What’s the Best Decision?

Of decision-making dilemmas and their work-arounds

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When I studied a foreign language degree, I had two options:

1. Navigating my life to becoming a Teacher in that language, with add-on fancier possibilities like traveling to another country and/or studying and living there

2. Navigating back into college and attaining another degree which would be more scalable than degree mentioned in Option 1

After a good deal of introspection, I chose Option 2.

I decided that because I wanted variety and scaleability. A bunch of other reasons also played their part well in framing this decision. When I took it, I stumbled clean into what I least expected — people (whom I cared about) around me contested my decision on this. They strongly thought I should’ve gone with Option 1. They claimed aloud that I had no humility or gratitude for what I had and that I was probably a bit conceited. What I could clearly see was — they themselves took entitlements they need not have taken whilst doing this… But they chose to do that anyway. I was left to navigate it.

Someone’s decision on their life is not another person’s business (for reasons, read on). Either way, I seized the above situation as opportunity to stand by my chosen option and protect it like it was my little baby. Despite the strong winds, I stood by my roots on my decision as I always — certainly shaken yet not broken by them.

In retrospect, I understood a few things. What the world around you says is based on their limited (third party) information and insights about your choices and decisions. What’s good for you, what’s working for you may not be what’s best for someone else. As rightly said,

“One man’s poison is another man’s nectar”

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We should take decisions based on what’s best for us. What’s best for us, is what we’ll work on and make right for us.

Affectors:

Our decisions are based on our past/present experiences, situations, circumstances and even our future and long-term plans, plus a huge market variety of decision-affecting factors. In response to all these “affectors” (I’ve given them this little name), we frame our decisions on how to act. Others may not know and don’t need to know why you chose what you chose. Explaining it means explaining your affectors, which is 90% of the times a predefined lost-pursuit because they rarely get understood. By all means use these affectors to frame your own decisions and judgements. Eventually, others opinions do not count as much as our own in matters that largely affect only us.

Relativity and Subjectivity:

Loading another story, this time from my workplace:

While my colleague is trying to make judgement calls and decisions to pull up relevant insights in his research projects, I find myself able to unearth considerable (and very effective) judgement calls that he himself isn’t able to. It doesn’t bracket him as being bad or ineffective at making decisions — his emotional investment in his project is higher than mine. Neither does it brand me as an effective decision-maker (next para tells you why). As someone not so impacted/connected to his project, I’m able to shoot ideas from a third-party vantage point where being objective is easy. It’s easy because my emotional investment in his work is naturally lesser than his own.

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Swap courts and behold! — when it comes to my projects, I find myself in his shoes, facing the exact same decision-making issues that he has. I find myself slipping offboard into extremes while stupid-ass delusional ideas steamroll into my mind — “aarrgh I can’t decide!! Damn Do I have mental problems?!!!” Then I have to just Stop for a moment. Breathe. Count maybe. Run myself through lines of reality-checks. And then I’ve hauled myself back onboard Sanity ship. Aligned. Damn sure my colleague faces similar delusional dives.

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Reality: This happens to the best of us. The greatest positivity about it — it’s a subtle yet important sign that we are emotionally invested in our work and care about it like it’s our own child.

What we need to do is to balance out this emotion.

Too much of care jeopardizes decision-making and propels you into a chain-reaction of other emotional bungling-arounds with no great results and only mayhem radiating out.

When you face this and want to get a grip on yourself –

1. As I said: Stop. Breathe. Get Aware of that you are emotionally overinvesting into this.

2. Change course and detach. Now’s your calling to go see the world from the third-party vantage point… the same branch that you keep making your colleague (Mr. or Ms. Someone-else) perch at and chirp out ideas from. Let’s go there.

3. Once you’re seated there comfy, reconsider… how would’ve Ms. Someone-else decided? What would Mr. Someone-else have done? It might not work immediately but with persistent, deliberate practice, you’ll begin to mine out gold and diamonds of whatever-you-want in plenty.

4. Repeat till voluntarily reposting yourself to another observation-point becomes a part of you.

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Jogging back up the article, I mentioned third-party ideas are disadvantageous, primarily because they lack full awareness of the affectors. At the same time, they are advantageous because they come from a place of less emotional investment. The above four steps help you use third-party vantage-points to your advantage completely by striking a balance. With just a small compromise: you make yourself that third party and don’t bother another human being to do the role-play.

What they say is right —

You are enough for yourself.

That way, you stand to have both — knowledge of all the affectors (inherent only to you) and also the strength of a third-party (thus eliminating the weakness of third-parties: no knowledge of affectors). Cherry on the cake: Hopping to that vantage-point yourself also keeps the locus of control of your emotions in your hands.

Some more dilemmas:

More often, we find that relying on advice by others poses tricky issues. Namely, the advice may or may not be a right fit for us. When it goes haywire, we are all on our own to settle the dust-storms raked up. An advice — on let’s say “what to do” — is something you can take only from someone who has been through a very similar/same situation and has succeeded (and you know about this) through his actions. We’re mostly looking out for those actions they took.

But what we really do is (big thanks to emotional overinvestment) — we mostly go blindly berserk and seek those answers from people who have not actually slayed the dragon that we want to slay. And they’ll pelt answers (read opinions, viewpoints, ideas etc.) at you anyway. And you’ll be pressurized to wear them on though you know deep-down that they don’t fit you. This is where answers of others become worse dragons — ones that are disguised as cute puppy dogs. By and by they reveal their true form, and we realize we’re basically battling more than the one vicious dragon we started with, all on our own now.

Tempting as it may be to ask for words of advice, unless asked from the right person, it’s usually a useless set of words that help you get nowhere.

All the Jazz. Yep.

Accounting for these realities, we would be better-off by finding ways to frame our own decisions. Your own decision is your own pet. You know why you adopted it. You know how much you can invest in it. You know the efforts and sweat it takes to make it happen for you. You’d back it at any cost and thus find ways to back it. Not only does this make us more responsible, but stronger as well.

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