Choice and decisions businessman thinking with question marks written on adhesive notes stuck to a brick wall
Choice and decisions businessman thinking with question marks written on adhesive notes stuck to a brick wall

Thus decision-making is a type tug-of-war between two or more wishes. The more intense wish wins the war, writes DR SHRIRANG BAKHLE.

Every day, so many times a day, we keep taking decisions. They may be small decisions. For example, whether to follow the diet or to eat that sweet; whether to go home early or work till late; whether to but that expensive dress or the more economical dress etc. Or the decisions may be big: whether to take up this job or that job; marry this person or that person; whether to invest in a large property / business or not etc.

Taking decisions is a tricky business. Many a times, we keep agonizing over what decision to take – sometimes for a long time. This leads to a lot of stress. Sometimes, we repent having taken a decision. For example, we decide to give punishment to our child but repent it later. And we are not able to follow up on some of the decisions. A classic example is the typical New Year Resolution.

So, decision-making is a very common and important part of our lives. But what exactly is a ‘decision’? How do know whether to take this decision or that decision? Why do we repent decisions sometimes?

Each of us has literally hundreds of wishes: many wishes related to our relationships, appearance, health, food, home entertainment and so on. All these wishes cannot be fulfilled. There are situations when, if we fulfil one wish, another gets antagonized. For example, you have a few hours free on Saturday evening. You can use them either for working or for enjoying. You cannot do both. So you have to take a decision whether to fulfil the ‘wish to work’ or ‘wish to enjoy’. Finally, the decision itself means the wish you have chosen. The wish then guides our actions to get it fulfilled.

How do we decide which wish to choose? For example, you have to take a decision, that is, choose between ‘wish to save money’ versus ‘wish to go on an expensive vacation’. How do you decide? Here we need to understand the concept of ‘intensity’ of the wishes. Some wishes are more intense than others. For example, if you compare ‘wish to give expensive treatment to our seriously sick child’ versus ‘wish to save money’, the ‘wish to give treatment will be more intense.

But it is important to note that the intensity of a wish can change over time and with different circumstances. For example, you have an intense ‘wish to do some important work’. As compared to this, the ‘wish to watch TV’ is less intense. So you start doing your work. But after some time. You get bored. Now the ‘wish to work’ has become less intense. Then the ‘wish to go to movie’ seems relatively more intense. So you put the work aside and switch on the TV.

Thus decision-making is a type tug-of-war between two or more wishes. The more intense wish wins the war. And that wish becomes the decision taken. But sometimes this tug-of-war is dynamic and changeable. If the intensities of the wishes change the decision can go in other wish’s favour.

This brings us to the problem of the New Year Resolutions (and so many other resolutions)!  On the night of 31st December the wish to lose weight becomes intense..During this time, suppose you are sitting at the dinner table and you have to take a decision whether to eat that oily recipe or not. Now the ‘Resolution wish’ is intense, so it wins the tug-of-war with the ‘wish to eat it’ easily. A few days down the line, as you continue to encounter delicious high fat dishes, the intensity of the Resolution wish goes down. Then Resolution wish being less intense than the ‘wish to eat’, loses the tug of war.

There are some decisions that are single point decisions. For example, decision to buy this expensive house or that expensive house. Once the decision is taken, it is all over.

However, there are some decisions that have to be taken repeatedly – like the decision to avoid fattening food, to exercise regularly, decision to avoid smoking / drinking etc.

Here the main problem is maintaining the intensity of the wish for long time by motivating oneself. That is why it said that ‘motivation is like bath – you have to take it daily’! This is the point of difference between achievers who are able to achieve long term goals and those who are not.

Repenting a decision can come because of two reasons: either because of change in intensity of wishes as described earlier or because of new information not known at the time of decision. However it is important to remember that the decision seemed right at that time. So stop cursing yourself for that decision now. Wish you happy decision making!

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Free Press Journal