As humans, we have a significant advantage over all other living beings:
The power of imagination
We can imagine the future and possible outcomes and go through multiple scenarios of any given action. That is quite amazing – and some of us are specialists in that. But what has this to do with making decisions you might ask? Let me explain.
Imagine yourself preparing for a date. You’ve just met this guy or girl, and you don’t know what she or he likes. You want to choose a place for the first date and you are searching the internet for the perfect local restaurants. Your search returns about 20 restaurants at your price level. How would you choose the right one?
You don’t know much about your date, so whatever you choose might be right or wrong. There is just no right way to find out. You want to come over as a confident person, so asking your date to make a choice is out of the question. In the end, you decide on one restaurant, and you hope it’s the right one
So how do we usually make decisions?
If you are aware of it or not, the brain scans through all possible scenarios based on the data it has available and we select the one that feels like the one with the best possible outcome. Let’s say you want to impress with the choice you’ve made; you might choose a restaurant with great entertainment. If it is not going so well, at least you both have a good time because of the entertainment.
If you are more the romantic type, you might choose one that is quieter and more intimate, so you can play your act to the fullest without being disturbed. However, your decision will always be based on your prediction of the best possible outcome, and you might be right or wrong.
If this is only one of many dates, you might not put so much weight on your choice, because if it does not work, the next date will come.
But what if there is more pressure on you to make this date work? Would that change your choice?
For many people, these kinds of decisions make them get stuck in an endless loop. Because they see the choice of restaurant as such an essential factor for their success and they haven’t got enough data to make that one decision.
The fewer the choices, the easier the decision
Let’s change the scenario. Let’s say you live in a small town and there is only one good restaurant. Would you still think about the right choice of restaurant? Of course, not, there is only one possibility, and there is no point in thinking about it. Your brain will take that restaurant as a fact and play its scenarios with the given details. Of course, there can still be good or bad outcomes, but the choice of the restaurant has nothing to do with it.
Based on my studies, most successful people have a very good process for dealing with these kinds of situations. They understand that choice is a distractor from what you want to achieve. Reducing the options to the most important ones is critical in this process. Does the outcome of your date depend on the restaurant you choose?
So how can you make the right decisions?
First of all, have a clear idea of the expected outcome. Next, play the scenario backwards. It’s like playing a video in reverse. This will reduce it to only a few possible scenarios. Select a maximum of 3 ways to get to the expected outcome and choose one.
The number 3 is the key here. Keep everything within that range. If you need to decide on a restaurant, choose out of three, not more. If you need to decide on a dress or shirt, choose out of three.
Our brain has the least problem to come to a quick decision if only 3 options are involved.
Now you have a good starting point in finding your way of making good decisions.
Enjoy your date.