“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” - Roy E. Disney
Many people are paralyzed by choice, not fully comprehending that avoiding choice is a choice in and of itself. When it comes to decision making, you either consciously choose each decision or you have them made for you by circumstance.
If only making decisions was as simple as not making them. Unfortunately, in addition to weighing pros and cons, pros at decision making also consider their cognitive biases and the unfortunate influence they can often have over choice.
One of the most relevant hiccups, or caveats, to clear decisiveness is a bias called the framing effect, which alludes to the way in which the choices are “framed” or put into context. Research on framing reveals that people avoid risk in decision making when the context of the result is framed to be positive and seek it when the context of the result is negative. This corresponds to research on the endowment effect and status quo bias, which shows pain of loss is almost twice as great as the reward from gain. In other words, we hate suffering, loss and pain so much that avoiding it becomes a priority above all else and that means fear consistently stands in the way of rational decision making.
We’re also not always aware of the biases that comparison brings forth. Take product pricing studies as an example. If you want a pack of gum, you buy gum, right? Nope. When there were two packs of gum, each costing .64 cents, 46% of people bought a pack. After they put one pack at .69 and the other one at .62, suddenly 77% of people wanted gum.
And the examples of mind manipulation in pricing go on and on (pricing anchors the, effects of ending a price in 9 vs. 0 vs. 7, etc.), and then you can read for hours on all the other types of marketing that affect the mind. Is it any wonder we avoid decisions? Are we really even making them? But before we go into a blog on the limits of free will, let’s look at some ways to check biases and get better at big decisions.
Once you understand that decisions are dependant on more than just logic, you can begin to tease apart those influences and put them in their proper place. Here are four common influencers to consider when you make the next big decision:
Once you take ownership of the values you decide to uphold, you can embrace them and use them to align life decisions to what matters. For example, if you value family time over work and money, and are offered a promotion that bumps you to 75 hours a week + commute, well the decision becomes easy (no), if you are true to your core value of family time.
We are practically hardwired to avoid risk. However, it can help to remember that by risking nothing, you may actually be risking more. Consider what will be lost if you don’t take the risk? Try channeling a fear of loss into a fear of lost opportunities. Be honest and you may surprise yourself with a new sense of urgency about the risks of sitting still and playing it safe.
If you know and abide by your core values, then comparisons will fade back in decision making process. You won’t need to get married or get a better job because it’s “what people do” or what your Mother would want for you. It’s key to know these comparisons are always there in our minds and can play upon our decisions very subtly.
Do you really know what you know? Make sure you come at the decision from lots of angles and try and research in an unbiased way without the fear tailoring what you actually take in. Experts suggest you consider pretending that you are advising a friend. This helps to reframe and sideline biases and keeps you more open to ALL the information relevant to decision making.
And finally, Psychology Today in their article, How Do You Make a Major Life Decision, also encourages you to consider your most valuable resource as you plan your life -- TIME. Prioritizing time, the only non-renewable, finite resource of life, (versus money, anxiety relief, or joy) often leads to most wise decision making.