Making Decisions and Starting Riots

Too many choices = tough decisions.

Note (written after I wrote the words below): This article will confuse you. Or it will be very clear to you. There are no bullet points or headlines. Read it at your own discretion. ;)


In general I’m very good at making decisions. The more seemingly difficult the decision the easier it is for me. You know those big “at a crossroads” type decisions? The kind that can greatly affect your future? Yeah, those are easy.

Big decisions usually have only 2 clearcut options. Do X or Y. Truthfully only one option ever really feels right. Many times this “feels right” decision is also the one that scares us the most, hence our apprehension in pulling the trigger. I didn’t get a BB gun when I was 13 to refrain from pulling triggers. :) (Blame gangsta rap, it’s an easy … target. Pun!)

The decisions I struggle with are the little ones because the little decisions are the ones that, ironically enough, usually have the most options. The Paradox of Choice! What do I have for lunch? Oh, I don’t know, how about any number of a million choices within a 3 minute walk or 1 second walk to my fridge. :)

Lately I’ve been struggling with the decision about where I should head for my next destination. I have a bit of a time constraint. It’s about 5 weeks. Based on the paradox of choice, this should make my decision easier. But I don’t think about vacation, I think about “how do I make use of every single day of my visa and maybe a little extra?” So if I’m going to take a shorter trip it feels like a waste to only go somewhere for 5 weeks.

I asked on Facebook where you would go if you had to choose one destination for 5 weeks. (Check out the responses here.) In a way I was hoping your answers might make my decision easier. In fact, now there are more places I want to go to. :)

“A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows public opinion.” – Chinese proverb.

The problem here is that none of my ideas scare me. I don’t get a distinct “yeah, this one” feeling. (Deciding where you’re going to travel isn’t necessarily life changing or world shattering, although it can be.) Not every decision has to be a scary one, of course. Otherwise, I’d be eating a lot of stray dogs.

I’ve never consciously broken down my decision making process because I don’t have much of a decision making process. Let’s create a decision making process, shall we?

First, to make a decision you need to, as clearly as possible, know your options.

What are the options?

In my case, I have 3 options. B, R, and S. Let’s call them Bricks, Riboflavin, and Submarines.

Second, are any of the options obviously out of the question?

Sometimes it’s glaringly obvious that one of our options are just not a good fit. Maybe it’s current timing, maybe it’s forever out of the question, or maybe it’s something that we hadn’t seen before. Whatever the case, you might be able to immediately disregard one or more of your options.

In my case I love Bricks, Riboflavin, and Submarines equally. I can use Bricks during “riots” to “protect” the homestead. Riboflavin is a necessary nutrient. And Submarines are both sandwiches and underwater boats. I can get behind all of that!

If you’ve removed one or more of the options, does it make your decision easier? No? Moving on …

Third, what would happen if you flipped a coin?

If you flipped a coin or played some other game of chance to make your decision would you be OK with the outcome?

Personally, this option doesn’t work too well for me in my situation. Without a compelling reason behind my decision it just won’t feel good to me. I need something tangible in my particular situation.

Do you need something tangible as well? Moving on …

Fourth, what are the benefits of each decision?

Some people make pro/con lists, but how about we stick to just the pros first?

In my case:

– I’ve never experienced throwing Bricks at a “riot” before and I’ve always wanted to. In that way it will be an incredible growth experience.

– Although I get Riboflavin daily, I’ve never consciously taken it. Living consciously is important.

– As for Submarines: The last time I ate sandwiches on an underwater boat it was one of the best times of my life! I would love to experience that again.

Are any of these positives compelling enough? No? Moving on …

Fifth, what are the negatives of each decision?

– If I’m going to throw Bricks I want to throw a lot of them. And 5 weeks isn’t enough time to do much damage.

– Do I ever really need to consciously take Riboflavin? I’m not so sure. Maybe I should get some blood work done.

– Submarines are stressful. Cramped quarters with lots of other people. But I love being underwater without touching it. It’s a unique experience that not many others get to experience and I’m not so sure I’ll have too many more opportunities to experience this.

Whoa, I just made my decision. Thanks for hanging with me. See you on the little yellow submarine. That is not a drug reference you Beatles fan you. It is, however, a metaphor. :)


What is your decision making process?


  1. Man decision making is so amazingly important. I wrote about this in my blog after reading Psycho Cybernetics (which I highly recommend). Great to see others systems on how to make decisions. A single decision can change your life.

  2. The longer I live the more it seems to me that my decisions are never really about choosing between option A and option B, they’re about choosing between making a decision right now, and continuing to avoid making a decision.

    Having said that I would go with submarine over riboflavin any day.

    • That’s a good point David! It’s tough to frame a “where to travel next” decision in that way, but I can see it working for many other decisions.

  3. If you never want to regret a decision then actually the very best way is to have only one other option, choose one path and have no opportunity to ever go back. This will make you the happiest.

    Unfortunately few decision are ever like this so I guess we are all torn by the paradox of choice.

  4. You touched on the “negatives” in your post. One of the most common things that people are faced with when making decisions – and perhaps one of the most influential – is fear. Sometimes rational, more often exaggerated in our own thought processes.
    How does fear play apart in your decision making process?
    Do you have any specific advice / methods for approaching it that could help others?

  5. Sometimes, I have a hard time making decisions. I agnozie over it. I make lists. I think and don’t think. Then I just throw it all out and decide on doing whatever feels right. Usually, I know what’s right before I start the process of “figuring it out” but usually the process gives me confidence.

    This is strange for me, having come from an abusive relationship where decisions weren’t an activity I was supposed to partake in.

  6. Decision making process, huh? Strangely enough, my process is a lot like the one your described. Here’s a nifty trick borrowed from an episode of Friends (my son is particularly good at it): You have a friend or cohort name two similar things (i.e. bread or bagel). And you choose one with the first thing that pops into your mind. The friend does this four or five times and then throws in your decision. You will always answer with what is most important to you, and sometimes the answer will surprise you. Good luck!!

  7. My most trusted compelling reason for making a choice is whether or not it really calls to my soul. It’s not a brain thing…sometimes the logical reasons for doing one thing rather than another may seem more compelling, but the other may feel more right, even if I can’t explain why.

    I read a lot about taking risks and doing things that scare you as a way to become a stronger person. Every time I read a post about skydiving I get a little closer to thinking that might be something I’d love to try someday. But the things that call to my soul are not necessarily scary or daring, but they are meaningful to ME…things like learning to help sail a three-masted schooner because I have a passion for ships and the Great Lakes, or scaling Skellig Michael off the west coast of Ireland because I have a passion for the ancient Celtic world. Neither of those is breathtakingly scary, but they would be an awesome adventure for me, and I’m excited about doing both in the near future. :)

    • “sometimes the logical reasons for doing one thing rather than another may seem more compelling, but the other may feel more right, even if I can’t explain why.” – This is normal for probably every single one of us. Logic doesn’t usually win out simply because there isn’t much feeling behind it.

      “But the things that call to my soul are not necessarily scary or daring, but they are meaningful to ME.” – Thanks for sharing that Laurie. It’s important.

  8. Hi Karol,

    Have you read ‘The Dice Man’ by Luke Rhinehart? It is a controversial cult fiction classic from the 70’s and will be quite confrontational for some readers. As the title suggests, the theme of the book follows a man who puts aside all of his existing decision making criteria (morality, wisdom, social conventions etc) for the exclusive process of the roll of a dice.

    Not a book for the faint hearted!

  9. Karol,

    Great post and I relate to a lot of it. But more than that, you have stirred a curiosity – I look forward to learning where the submarine takes you. I’ve a very vague hunch.


  10. I could not agree more. My wife and I recently decided to move from California to New York. That decision (and the string of decisions leading up to it) were very straight forward and easy.

    Deciding when we will need to have certain items shipped, what items to take in our checked luggage, or what could wait til I come back to CA in March… yeah, those took a week or two of discussion and planning.

    Very good post about breaking down the structure of decision making.

  11. people can be indecisive sometimes when both options are equally good. you get stuck because you want to make the best choice possible, but there are two (or more) best choices! If this is the case, no need for indecision and inaction, because it doesn’t matter what you choose, as long as you pick something. You seemed to be going that route, but luckily a reason why one option was better finally floated to the surface.

  12. […] take it. This wasn’t an easy decision as I had a few other options. If you’ll recall my Making Decisions article, this is the decision that I ultimately decided on (although I was much more vague in that […]

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