Sunday, May 9, 2010

More Thinking Does Not Mean a Better Decision

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An experimenter tested the decision-making ability of two groups by measuring their ability to choose the best car to buy (for the experiment, one choice was better). The groups’ decision-making differed by the number of variables they had to take into account before making the decision. You would think that the group given more variables would make a better decision, but you would be wrong. The experimenter found that our decision-making ability improves up to a point, but too many variables overwhelm the brain’s ability to process the information and the quality of decisions declines.

Those who had an overload of variables to consider when choosing the best car to buy made better decisions when they were distracted by a word puzzle, thus leaving them time to only rely on their intuition. Research suggests that you can get so bogged down in processing variables that your decisions become worse, not better. Business refers to this as paralysis by analysis. Deciding to commit or recommit to a marriage can be overwhelming when you try to examine all of the positives and negatives associated with the decision. On top of that, the decision looms large because it affects many people over a long period of time.

When you find yourself overwhelmed with a relationship decision you can minimize the variables by focusing on just a few issues or you can overwhelm yourself by trying to take into account all the variables, particularly everything that can go wrong with the decision. The result can be that you are unable to make a decision or make a poor decision.

This is why it is important to take care of yourself while you are trying to make difficult decisions. In order to make a good decision, you must trust your decision-making ability even though you cannot control the outcome of your decision.

Self-care means focusing on healthy behaviors that build personal strength. Look for relationships with those that value you and want the best for you, rather than polling others for their opinion. Avoid escaping stress through use of alcohol or testing your feelings through an inappropriate relationship. Instead, eat well, rest, and exercise. Give yourself permission to just be in the moment, even if that moment is filled with doubt and questions.




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