What kind of person makes this choice?

It’s not always easy to act in a way that is consistent with who we want to be.

Competing demands often make simple choices impossible. Nothing is cut and dried and everything seems like a compromise ethically, financially or morally.

When it looks like there are no good options, it can be helpful to consider each one in turn and ask “what kind of person makes this choice”?

The answers which come back will give clues as to the motivations which can drive that decision, not all of which might have been otherwise apparent.

Our own decision making processes are often hidden from us and can often be deeply influenced by our own fears and biases.

Asking “what kind of person makes this choice?” shines some light on the what’s driving our choices. It can then allow us to manually override any hidden drivers and make decisions and choices which we reflect the best of who we are.

Improve decision making with a supermarket

We’re assaulted with a multitude of decisions, demanding action almost every minute of the day.

But each decision takes willpower, effort and time – three of our most precious resources. Not only are they key to decision making, they’re also fundamental to getting shit done.

Making decisions not directly relevant to the task at hand wears down our ability to focus on what’s important and achieve results. Those decisions kill our momentum and velocity.

But we’ve solved this issue elsewhere.

Doing all our shopping at the supermarket, once and then getting a single, itemised receipt lets us batch the task and makes it clear what the cost was. Buying 80 items individually, as we need them, and then trying to manage the receipts, that’s something else.

If we let tiny decisions arrive and challenge us on their own terms, we deplete our resources in dribs and drabs. It’s hard to gauge how much of our time, effort or willpower was spent.

But we can compress the demand on our thinking into more manageable chunks by capturing decisisons as they arise, holding them until we have a few and then tackling them in batches.

Taking the supermarket approach to decision making lessens the cognitive load, allows us to focus on making good decisions and – most importantly – leaves us free to act later.

Not making a choice is still a choice

Not making a choice is a vote for the status quo – it reinforces existing structures.

Not making a choice transfers both the burden and the power of that decision to others – and they may not thank you for it.

Not making a choice invites circumstances to dictate your future options.

Not making a choice should be a deliberate decision, or avoided entirely – it should neither be the default, nor an accident.

Not making a choice is often the worst choice of all.

Correct play doesn’t guarantee a good outcome

When we get a shitty outcome, it’s easy to assume that we should have done something differently. After all, it didn’t turn out how we wanted, so we must have done something wrong. Right?

But there’s a great lesson that poker players learn quickly: we can make the correct play and still lose. Often.

Correct play doesn’t guarantee short term wins, but it will give us the best odds of success in the long term.

In the face of a short term defeat, the worst thing we can do is to automatically assume that we got everything wrong and change our strategy entirely.

A short term loss is a data point, not a life sentence.

Getting comfortable with short term loss can help inoculate us against the type of behaviour which will guarantee long term disaster.

There is always a chance of course that we should have / could have done something differently for a better outcome. But it’s never certain. It’s never guaranteed.

All we really do is learn the game, learn the odds, learn the players, learn the situations and make the best decisions with the information we have to hand.

It’s just another reason to play the long game.

Why facts don’t convince us


We like to think that we’re moral, rational creatures who live sensibly based on the information we receive.

The truth, as always, is a lot messier than we would like.

We can see this when we’re confronted with information that doesn’t match our world view. When we see facts we don’t “like”.

We dismiss, rather than verify.

If we do look into the issue in question, our first instinct is to simply seek out information which confirms our existing point of view. Confirmation bias.

We’re just not creatures of fact, we’re creatures of narrative. Of stories.

We each have a personal story we tell ourselves. In our personal story, we’re a lone, rational protagonist struggling against an irrational and unjust world.

And we all have the same story.

Not only do we act in accordance with our story, but our beliefs and story perpetuate each other.

Rarely if ever, will our story changed with purely by facts. Raw data we don’t like just becomes woven into the “irrationality of the world” in our story.

Facts can’t dent the cliffs of our personal story, but a counter narrative has the power to reshape and reform our story’s landscape.

The next time you’re planning to try to convince someone to change their mind, think about the narrative.

Think about their story, think about your story.

Don’t disregard your facts, but don’t fire them out like bullets. Weave them into the fabric of a compelling story and you’ll be more likely to win both hearts and minds.