making good decisions

Published on May 6, 2020

My goal is to make a lot of good decisions as often as possible.

There is a temptation to focus your time on making great decisions. A great decision is indeed better than a good one, so it is rational to want to make great decisions.

The problem with trying to make great decisions is that, in many cases, the environment in which you are based is not conducive to making great decisions. Sometimes, we need to settle for good, because it is difficult to do any better.

Earlier this year, I was entertaining a career decision. I spent weeks deliberating this one decision, and every day it was at the top of my mind. During this time, side projects became less important to me, for I wanted to make sure I made this one decision right.

Now that I look back on the decision I made, I realize that I made the right one. But at the time, I did not feel that way: I was uncertain, and because the decision was reversible, it would have been easy for me to extend the decision-making process.

At the time I was making my decision, the information available to me was limited. As a result, when I made a decision I felt uncomfortable. Was there more information out there? What if I had misinterpreted the information I had already taken in?

When you’re making decisions, it’s reasonable to accept that what you need to make a great decision may not be in front of you. You may be lacking some crucial information.

In these cases, my focus needs to be on making a good decision -- one that I can reasonably live with, even if it turns out to be the wrong one. Using models like the regret minimization framework help with this -- choose the path that will lead to the least regrets -- and so does acknowledging the fact that most decisions are reversible.

On a daily basis, I strive to make good decisions based on the information I have. If I don’t have the information I want, I’ll go out and look for it, but if I cannot find that data, then I’ll just try my best to make a decision and then move on.

There’s very little point in dwelling over individual decisions for too long, for you could be using that time more optimally by working on something else.

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