Will You Choose to Read This?

Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality. — Bertrand Russell

Let’s be honest, having to make decisions is unpleasant. Whether it’s choosing between t-shirts to purchase (which, considering I shop at Goodwill, means I can afford both) or choosing between topics to blog about (which, considering I have the mind of a conspiracy-crazed hermit, means I’m always struggling to narrow it down) decision-making is difficult.

Still, every morning—should I brush my teeth? will I encounter friends? could I just eat breakfast to hide that stench?—we are constantly forced to make decisions. And most people don’t like it.

Psychology teaches us that people need at least a few choices to feel like they have control, but if you have too many, it’s debilitating (have you ever tried ordering at the Cheesecake Factory?). In fact, psychologists have termed this excess of choices in their typical, over-dramatized fashion: “the tyranny of freedom.”

For instance, one study hypothetically gave employees a vacation to either Hawaii or Paris. However, when the participants were able to choose between the two destinations, they expressed less satisfaction than when researchers simply told them which vacation they’d receive—the regret of missing the beaches or the museums, disappointing the employee because he or she could have chosen otherwise.

In my own personal life, I traveled with my sister this last Monday to San Diego so she could visit a college campus—in hopes of better informing her decision on which university she should attend. However, a much more crucial decision occurred weeks before this trip.

I decided to let my mother make the plane tickets.

Now, if you’ve never seen me in real life…well, you’re really missing out. But I’m about six-foot-one, my height in my legs rather than my torso, and a middle seat, Mother, does not jive well for three hours.

But that was my decision to let her select the seating (a poor one, mind you), and I had to live with it.

Decisions are difficult because we always fear what we might lose by selecting one choice over another. What we have to realize, though, is that once a decision’s been made, we have to live with it. We can’t keep regretting what we should’ve or could’ve done, only what was done and how we can move forward with it.

Some of the best decisions are made impulsively. Granted, some of the worst decisions are also made that way. But once a decision’s been cast, we then have one more choice to make: do we choose be to happy about it or do we choose to regret it?

Hopefully you select the former option after deciding to read this post.



Author: jdt

Jake writes weekly posts every Wednesday on the intersection of psychology and philosophy. To learn more about him, or to propose a topic you'd like him to cover, go to https://everydaypsychophilosophy.com/contact.

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