Published on:

4th Aug 2021

Set Up A Default Choice

Indecisiveness comes down to an intolerance of uncertainty, and often to informational overload. In our modern, technologically advanced world, we’re constantly bombarded with an endless set of options in all spheres of life. We’re also saturated with all the information we come across on a daily basis, and this makes it hard to decide on things because we’re always looking for a better choice. We can consciously decide, however, to embrace imperfection and take on risks in the service of achieving what we care about.

Another way to tackle information overload is to ascertain what you need to know in order to make a decision, and identify the outcome you’re looking for. Then, narrow down possible decisions and take a leap of faith by choosing any because the opportunity cost involved becomes very low.

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A corollary to setting boundaries is to first decide upon a default choice if you can’t decide within a set amount of time. Pick your default upfront, then set a time limit, where if you can’t choose something else, you automatically go with the default. For instance, with your significant other, your default restaurant is an Italian joint. If you can’t decide on a different restaurant within five minutes each night, then to Italy you go. This saves time, but the act of creating the default choice is also important because you will have automatically selected something that fits your requirements or desires. You’ll be happy in either case, in other words.

In many instances, the default is what you had in mind the entire time and where you were probably going to end up regardless of any debate. You go through the mental exercise of choosing a “default” with the idea that you might end up there anyway.

Third, realize that you might have a drive to make the “perfect” decision. This is similar to our previous discussion about satisficing versus maximizing decisions, but it differs because perfection is the desire for something that doesn’t exist.

If something checks all your boxes, that’s all you need to beat your indecision. When you aim for perfection, you also tend to start running up against the law of diminishing returns, which states that the amount of effort you put into something isn’t worth the return you gain anymore. For example, you might spend a hundred dollars on a pair of nice shoes. At that price point, they will be well-constructed, sturdy, and fashionable. What if you were to spend two hundred dollars on a similar pair of shoes? They’d still be well-constructed, sturdy, and fashionable.

This begs the question, were they worth the extra hundred bucks over the cheaper pair? For most people, no. There is a law of diminishing returns where the more expensive shoes don’t make a difference in any relevant way. How nice can a pair of shoes get? Unless the more expensive shoes are self-cleaning with automatic lacing, you are spending more for essentially the same return.

You probably aren’t shooting for life-changing restaurants every night of the week. In this case, your compulsion to make a perfect choice is wasted energy. Eating is the goal, not choosing a perfect meal. Unless you are making life-impacting choices that you will feel the repercussions of for years to come, attempting to make a perfect choice is silly. The difference between the “perfect” choice and the “good enough” choice will be negligible, and you might not even feel it, or remember it, the next day. There won’t be consequences that make a difference in the long-term, so what is the sense in spending additional time and energy on it?

A famous comedian has clever input on this matter: “My rule is that if you have someone or something that gets seventy percent approval, you just do it, ’cause here’s what happens. The fact that other options go away immediately brings your choice to eighty, because the pain of deciding is over.”

Fourth, to make better and quicker decisions, engage in intentionally judgmental thinking. This is the type of thinking you have probably tried to repress, but it will be very beneficial for your decision-making. Think in black-and-white terms and reduce your decisions down to one to three main points.

Overgeneralize and don’t look at the subtleties of your options. Willfully ignore the gray area and don’t rationalize or justify statements by saying “But…” or “That’s not always true…”

The idea is to focus on what really moves the needle for you and ignore elements that, while they matter, aren’t the most important at the moment. Sometimes, consuming less information will help this because you are focused on a smaller set of factors.

Let’s go back to the example of choosing a restaurant for dinner. How can you think more in black-and-white terms about something like this?

Simply reduce your restaurant choices down to what you might categorize as a first impression. Restaurant A is a place for burgers, despite the fact that five menu items are not burgers. It doesn’t matter—in black-and-white terms, it’s a burger place.

Restaurant B is expensive, despite the fact that it has five items that are cheap. It doesn’t matter—in black-and-white terms, it’s expensive. Restaurant C is far away, despite the fact that if you hit good traffic, it’s not too far. It doesn’t matter—in black-and-white terms, it is far.

Seeing options in black and white basically generalizes their traits and removes their subtleties. Remember, if we’re talking about destroying indecision, this is one of the best things you can do. If you have a hazy stereotype of your two options and the stakes are relatively low, then that’s all the information you need.

A final method to be intentionally judgmental is to sum up your options in one short sentence only, no commas or addendums allowed. You aren’t allowed to elaborate on anything. When you try this, you’ll notice you can only end up with broad strokes, such as “It’s a burger place that’s ten minutes away” versus “Well, they serve burgers, but they also have lasagna and tacos. It’s ten minutes away, but I think we can get there faster.” Which one is going to be easier for you to choose for or against?

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About the Podcast

Social Skills Coaching
Become More Likable, Productive, and Charismatic
While everyone wants to make themselves and their lives better, it has been hard to find specific, actionable steps to accomplish that. Until now...

Patrick King is a Social Interaction Specialist, in other words, a dating, online dating, image, and communication, and social skills coach based in San Francisco, California. He’s also a #1 Amazon best-selling dating and relationships author with the most popular online dating book on the market and writes frequently on dating, love, sex, and relationships.

He focuses on using his emotional intelligence and understanding of human interaction to break down emotional barriers, instill confidence, and equip people with the tools they need for success. No pickup artistry and no gimmicks, simply a thorough mastery of human psychology delivered with a dose of real talk.

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Russell Newton