Dilemma is Good for Decision-Making?

Does the following situation sound familiar to you? You want to speak up in an important meeting, you know it’s important and you will make a point, but someone interrupted with his or her view, and you held back everything that you are about to say, even though it makes perfect sense to the situation.

On a more personal level, let’s talk about shoes. Imagine you are about to purchase a new sport shoes or a dress shoes. You walk into a store and two pairs of shoes caught your attention. Each one has a different design and color, but you like them both.

Now, let’s assume the most relevant constraint in this situation is money. So, if you can spend the cash (i.e. no money constraint), you will most likely buy both pairs of shoes. That‘s a proven strategy to building up a lot of ‘stuff’ at home.

On the other hand, if you were short on cash and could only go for one, you would then be influenced. The pair that suits your budget would be the one you have to buy. There are no other options available to you.

The Game Begins

This is where it gets interesting. You have to deliberate whether you would crash your budget for the higher price (perception that higher price is better) or go for the one that fits your budget (logically speaking you have to) or simply walk away.  Psychologists call this the cognitive dissonance, or in short, you are officially in a dilemma.

If you think about it, every step of the way, you are forced to make choices; going for the option you think will prove to be beneficial in the long run. There are strings attached to each choice you make. Sometimes you stand to lose money; sometimes your relationship with a loved one or a co-worker might turn sour if you went the other way.

In other words, you are being influenced to go in a particular direction given the perception of self-created ‘constraint’ within your environment.

Playing The Game Right

However, if we look at constraints from another perspective, it can be a pretty useful resource because it helps us to prioritize and make the decision. In short, constraints influence our decision directly, or else we will never end up making a decision.

It is equally important not to be bored down with only constraints as the basis for making decision because this will paralyze the entire process of arriving at a good decision. So how do we balance it up for an effective decision-making process? The answer is as simple as reframing our thoughts (i.e. questions that we ask ourselves in making decision).

For example, we end up buying a lot of unnecessary clothes or stuff because we ask ourselves the wrong, biased question.

“Will I get to wear this?” The answer is most likely “probable”, and we ended up buying and not wearing.

However, if we ask the question:

“Do I love to wear this?” The answer can only be a yes or no. If it is a yes, you will buy and you will be sure to wear, if it is a no, you get to save up!

The Mindful Game

End of the day, to not be influenced is to be mindful. Are we mindful that we are stuck in a dilemma and how we can create options through reframing our thoughts? Mindfulness allows us to make conscious and rational decision and not be manipulated by the situation or events (e.g. products on massive discount or the great shopping month campaign where everything is going on sale). If we are mindful and conscious of the situation, we can increase our chance of making a more rational choice.

And yes, mindfulness does require a conscious effort.


Article By:

Joseph Wong is the Founding Director and Behavioral Transformation Coach of TrainingGearAsia Pte Ltd, with a purpose on “Building Influential Leadership Across Asia”. For enquiry on his Influence program and keynote, do email him at influence@traininggearasia.com

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