Why We Don’t Make Decisions

Why We Don’t Make Decisions

It had been awhile since Steve had had a good meal. Being a mouse in the city, you would think he’d come across an appealing item now and then, but lately he’d been out of luck.

Getting tired of the rotten fruit he’d had the past three days, Steve decided to venture out into the night and find something more palatable.

Today was his lucky night. A French restaurant just down the block had tossed out their weekly batch of cheese and bread. It was more food than Steve had ever seen in his entire life.

Now he had a decision. There were beautiful wedges of cheese that made his mouth water, but also foot long baguettes that would last him weeks. How to decide? He couldn’t take both, as he had no way to carry them, so he had to pick.

He sat there contemplating for hours, trying to decide what to take. Unfortunately for Steve, such treasures don’t go unnoticed on the streets. Before long, a pack of stray cats had found the mountain of food, as well as Steve, just sitting there, lost in thought as he struggled with his decision.

In the blink of an eye, the cats pounced and everything was gone. The cheese. The baguettes. And Steve.




ndecision is one of the biggest challenges we face in life. Much like Steve, we often face choices and we struggle to choose between them. This happens for a number of reasons.

Sometimes there are good decisions and bad decisions. Other times there are bad decisions alone. Either way, the typical scenario ends in one of three ways.

1. You don’t choose.

Not making a decisions is the worse decision. Perhaps we’re overthinking things, perhaps we are afraid of moving forward, or perhaps we just don’t want to make a mistake.

Whatever the reason, not making a choice isn’t going to make things better.ME_447_Decisions

2. You choose both.

While this may sound better, we’re still doing ourselves a disservice. Convincing yourself that you can do both or even more than two things at once is just a cop out.

You’re tricking yourself by not choosing one path or the other. By doing both, you do neither well.

3. You choose.

The clear winner. You may choose wrong and often we do, but the fact that you made a decision is what is important.

Choosing is what moves things forward. It is what lets you grow and learn and adapt.

Once you make a decision, the world conspires to make it happen.Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the major challenges in making decisions is the experience of loss aversion. We hate losing more than we enjoy gaining. When we have to pick a path, we know at a deeper level that the option we neglect is no longer going to be available.

This is what leads us to not firmly choosing one way or another. We try to keep our options open. Except we’re doing anything but. When we fail to make decisions, we put life on pause.

We are in limbo, floating aimlessly without any direction. This applies to all facets of life. To deciding about our careers, our health, our values, and more. As we experienced with Steve, indecision comes with consequences.

So how do we make the decisions making process easier. There are a few ways.

Know your values

What do you stand for? What do you believe in? Knowing your values, your principles, is the best place to start when examining any decision. As Roy E. Disney said, ” It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.

Using ideas like first principles, can help you realize what truly matters to you and to take action accordingly.

Take an outside perspective

Sometimes we’re just too close to the situation to truly see what the right choice may be. It’s in times like these that it helps to take a step back and look at things from a third party perspective.

Try to evaluate what you would do if it wasn’t your life. It’s useful if you can remove the self-doubt, emotion, and fear from the equation. Ask yourself what you would advise someone else to do.

Understand the timing

Last but not least, look at the timing of things. Is one of your options an opportunity that won’t be available down the line? Is there an idea that scares you more than the others? Is there an option that you’ll regret not pursuing?

This is where a framework can be useful, especially one like Bezos’ Regret Minimization Framework. It can quickly put things into perspective.

Making a decision takes a moment, living a decision takes  a life-time.Sherif A. El-Mawardy

Decisions can change your life. They shouldn’t be made on a moments notice or in an emotional state of mind, but that doesn’t mean you should be stuck in indecision.

They key is to evaluate your choices based on your personal preferences, and then make a decision. No matter if it’s right or wrong, it’ll be progress.