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A Technique On How To Make Better Decisions (For Indecisive People)

Photo by Anthony Tori on Unsplash

Ever heard of the elimination method? Neither have I. I may have just coined a new term, but here’s how it works when a decision needs to be made, especially over a pool of choices. Maybe this new method will catch on if it proves useful for people who are indecisive in their decision-making.

Some people know what they like or what they want from the get-go. It tends to be in their nature, being very sure of themselves, decisive and unflinching in their decision-making.

This was not me. Unless it is something I am already very well versed in or have had experience in, I tend to be indecisive. I will walk through the multitude of potential options and hope to make a decision that is the most beneficial. That’s when the ‘choice elimination method‘ can be applied. This is a systematic method, which consists of three simple steps:

Step 1 – List out all the potential choices you can decide on, in no particular order.

Step 2 – Go through this list one by one, and review the pros and cons for each. When you are certain one doesn’t make the cut for you, eliminate it.

Step 3 – When you are at your final two options, think about how do you feel about it emotionally. When the points from step 2 are not convincing enough to make a decision, we consider how we feel about that choice, or for example, think about which one you are most willing to spend the most time on and which you are most comfortable with. Of course, if you derived your answer in step 2, then you may skip this step.

It can be applied to the simplest things of choosing which flavor of ice cream to have at Baskin Robbins’ or to larger more weighty decisions like which career to choose, which city to move to, or which kindergarten to enroll your child in. This method is best suited for occasions when the decision has to be made over multiple options, but it can still be applied for scenarios where you need to decide over only two choices.

I will share one real-life example of how I used this method in my personal story below.

I had finished my pre University examinations and with the results, I was now able to submit my applications to universities and colleges for our selected major. Problem is, I couldn’t decide what I wanted. I was 17 years old.

Just to make mention here before I go on, I am aware and acknowledge that I am very fortunate to be able to be in a position where I was able to get my tertiary education, with parents who emphasized education for their kids, albeit in my case I had to apply for a student loan to pay for my school fees.

I couldn’t decide. Accounting? Law? Business? Banking and Finance? IT? Engineering?

There were pros and cons for each field of study, so I started going down my pool of potential degrees and yes, eliminated them one by one based on what data I had on each and more importantly, how I felt if I were to do it for long term as a job after graduation. Below I run through my thought process for each degree option.

I didn’t take business or marketing, as I was not comfortable with constantly meeting new people constantly, and mostly I was not keen on doing sales. My issue was I would only talk about the basic truth of the product to clients, and unless I was selling something that I completely trusted and there was no other better product out in the market, I would probably advise the clients of our competitor brands or services of available products/packages that may be better suited to them.

Accounting? This was what my parents initially proposed, but I knew immediately that I didn’t have a knack for looking at numbers, nor do I have a good hold on accounting terms, back then I was still confused between credit and debit. I never took accounts in secondary school ( equivalent to the term high school used in the US), as I was streamed into the science stream in secondary four in the school I was in, which focused on the core subjects of Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Mathematics.

Law. This was something I paused to ponder longer on while making a decision. I liked languages, and I was decent in English. I had some interest in the complex nature of how government laws can be applied to each individual cases and the thought process of how they can be used to justify or disqualify a client’s claims. However, I decided not to pursue law as I felt I knew too little of the profession as a whole, and also, I felt I would be boxing myself into a world of words, written laws. meeting clients and paperwork.

What did I choose then? I thought back to my time in school, where there was one subject that I’ve felt drawn to, one that I would actually look forward to reading and understanding, and sometimes, it even felt fun. Physics. It helped that my teacher was eccentric and looked like Doctor Emmet Brown from the movie Back to the Future, and he failed me in my first mid term test papers. Well, he failed me and over half of my class, with a big fat ‘F’ in red drawn across the front page to make his point clear. He always said to us this statement:

“If you know it, you know it. If you don’t then you don’t. Don’t try to think that you know it when you don’t.”

Teacher Foo

What he meant was it was either we grasped the concepts of Physic’s laws and the use of the equations, or we don’t. There was no in-between or trying to know. That made things easier for us and gave us a wake up call in our first introduction to Physics. This was not a subject you could memorize, you have to understand and effectively apply the concepts of Physics to be good at it.

Physics also has a subset of mathematics in it, and I was alright with mathematics. So, I choose to do Engineering. My parents were not immediately approving of my decision at first. In fact, my brother commented that there were not many girls in the engineering class and he was right. But my parents agreed to let me study what I wanted.

I never regretted my decision, I enjoyed physics then and still do. I enjoy writing too so I started my blog this year, thinking it was now or never to start writing

Give this method a try, and see if it can simplify your decision-making process. I hope this helps some of you.

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