how she chose. “I choose the first thing I see,” she said. “Why not?” She decides. And lives with it. Moves on.

Indeed, there’s no perfect choice. In the end, it doesn’t really matter, does it!?

PS. you might also like this link on Brain Pickings…Five perspectives on the science of choice.

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