I struggle with making decisions, no matter the importance of the decision. If you ask any of my family members or friends, they will confirm that I simply cannot make decisions, whether it is the type of food I feel like eating that night or what I want to do with the rest of my life. When we learned about decision making in class, I thought it would be a good idea for me to consider why decision making is so difficult for myself and many others.
The first aspect that I considered was how we make decisions. We first set or revise goals, make plans, gather information, structure the decision, and lastly make a final selection. Heuristics play a major role in decision making when we do not have the time or resources to go through the process of how we make decisions. Heuristics are simple and efficient mental shortcuts that often lead to errors because their strategies only work under some conditions.
People use descriptive decision making most often because it accounts for how people actually make decisions compared to normative decision making, which calculates the mathematical optimal choice in order to make the correct decision. When I reflect on my own ability (or inability) to make decisions, descriptive decision making stands out. There is no mathematical model telling me what the best choice is for myself, my happiness, or my career, for example.
According to the Harvard Business Review, research shows that people typically make about 2,000 decisions every waking hour. There are certain things to look out for when having to make an important decision – some of these are decision fatigue, emotions, and analysis paralysis.
Decision fatigue is when the proper ability to make decisions decreases when it is repeatedly occurring. This is something that would be useful for me to keep in mind because I often find myself stressed when I prolong decision making, which likely leads my ability to make the best decision astray.
Emotions are also a critical, if not the most significant, part of decision making. We may act on feelings of anger, sadness, joy, or excitement and make important decisions based on what we feel at that exact moment. Personally, I might benefit from using my emotions to help me make decisions so that I can feel those emotions again. I tend to exclude how I feel about something in the moment so that I make decisions that are not solely emotion-based.
Analysis paralysis is the most relevant issue for me. We have access to endless amounts of information that aids us in the decision making process. More information results in more time to make decisions. This often hinders my decision-making abilities because I feel the need to consider all the information possible so I can make the best, most informed decision. However, this is where emotions factor in. It is not good to only consider factual information. It is extremely important to consider how I will feel about making the decision and how acting on my decision will affect me.
Decision-making is difficult for everyone at some point or another. It is important that we consider how the decision will shape ourselves, our relationships, and our feelings in the future. Considering the advantages and disadvantages that affect good and bad decision-making is a significant aspect of our cognitive abilities.