Do you torture yourself with choices?

Published Categorized as coping strategies, Uncategorized

Several years ago, I heard the terms ‘maximisers’ and ‘sufficers’ to describe two different approaches to making choices. I also learned how sufficers are generally happier which immediately made sense to me.

When making a decision, maximisers take considerable time and effort searching for all relevant information to ensure any decision is optimal. Sufficers tend to take much less time to decide, quickly making a choice that they are happy will be ‘good enough’. Maximisers might sometimes make better decisions but this doesn’t guarantee their choices will make them happy as they will continue to torture themselves with the agitating idea that the other choice might have been better. Sufficers don’t do this.

It’s clear some people actually cause themselves much unrest making decisions. It’s interesting to consider the possible emotion and thought-processes behind this.

So when there is a choice and a decision to be made, what do you do?

Obviously how potentially life-changing the decision is, is likely to have an impact on your approach. Deciding which flavour ice-cream you are going to have is quite different from deciding whether to accept a job in another country. I would assume the latter decision would require more time and detailed consideration for most people. But huge life choices don’t come along that often. Most decisions are relatively minor but I still see some people manage to torture themselves with these!

I guess it could be argued that when a decision (big or small) is a dilemma, it is because both choices have both pros and cons. When this is so, do you go round and round with ‘yes buts’ hoping that lots of thinking will deliver a clear way forward? Does the idea that you might have to let go of a ‘positive’ or accept a negative make you ‘squeeze’ thinking hoping for a solution that includes only positives? Do you still feel in control while the decision remains unmade and resistant to the moment the decision is made so you no longer have control over the choices? Do you scrapple around for other factors that you could add into the dilemma – however tenuously – in a ‘making decisions’ version of catastrophising?  Do you actually feel tortured by the idea that there is definitely a ‘right’ or ‘best’ decision and that is what you need to be sure of? Do you feel some relief once the decision has been made but maybe continue to unsettle yourself with ‘what ifs’?

I have come to believe that the investment in decisions is easily overdone. The best decisions are probably made by looking at all considerations, going for the choice that seems the most beneficial (this might be down to a ‘gut reaction’ which could be perceived as the culmination of all factors being processed unconsciously!)  and then making the absolute most of the choice you made by committing to it fully and leaving the other choice/s well and truly behind you! If a decision is hard to make because it’s a close call, chances are both options can be ‘made the best of’!

Nobody can every know how the future will unfold. When we hold faith that we’re going to make the most of whatever comes along, we are far less likely to ruminate on ‘what could have beens’. So make your decision and trust you’ll be just fine and if you’re not, know you will cope!