Difficult Decisions

Sometimes I cannot make a decision, especially when it seems like there’s no good choice. How to make the right decision? Can you please help me improve my decision making ability?



Dear KG,

I am reminded of the time when a therapy client said to me, “The time for inaction is over,” and then added, “I will make my decision tomorrow.”

I knew that he would say the same thing next week, and of course, he knew it too.

Talking about action was enough to ease the anxiety of inaction, and so he continued to hold back from making this important decision that could change his life.

Most of us, during the course of a lifetime, will have to take many life changing decisions.

Of course, it could be argued that all decisions are life changing, especially the ones we don’t consciously make – If you weren’t late by five minutes for that train, you would not have met the person who would become your life partner, and so on.

But there are times in our lives when we know that the decision we have to make will have far reaching consequences.

Should I get married? To this person or to that? Should I move to a new place or stay here? Should I take this job or that? Or, should I join this university or that?
And so on.

If you have a difficult time with such decisions, if you are stuck, then it’s probably because you are thinking too much.

Decisions that force you to choose between ambiguous outcomes are difficult to make – your rational, theoretical brain will not be able to find a solution and will often spin in a closed ended loop.

Decisions can be difficult and complicated for a number of reasons, but often, difficult decisions are those when the 2 alternatives presented seem equally bad, or equally good.

(The first – 2 bad choices – is referred to as Morton’s Fork (more here at Wikipedia) and the other, Buridan’s Ass (here’s the wiki link)

While you struggle with the decision, thinking about it, weighing your options, the “correct” decision eludes you.
That is because your decision will not feel like the “right” one, unless it resonates with the emotional center of your brain.
When you make the “right” decision, you will not question it, you will know it.

Sounds kind of self-evident, but it bears underlining. The right decision – as Malcolm Gladwell discusses in his book, Blink – is often made in an instant.

So in order to make the right decision, you have to trust yourself.

If you are caught between a rock and a hard place, or between a stack of hay and a pail of water, act with conviction.

Trust your instincts, your emotions, your gut, and you will have made the right decision.


Dr Shyam Bhat

December 12, 2010 | 9:07 am | By Dr Shyam Bhat
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