Why it’s Often Difficult to Decide on Simple Things

Sometimes seemingly small decisions can have a bigger impact than we think they are going to. There are so many random elements to life, we think that by choosing to buy a blue car instead of a red one, or watching a funny movie instead of a scary one, we are in some way controlling what happens to us in the future. Even though choosing to watch a horror movie will not have much impact on our lives in the future at all, deep down we think that it might change something important. Often, the best thing to do is just to make a random decision and go for it, otherwise, you can waste ages weighing up the possible consequences of choosing one thing over another.

Sometimes a small decision will have to be made, but the option we choose will make such little difference to the overall outcome that the decision seems almost pointless. This fact in itself can make a random decision much harder as it is more difficult to work out whether or not you are making the ‘right’ decision.

If there is little or no real difference between two separate options then the simple lack of real effect on our lives makes it hard to find a reason to pick one of the options. We like to have a concrete reason to choose to make one decision or another, but sometimes this just isn’t possible. If we can’t find a valid reason then it can make the decision-making process much longer as we try and invent one.

Some people are just more indecisive than others. Some people can make decisions in a heartbeat and are at ease with the decisions they choose to make. Others find it much more difficult than that and dwell on these decisions, however small they may seem to others, taking much more time to make them.

We often attribute more importance to small decisions than we need to. We over-analyze the thousands of possible outcomes which could arise from us making that one decision in the first place. Experts often refer to this phenomenon as ‘paralysis by analysis’, explaining the way in which we can end up analyzing the situation so much that we become too distracted, unfocused, and mentally occupied to make the original decision.

The difficulty of a decision is not really determined by how important it is or the impact it will have in the future. The decisions that may seem ‘simple’ can actually be the hardest to make because there are just so many options. Choosing which pizza topping to go for or which syrup to get in your latte can be extremely hard because there are so many similar options. Choosing which car to buy or which house to rent can often be much more straightforward because more of the options can be eliminated or ruled out along the way. The best thing to do with these simple choices is just to make a random decision. To stop the ‘paralysis by analysis’ taking you over, flip a coin or use a random decision maker to help you choose what to do. Then you can get on with your day without wasting any more time.