“Mental clarity ain’t for the faint of heart.”- Katerina Stoykova Klemer
I believe we could all become more adept at making choices. Because, if anything, we seem to have become worse at making thoughtful choices. Heck. Maybe even ANY choices.
I am all for, and a huge proponent of not dicking around <the technical term for ‘wasting time overthinking’> when a choice needs to be made.
But there is a difference between making speedy decisions and making a decision because speed is the main criteria.
Of course … this is festina lente.
Make haste slowly.
And it is becoming more important to think this way because the fear of choices … leading to making the most obvious or most popular or the most expedient <speediest> … is plaguing not only our personal lives but more importantly the business world.
Fortunately there are scientists at work trying to figure out why.
In the meantime Psychologist Barry Schwartz has put forward an interesting (and slightly disturbing) theory about choices and happiness.
“The more options there are, the easier it is to regret anything at all that is disappointing about the option that you chose.” – Barry Schwartz
Mr. Schwartz calls it the paradox of choice.
It seems the more choices we have, the less likely we are to make a decision, which ultimately makes us unhappy. Schwartz suggests that choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed and, ultimately, not happier but more dissatisfied.
Barry Schwartz studies the link between economics and psychology.
I found it interesting because he actually suggests <kind of> that having more options doesn’t increase our overall satisfaction <benefit + happiness>.
Here is his talk on Ted:
Making choices … having the mental clarity to do so in a typically impatient world is made more difficult by the fact many of us begin by thinking of regret. Yup. The fear of choosing one thing before you even choose the other. All of this being tempered by the “now factor” <I need to make a choice now>.
I call this the internalization of opportunities/costs/loss. Or maybe it is simply dwelling on the benefits of the next best options that have been forgone by a choice <losing something, albeit even speculatively, that you never had>.
Every choice has opportunity costs.
And since we live in a world of infinite possibilities, it’s so hard to figure out what to do, when, and where.
If you start thinking this way … well … you begin living in a world strewn with hypotheticals.
But what if I do B?
Will I be happier? Will I get back more? Will everyone around me be more satisfied?
Or what about C? That looks good.
But someone suggested D.
You get it. There are 26 letters in the alphabet and while most of us stop way before Z … even getting to D can be maddening.
It seems like the world is your oyster … everything is possible … but you don’t take advantage of any opportunities because you’re not sure of what’s best.
To make matters worse, more choices tend to raise our expectations: we think more choice = better quality.
I use scientific advice to suggest that there are some happy few people who look at each choice discreetly. More choices do not equal better quality to them. They do not need the ‘more’ they simply need the context. These people drive us crazy because they do not typically offer us choices <we may like ‘more’ but they offer ‘less’> but rather they offer us ‘the’ choice.
And it is often a good choice.
The best? Shit. Is there really a best? There are most often better choices than others … and they identify the better of the better.
This is typically where we end up screwing up the value of these people. Because we want ‘more choice’ and they want ‘right choice’ <and move along>.
We are impatient humans … yet we always want more … and we seem to always want it all in less time.
It is an ongoing daily struggle.
Let’s get personal first. Daily Life.
This is about how most of us are not good at assessing ROC <return on choice> the return on whatever we have invested in making the choice as well as once the choice is made.
We suck at this.
There is the investment in developing the choices <and however many we need to feel like we have enough to assess … assuming that is a finite number>.
There is the investment in actually assessing the choices <better, betterest & best … assuming a best can be actually identified>.
There is the investment in the actual choice.
And there is investment post-choice. Yup. Even if we choose the rightest choice we either have angst over whether it was the best or we have angst hangover from the choice process.
Let’s go business next.
I call this the paradox of organizational choice.
The end result is the same as Schwartz’s <too many choices creates diminished value>. But the path to the result is different <if not just as paradoxical>.
Here is that paradoxical business organization logic path.
Faster good choices are better.
Few good “choicers” <people who can do the first thought> available.
Many within organization believes they are good ‘choicers’ <and permitting them to make choices has a paradox effect of building their personal self-esteem as ‘good choicers’ while actually implementing less than optimal choices thereby encouraging poor choice making>.
Organizations, to be more efficient & effective, should drive choices <all> to the select few good ‘choicers’
Unselected majority ultimately grumpy <but organization actually benefits>.
That is not only a paradox but a Gordian knot <or in layman’s terms … ‘playing Twister with your organization’>.
All I am suggesting is that some people are really good at making ‘impatient choices.’ They have that mental clarity that actually improves in impatient moments … and the maturity to slow down the moment and say ‘let’s not be so quick to make haste’ <and actually be right about it>.
But not everyone is like this.
And, in fact, they are a minority.
Imagine being the key word … because that is an imaginary world. We couldn’t do it.
If your life, or your business, has one or two … use them, preserve them, foster them … and trust them <you will go farther than you ever imagined>.
If you do not have the luxury of having one of them around <which by the way … is an entire article on how most of us suck at accepting someone is better at this than we are> you have to learn to manage impatience. Yeah. Easier said than done.
I imagine the point here is by acknowledging and accepting the issue gives you the opportunity to actually deal with the issue.
And in the end … organizational impatience leads to the permitting of poor choices <and a quicker death of a thousand cuts>.
Personal impatience in choice making probably just leads to general unhappiness <kind of a different thousand little cuts>.
Dealing with impatience … and balancing impatience & patience ? … well … it ain’t for the faint of heart.