Choosing the Best

Choosing the Best

When faced with a set of good options, choosing the best one can be a daunting task

Time to make a choice. Decide among a few options. Or a multitude. You don’t want to miss and choose wrongly. You want to make the best possible decision. I see you. Striving for excellence is admirable, but you must learn to recognize when the extra effort may not be worth it.

The older I get, the less I worry about perfection. Historically, I would spend too much time seeking perfection or the absolute best on both my projects and the work I would do for clients. Guess what? It’s not worth the extra effort between a really good product/service and a perfect one. I love quality both on the receiving end and as a provider. Nonetheless, pursuing perfection can become a trap, leading to countless extra hours, indecision, and inaction. I’ve learned to remove that source of stress from my life.

Research on the concept of “diminishing returns” shows that after a certain point, the extra effort put into a task does not yield proportional results. Or it will go unnoticed by the vast majority. In some cases, it may even lead to decreased performance. Thus, striving for the highest level of quality may not always be the best use of your time, resources, and energy. 

Recently, my wife and I have been visiting schools for our toddler. As parents, we want the very best: an alternative teaching philosophy that revolves around play and the arts, safety, hygiene, and an amicable teacher-student ratio. We want a school that meets our demands, is mainly in Spanish, and is aligned with our values. Research has shown that children who attend high-quality education programs early tend to have better academic and social outcomes later in life. 

“To make the best decisions possible, you must evaluate both the upside and downside of your choices, and consider their impact in both the short-term and the long-term.” – Annie Duke, professional poker player and author of Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts.

I was taught to make “educated guesses” when taking multiple-choice tests early in school. For these horrible exams, you needed both the knowledge of the material and a strategic approach to answering questions efficiently and effectively. This framework of making an educated guess has proven very effective in making decisions throughout my life. It helps answer multiple-choice tests and choose a career, life partner, or the first school for your toddler. The approach is something like this: You eliminate wrong answers, even if you’re unsure about the correct answer, to narrow down your choices and increase your chances of getting the correct answer. You look for context clues in the question that may help you eliminate incorrect answers or select the correct one. Sometimes the wording of the question itself can provide clues to the correct answer. Finally, guess intelligently: if you’re not sure about an answer, make an educated guess. 

“Informed decision-making requires knowledge of the possible consequences of each alternative, including the probability and value of each consequence.” – Daniel Kahneman, Nobel laureate and author ofThinking, Fast and Slow.

While there is no foolproof method for selecting the best option among good options, here are other strategies you can use to help you make a more informed choice.

  • Take the time to evaluate each option thoroughly. Consider the benefits and drawbacks of each one, and weigh them against your specific needs and priorities. Make a list if it helps you to compare them side by side. This will help you to clarify what you really want and need.
  • Gather as much information as possible about each option. Do some research, ask friends or colleagues for their opinions, and read reviews if applicable. The more information you have, the better equipped you will be to make an informed decision.
  • Trust your instincts. Often, our gut feelings can be a good indicator of what is truly important to us. There is really interesting research on this. So, listen to your intuition and pay attention to how each option makes you feel.
  • Identify your values and goals when making a decision. This information serves as a guidepost to evaluate your options and determine which choice is most aligned with what you want to achieve. 
  • Remember that sometimes there is no one “best” option. All the options you’re considering may be good, and each one may have its own unique benefits. In these situations, it may be helpful to make a decision based on what feels right at the time rather than trying to find the one perfect choice.

Ultimately, the most important thing is to make a decision that feels right for you. Approach it with a positive attitude and an open mind. Take your time, evaluate each option carefully, and trust yourself to make the best choice for your needs and priorities. Don’t sweat it. Decide. You have done your part. Trust your intuition. If it doesn’t work, move on to the second choice. Life is full of opportunities, and every decision is a chance to learn and grow.

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