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Decisions made easy

11. September 2020 / general

We reach decisions all the time – experts estimate that we make between 20,000 and 100,000 each day. Most of them are instantaneous: Should I put on blue or black trousers? Are we going to an Italian or Chinese restaurant this evening? However, we find it difficult when we have to reach decisions that could have a major and lasting impact on our future lives. One thing is certain: Not deciding is the worst decision we can make.

Never before were we able to decide on as many things as we do today – we have an enormous range of choices in almost all areas of life: From our choice of career to where we live to the partner we want to be with. The list of options is potentially unlimited. For example: Do you know all the different professions that exist in the world? The fact is: The more choice we have, the more difficult it is to decide. This is what psychologists refer to as ‘the tyranny of choice’.

And we frequently take decisions without being aware of the exact reasons for them, since there are numerous factors that can influence our decision-making: The (un)conscious influence of our environment, what we expect of ourselves, hormones (e.g. testosterone increases our tendency to take risks), sales tactics, the power of habits – combined with the fear of change – etc.

Better the devil you know

When reaching decisions, we are often faced with the fear of missing out. After all, if I decide in FAVOR of something, it means that I am, at the same time, deciding AGAINST something else. And if I have to give up something I am used to, I find it even more difficult – for two reasons: 1) When something is familiar, our brains release the happiness hormone dopamine – making us feel good.
2) If we are used to something, it means that we know what we have. When it comes to new options, the outcome is unknown. That is why many people choose what they already know – in line with the motto ‘Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t’. Does that really always make sense? You know the answer: Sometimes yes perhaps, but generally speaking no!

A large number of people apply an unsuccessful strategy when taking important decisions: They put off making a decision, or sometimes fail to decide altogether. They are worried about the consequences and shy away from assuming responsibility. What they would like most is to be 100% certain that their decision is the right one. Unfortunately, however, we can’t predict the future – as already mentioned – and we therefore can’t know at the time of the decision what implications it will have. The outcome is that we don’t take any decision at all. That said, not deciding is also a form of decision – since it means that we are leaving things unchanged. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can frequently also mean that we are stuck with ‘the devil we know’.

Use your head – and listen to what your gut is telling you

I learned the following from my old boss Oswald Grübel, former CEO of Credit Suisse and UBS: It is better to take a decision and make a mistake – which can then be corrected – than to not make any decision at all. I would therefore urge you to show courage and decide. These tips could help you in this context:


I would like to conclude with one of my favorite quotes – this time by the legendary American singer Joan Baez: “You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live. Now!”


© Claudia Kraaz

Buch: Claudia Kraaz – Nachhaltig leistungsfähig bleiben
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