A Little Happier: One Easy Way to Make a Tough Decision

As we work to make our lives happier, one challenge is making decisions.

Decision-fatigue is real. It’s hard to make decisions. That’s why packing to leave on a trip is so much more difficult than packing to come home—when we leave, we have to decide what to take. On the way home, we just dump everything we brought into a bag.

So any action that reduces unnecessary decision-making helps us conserve energy, which also means that we have more energy to make difficult, important decisions.

About decision making, one of my Secrets of Adulthood is: “Many decisions are difficult because the choices are so similar; when neither is clearly the right choice, it’s likely that neither is the wrong choice.”

I heard about a funny example of how one person battled the decision-fatigue of deciding between two similar choices.

In 2005, the large Japanese Maspro Denkoh Corporation decided to auction off works from its art collection that were worth about $20 million dollars. It included masterworks by Cezanne, Picasso, Chagall, Renoir, and van Gogh.

The two obvious partners to handle this sale were the major art auction houses of Sotheby’s or Christie’s.

The company president couldn’t decide whether to make this multimillion dollar agreement with Sotheby’s or Christie’s.

So he asked a representative of each company to come to their Tokyo office for a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. The president explained that because the two companies were equally good, he couldn’t just choose one. So he asked them to play this game.

I think this was a brilliant solution. It prevented analysis-paralysis. It stopped any  unnecessary searching for some insignificant reason to choose one house over the other. It was less upsetting for the people of the losing house, because the decision clearly wasn’t made on the merits. And it was quicker.

Here’s an article about that game.




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