The secret to making hard decision in 2022.
3 min read

The secret to making hard decision in 2022.

windy path with hard decisions
What is the right decision?

Our ability to choose is what separates us from animals. Going home after a stressful day at work might have you envying the dog that walked past and make you think about how simple life is as a pet. Heck for a fleeting moment, you might even wish to be a dog. What would you be giving up for that change of fate? The ability to design your life. With our ability to choose comes the responsibility of making decisions, sometimes very hard decisions.  

As a toddler, if you're lucky, the most difficult decision is to choose which toy to buy at the shop. It seems impossible to choose from a seemingly abundant array of choices? The next decision might be deciding what to eat or who to play with.

The older you get the more impactful your decisions feel and the more difficult they are to make. That impact is validated by the pressure and stress of the world around you. Aside from the impact, you are riddled by the duality of the outcome of that decision. Is it the right decision for me, my family, my future, my wellbeing, etc? The list goes on depending on the array of variables that intertwine with your values.

Of course the inability to foresee the consequences of your choices in advance makes hard decisions hard.

This beautiful illustration of a passage from The Bell Jar summarises it well.

Figure 1: Passage from The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)

A hard decision for me was deciding to pursue a career in the tech industry as a data scientist straight after graduating from university with a Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering.  The move felt left field. In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't fall prey to the sunken cost fallacy.

Heuristics I use to make hard decisions

10 year thinking

Will this decision matter in 10 year's time? It's always been helpful to make decisions and assign weight to it based on how it impacts my life over a long time horizon like 10 years or 20 years.

Following your gut

This is as simple making a decision by following your intuition. Simple in theory but sometimes difficult in practice. Humans use their intuition by default. But it's when you try to rationalise all of your decisions that things can go haywire. Your intuition signal can weaken if we stray too far away from our inner compass due to the magnetic fields of others around us or circumstances at large.

Regret Minimisation (Will I regret it at 80?)

Regret minimisation is a fancy way of saying don't make decisions you will regret later in life. Suppose you have an important deadline coming up and you decide not to go to a good friend's wedding. Obviously this is a decision you will regret down the line as the seemingly importance of that important deadline dwarfs in comparison to significance of your friend's major life event. To me, regret minimisation is a common sense and foolproof heuristic to making hard decision.

Exponential Payoff

This is a heuristic that is sensitive to your life stage. At this phase of my life, being in my mid twenties, growth is the most important metric to optimise for. Subsequently, I try to actively pursue activities with an exponential payoff. An example of an exponential payoff activity is making youtube video. You make a video once, and hundreds if not thousands can watch it delivering exponential impact.