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The Decision Making Dilemma

‘Making a big change in life is pretty scary. But, you know what’s even scarier? – Regret’ – Zig Ziglar


“What do you want? Chocolates or ice cream?” my Dad would ask me when I was five years old. That was probably the first tough decision I had had to make in life. In our teenage years, it was “Which stream? Science or commerce?” It is from this point onwards that the questions become increasingly tricky and their answers increasingly important. You have a problem with decision making when you either don’t know what you want or when you are unable to properly assess the options in front of you. But, not all decisions are mutually exclusive to us. Despite the freedom afforded, most youngsters pursue careers based on their parents’ choice rather than their own. Barry Schwartz, the author of The Paradox of Choice, once said “A picker does none. With a world of choices rushing by like a music video, all a picker can do is grab one and hope for the best.”

Instead of worrying about every little opinion surrounding each decision, focus your energy on the big ones. According to a study by Cornell University, an average person made about 221 decisions each day - for food alone! On some days, the biggest decision we may need to make may be a trivial one, say, deciding between the Canteen and the Cafeteria. On other days, there may be life-changing decisions to make. With the sheer number of decisions that we need to make, it is simply impossible to be a chooser for each of them!

‘Truly successful decision-making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking.’

Then, of course, there’s the not-so-small matter of time. It is perhaps one of our life’s most valuable resources. So, cut your choices down to a smaller shortlist and you’ll probably have an easier time in making a final decision. Growing up, I always thought happiness was the result of achieving something - like buying a new car, or creating a huge savings account or settling down in a huge new house. The one thing I finally learned is that happiness is not a destination- it's a way of life. Learn to find happiness every day- even in the small things. You can find it only if you do what you love, even if it doesn’t yield any monetary value.

Tamil Nadu’s late Chief Minister Selvi J. Jayalalitha, when questioned about her involvement in the film industry, had answered “My mom forced me into the acting industry. I cried, I fought and that’s all I could do to object her. But I was still a very young girl who was just 16 years old. What more could I do? I agreed.” She further went on to add, “Yes I hated acting. But I am surprised at myself. I was also introduced to politics by force, and I hated it. But today I am totally surprised and immensely happy with myself for what I am.”

The above is an example of a success story when you have people around you who take part in your decision-making process. However, it is impossible to predict if Jayalalithaa would have had the same amount of success had she made that decision on her own. Sometimes, the people around us, most notably our parents, serve as the best guiding lights in the path that is our life.

Almost all of us know people who aren’t happy with their college/stream choices – engineering/medical/<insert any other degree> is not everyone’s cup of tea! For those of you who aren’t sure, just remember, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you! Don’t let the decisions you make in the past bog down your life trajectory.

The art of decision making is not easy to master. It is natural to feel a little uncertainty when surrounded by multiple choices. There may be many reasons as to why some people can just dive into life and do what is required with enthusiasm and excitement, while others are paralysed at the thought of having to step up to anything that might require taking action.

So here are some tips to help the latter group:

  • Some people are afraid to take a leap fearing their poor choices and decisions in the past. Don’t forget, failure is the stepping stone to success

  • Feel free to ask others for their opinion on potentially difficult decisions. While you need not necessarily have to adhere to what everyone says, it is always a good idea to expose yourself to the differing thought processes of others

If you ask me, the bottom-line, in the end, is to listen to what your heart says!

Happy decision making!

Tagged in : My space, AKSHARA VISWANATHAN,