A woman walks into the doctor’s office and says “Doctor, I have turned into a compulsive thief.”
The doctor gives her a prescription for a course of tablets and tells her, “If you’re not cured in a couple of weeks would you get me a new convertible?”
Moral and life-changing decisions can be confusing. You spend days and even weeks juggling between the options in front of you.
All you really want to do is make the best decision, but it’s stressing you out. Your gut instinct tells you to go one way. Your head tells you to go the other.
Indecisiveness can make some situations more difficult than they actually need to be. But what’s causing your indecisiveness?
You’re may be allowing insecurity to cloud your judgment and cause you to second-guess your intuition. Don’t worry – it happens to everyone.
When Intuition is Guiding you in the Right Direction:
1. It’s constantly on your mind. Your intuition pushes you to constantly think about the impact of a decision. It’s difficult to get the thoughts off your mind when deep down you know the right thing to do.
• Avoid underestimating the power of your intuition.
2. You feel sad when you go against your intuition. You usually feel relieved when you choose the option your intuition tells you. You feel as if a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. So if you feel heavy after the decision, it means you’ve probably made an unfavorable choice.
• It’s possible to feel sad after a tough decision if there is a negative impact on others. But that sadness should go away quickly if you’ve made a decision that’s truly right for you.
When Insecurity is Guiding you in the Wrong Direction:
1. You ask for the opinion of others. Usually, insecurity manifests itself in doubts. If you find yourself asking others for opinions on your potential decision, it means you aren’t fully sold on it yourself.
• It’s always okay to seek advice. However, you’re grabbing at straws if you’re allowing opinions to take precedence over your own thoughts.
• Bear in mind that the opinions of others may very well be based on those people trying to fulfill their own needs.
2. You’re considering the feelings of others first. When you consider how your decision can affect someone else first, chances are you’re insecure about something. If you’re struggling with a decision that will be life-changing for you, consider your own feelings first.
• Are you afraid of what others might think? Or are you concerned about how they may view you after the decision? Remember that those who love you will support you in whatever decision you know will be best for you. The opinions of others aren’t your priority – you are.
Your values and morals are reflected in your intuition. Once you develop a system for decision-making based on your values and morals, it’s likely going to be much easier to make important decisions.
After a while, you’ll realize that the most important opinion is your own. Embrace your decision-making abilities so you can eliminate insecurities.
If you obsess over whether you are making the right decision, you are basically assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another. The universe has no fixed agenda. Once you make any decision, it works around that decision. There is no right or wrong, only a series of possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that you experience.” ― Deepak Chopra
But how do we make decisions when we don’t have enough information to do any of the above?
A recent study by neuroscientists at New York University found that our brain, when faced with making choices and a lack of information, uses elapsed time as a proxy for task difficulty to calculate how confident we should be.
“In our daily lives, we make many decisions,” says study co-author Roozbeh Kiani. “Sometimes the evidence afforded us is strong, enabling us to decide quickly and accurately. Other times, the evidence is lacking; we take longer to decide and tend to be less accurate. Our brain can learn that longer elapsed times are associated with lower accuracy and should mean less confidence.”
Scientists know that decisions are usually accompanied by a degree of certainty or confidence. We arrive at a graded belief that our choices will produce positive outcomes.
Confidence plays a critical role in guiding our future behavior in complex environments, especially when decision outcomes are delayed and rapid learning is required.
But how this certainty is established is less understood. Researchers have attributed it to a pair of variables: evidence and decision time.
If we believe we have sufficient evidence for making a decision, we’re more likely to be certain in making a choice.
When it comes to time, the quickness of a decision is seen as a reflection of confidence. In other words, the more rapidly we make a decision, the more confident we are in making it.
“We showed for the first time that the relationship between decision time and confidence is not fully mediated by evidence—elapsed time plays an independent role,” said Kiani. “In many situations using the elapsed time is advantageous. It offers a computational shortcut and improves the reliability of calculated confidence. However, it also shows that we can dissociate accuracy and confidence by a manipulation like that used in our experiment.”
Choice Certainty Is Informed by Both Evidence and Decision Time
Roozbeh Kiani, Leah Corthell, Michael N. Shadlen
Neuron, Vol. 84, Issue 6, p1329–1342
Blind insight: metacognitive discrimination despite chance task performance.
Scott RB, Dienes Z, Barrett AB, Bor D, Seth AK.
Psychol Sci. 2014 Dec;25(12):2199-208. doi: 10.1177/0956797614553944.
Image: Thomas Hawk/Flickr