We are paradoxical creatures. We want freedom of choice. But we don't like making decisions. Sometimes, we even prefer when they are made for us. In this post, I share a visualizing concept I find useful to identify the decisions we tend to avoid.
We are paradoxical creatures. We want freedom of choice. But we don't like making decisions. Sometimes, we even prefer when they are made for us.
Not all decisions, of course. Some are effortless. Like deciding between writing this article or watching the latest episode of Slow Horses on Apple TV.
But we would do anything in our power to avoid making certain decisions. What are they?
I like to visualize along two axes: impact and uncertainty.
- Impact is a measure (objective or subjective) of how many people will be affected by a decision, and to which degree.
- Uncertainty represents how unpredictable the outcome is. Highly uncertain problems often depend on factors outside of our control or understanding.
Four quadrants become apparent:
- Low uncertainty/Low impact is the "routine" area. Decisions are easy to make, sometimes even unconscious. While we feel the most comfortable in this area, it also tends to be the most boring.
- Low uncertainty/High impact is the zone we like the most. Decisions are easy to make, and their outcome is impactful and rewarding. This is where we get most of our motivation at work.
- High uncertainty/Low impact is tedious work. Decisions are mentally/emotionally straining due to uncertainty, but their impact is limited. This is where we tend to procrastinate the most. Low impact often means low urgency, and so we push back to when we'll have "more time".
- High uncertainty/High impact is the scary zone. We run away from these decisions.
Like most people, I naturally avoid the decisions in the upper quadrants. I always find good excuses to push back the tedious ones, and I'm an expert at rationalizing why I don't have to make the scary ones.
What you can do about it
When you are confronted with a decision that is bothering you, try to place it in the decision quadrants. You'd be surprised at how often the decisions you avoid are in the "Procrastination" quadrant, not the "Avoidance" one.
Now, the good news is that it has a low impact.
Which means that the outcome doesn't matter that much. Being wrong won't impact many people. So don't spend too many cognitive and emotional calories.
Make a quick decision. Be wrong. And learn from your mistakes.
How about the scary ones?
Don't rush them. Obviously.
The truth is that until you make a decision, you won't know whether it is the right one.
Focus on the decision process, not the outcome. You only have control over the former.
To be continued ...