How to Overcome Decision Paralysis

Too much choice can be paralyzing. Here's how to make sure too much choice doesn't give too few results.

Stever Robbins
Episode #520
image of man torn between decisions

Even if it isn’t, rolling dice gives you a great scapegoat if things don’t work out. "It’s not my fault! The dice chose the tiger-striped onesie! I was going to buy a suit. Really I was!" (You don’t have to mention the part about the suit featuring fluorescent paisley.)

Learn from Lady MacBeth

One of the things that makes too much choice overwhelming is regret. We mentally choose all the things we like about each option and create a new option in our brain, combining the most desirable features of all of the existing options. 

This new option doesn’t exist, of course, but our brain doesn’t know the difference. No matter which choice we settle on, our brain compares it against this non-existent-but-compelling perfect option. We end up regretting our choice because our brain thinks we could have had that perfect choice, even thought it didn’t exist.

"Oh, tartar-control, whitening toothpaste," we cry, "you can never measure up to the tarter-control, whitening, anti-plaque, three-gel, extra-fluoride, for-sensitive gums toothpaste that sparkles so compellingly in my imagination!"

Fortunately, you can take advantage of the "Lady Macbeth effect." Lady Macbeth tamed her guilt by washing her hands. Scientists wondered if other things could be tamed by hand-washing. Bizarrely, it works for eliminating the stress caused by hard decisions. After you’ve stressed out from decision paralysis, wash your hands. You’ll be calmer and much more objective about your decision. 

In a world of more, decision-paralysis can strike at any time. For the best life experience, limit decisions to only a few choices. Satisfice rather than maximize, and if the answer isn’t clear, roll the dice and let Fate decide. Then wash your hands, so you feel good about your decision. Finally, use a fluoride-fortified toothpaste, wash your hands, and floss to prevent cavities. As attractive as it may be to have all your teeth replaced with crowns, good dental hygiene is easy, painless, and oh-so-minty.

I’m Stever Robbins. Want to stick to your weight loss goals, do your finances regularly, remember to recognize your colleagues for a job well done? Check it my Get-it-Done Groups at http://SteverRobbins.com. Image of man unable to make decision © Shutterstock


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT. 

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