Monday, June 07, 2010

How to be a Great Chooser

Sometimes the best choice is the decision to stop choosing.

I learned this from The Paradox of Choice, which suggested the following:

“Don’t allow the number of available options to significantly impact your decision-making.”

Instead, try this:



1. Find something that’s good enough.
2. Meet your own standards.
3. Look no further.
4. Let the countless other available choices become irrelevant.

Otherwise you get snared into an endless tangle of anxiety, regret and second-guessing.

BESIDES: Who cares if there’s something better around the corner?

You can’t go through life regretting every decision you make just because it might not have been the best possible choice.

It’ll eat you up inside like a tapeworm.

Better to just make a choice and get on with your life comfortably – as opposed to being plagued by doubt, wondering about what could have been a marginally better option.

That’s the secret to becoming a great chooser:

Having high standards; yet giving yourself permission to be satisfied once your experience matches those standards.

Take the mall, for example.

Once you find a parking spot that’s good enough, you have two options:

1. Do you turn off your car and start walking toward the entrance?

2. Or, do you frustratingly waste your time waiting for some soccer mom to back her SUV out of a closer spot, complain about how she’s taking too long, park, then look over your shoulder on the walk into the mall, wondering if you could have gotten a better spot, thus inviting unwanted stress into your life?

I vote for the first option.

Because, as I learned from The Paradox of Choice, “The exhaustive search of possibilities entails a high information cost that isn’t worth incurring. Instead, determine how much information is necessary to make a good decision while simultaneously noticing when information seeking has reached the point of diminishing returns.”

Then you move.

Otherwise, if you keep looking, you’ll always find something better.

There will always be a closer parking spot.

THEREFORE: Beware the tyranny of small, irrelevant decisions.

No need to over-think or over-choose.

It’s smarter to put a stake in the ground now, before you get seduced into the endless spiral of “a little bit better.”

MY SUGGESTION: Ignore new choices instead of falling into the trap of post-choice pondering.

This actually diminishes the satisfaction you get from the choices you already made.

Think about it:

Why check out all the possibilities before deciding?

You’ve got stuff to do. Just pick one that’s good enough and move onto the next step.

Why contribute to your time burden by preparing for, making, reevaluating and regretting every goddamn decision?

You’re a busy guy. Post-choice regret doesn’t serve you well psychologically.

Why become a slave to your own judgments?

A great chooser thinks, “Screw looking around to others to make my decisions.”

Instead, decide which choices matter - and WHY they matter – then make them quickly and consistently.

Because if you don’t shorten or eliminate deliberation time about decisions – especially for the ones that are unimportant to you – you’ll become a picker instead of a chooser.

This is not good.

As author Barry Schwartz reminds us, “Believe that accepting good enough will make your decisions simpler. And that your ultimate satisfaction from a decision decreases with every minute you spend pondering about the opportunity cost of that decision.”

LESSON LEARNED: The pursuit of perpetual improvement is overrated.

Constantly searching for perfect solutions leads to frustration, or, worse yet, inaction.

This is not good.

Don’t be afraid to opt out of decision-making in certain areas of your life.

As I mentioned before, sometimes the best choice is the decision to stop choosing.

Look. Choosing is a lot of work. It’s stressful. And unless you’re (truly) dissatisfied with your decision, stick to your guns.

Don’t be tempted by new and improved (it’s not).
Don’t scratch unless there’s really an itch (there isn’t).
Don’t worry about missing out on the amazing new things the world has to offer if you make the wrong decision (it’s probably crap anyway).

The ability to change your mind about a decision, Schwartz concluded, does nothing but set the stage for future anxiety and lower ultimate satisfaction.

Both of which are the essential ingredients to the prescription for misery.

Maybe Marry Poppins was right.

Maybe enough really is as good as a feast.

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Are you a great chooser?

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

Never the same speech twice.
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