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How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices

Annie Duke

Top 10 Best Quotes

“Barry Schwartz points out in his book, The Paradox of Choice, that this kind of sheep-in-wolf’s-clothing decision is more likely to come up the more options you have to choose from. The greater the number of available options, the greater the likelihood that more than one of those options will look pretty good to you. The more options that look pretty good to you, the more time you spend in analysis paralysis. That’s the paradox: more choice, more anxiety. Remember, if the only choices are between Paris and a trout cannery, no one has a problem. But what if the choices are Paris or Rome or Amsterdam or Santorini or Machu Picchu? You get the picture. THE ONLY-OPTION TEST For any options you’re considering, ask yourself, “If this were the only option I had, would I be happy with it?” A useful tool you can use to break the gridlock is the Only-Option Test. If this were the only thing I could order on the menu . . . If this were the only show I could watch on Netflix tonight . . . If this were the only place I could go for vacation . . . If this were the only college I got accepted to . . . If this were the only house I could buy . . . If this were the only job I got offered . . . The Only-Option Test clears away the debris cluttering your decision. If you’d be happy if Paris were your only option, and you’d be happy if Rome were your only option, that reveals that if you just flip a coin, you’ll be happy whichever way the coin lands.”

“And this feeling that the result of the decision tells you something significant about the quality of the decision process is so powerful that even when the description of the decision is identical (you quit your job and take a new position), your view of that decision changes as the quality of the result changes.”

“what you value and what someone else values will be different. And your goals and values will inform your preferences for various outcomes. That means that how much you prefer a particular outcome relative to other possibilities will naturally be different from another person’s preference for the same outcome relative to other possibilities.”

“there are only two things that determine how your life turns out: luck and the quality of your decisions. You have control over only one of those two things.”

“You can’t tell that much about the quality of a decision from a single outcome, because of luck. When you make a decision, you can rarely guarantee a good outcome (or a bad one). Instead, the goal is to try to choose the option that will lead to the most favorable range of outcomes.”

“When you overfit decision quality to outcome quality, you risk repeating decision errors that, thanks to luck, preceded a good outcome. You may also avoid repeating good decisions that, because of luck, didn’t work out.”

“When you make a decision, the decision makes certain paths possible (even if you don’t know where they lead) and others impossible. The decision you make determines which set of outcomes are possible and how likely each of those outcomes is. But it doesn’t determine which of that set of outcomes will actually happen.”

“When the outcome turns out poorly, it’s easy to focus on the details that suggest the decision process was poor. We think we are seeing the decision quality rationally because the bad process is obvious.”

“When people result, they look at whether the result was good or bad to figure out if the decision was good or bad.”

“When it comes to the bad stuff, the inside view tends to lead you to blame luck rather than your own decision-making. After all, luck is the easiest escape hatch for keeping your self-narrative intact. But identifying luck as the primary culprit for your situation won’t help you much in addressing the situation.”

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