About “instead of” and the power of choice


There are so many options to choose from. I don’t know what decision to make”. Using “instead of” between two options is one way to solve a decision-making dilemma. Here’s why.

It is said that, on average, an adult makes thousands of decisions per day. Let them be about the food you eat, the clothing you wear, your personal hygiene, the transport mode you use to get to school or work, how you complete a task (at work), the kind of interactions you have with others, etc.. Because of habits, some decisions come “naturally”. Others create some sort of dilemmas. Ones we can get stuck in for long, at times.

You’ve been in a relationship for a while, and recently came to realize you don’t have many things in common anymore with the other person. You’re in a job that offers the highest paycheck you ever had but makes you feel, at the same time, “that type of work (or this team) is not a ‘good fit’ for me”.

What do you do? How do you get passed such crossroads?

A strategy that some people like to adopt is “ignoring” or “overlooking” the problem. How? By putting both, their mind, time and energy, onto some sort of an escape, a distraction. Like a group class at the gym, a series of woodworking or oil painting workshops at the community center, etc.. Things they wouldn’t normally do if the dire-problem didn’t exist. Others prefer to settle in and “Make with what I have right now. Even though it’s not perfect.” Your strategy might be different from theirs.

On the surface it might seems that a decision-making dilemma rests on not having enough good options to choose from. The solution being: “You’ve got to open your options!” Job boards offer hundreds if not thousands of options every day. Bars, nightclubs, match making services, dating apps and websites offer many “options” too. The same goes with social clubs, hobby or sport-centered groups. Having “a great or infinite number of options” doesn’t stop people from not committing themselves into “making a decision”. In some cases, this overload (of options to choose from) actually makes things worse. As if you’re undecided, odds are high that an overload of possible choices will make you over analyzing whatever “option” coming your way. Or lead you to make a decision you’ll call out to be “unsatisfactory” right from the start.

Why we get stuck in such dilemma then?

Often because we whether set our expectations or the stakes too high. Compared to what we’d regard as more realistic or practical, in a different situation.

Because we don’t want to mess things up then, we take so many precautions that we end up staying put. Not committing ourselves into making one decision versus another. As if we believed that if we stay still as long as possible, the problem might just come to pass its way and not see us.

Yet, the act of “not making any decision” is a decision in itself. Worse, it doesn’t send the problem away or help solve the dilemma you’re stuck in. It only extends the time you’ll spend “soaking” in it, sort of speak.

Put in perspective, “Decision making” doesn’t always rhyme with “Easy doing”. As mentioned, because of habits, some decisions come more “naturally” than others. What if it was possible to develop such “decision habit” for more demanding dilemmas to be solved? And gain confidence from it?

One way to do so is to proceed by elimination. That is, taking two options among those you have and put one on each side of “instead of”. “Staying in a high paying, low motivating job… instead of… searching for a decent paying, highly motivating job. Which one is better?”, “Keep on living with someone I have less and less in common with… instead of… seeking a new relationship where I’d discover to have more and more common interests with that other person. Which one is better?

Your “better” might not be the same as mine or the one of other people. For it to be alike isn’t the point. What is, though, is giving yourself the means to kickstart a decision process. Simply by weighting the advantages and disadvantages that two options have to offer, when being compared. Enough for the scale to tilt and lean more on one side than the other. Then, facilitating your decision. All because you will have used “instead of” as a pendulum.

At times, the costs of making one decision over another might weight more on one side of the scale than the other. As said, “Decision making” doesn’t always rhyme with “Easy doing”. However, what’s the power and value of “having a choice (or many)” if you don’t commit into making one?

Out of curiosity, when was the last time you held yourself back on making a decision?

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Photo credits: Venissa

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