Decisions Are Experiments


Critical thinking is not merely an intellectual exercise, it’s meant to provide reason and logic so that you can make good decisions. When the time comes to make a decision, you’ve done all the work. You’ve described the problem, gathered information from a variety of perspectives, and interpreted and evaluated the evidence and relevant arguments.

But what if, after all your thoughtful consideration, you find that you can’t make a decision? If that’s the case, then what’s stopping you? Maybe you want to make a perfect decision or be 100% sure, or maybe you’re feeling self doubt. Let’s start with the first point. How do you make your decision perfect? Surprise! The answer is you don’t. You can’t. Nothing is perfect, including your decision. Instead, aim for a satisfactory decision. One that is practical, it can move you forward in the right direction. Once you accept that your decision won’t be perfect. Then you can spend that energy on making it a solid decision.

Next, how can you be 100% sure you’re making the right decision, that there isn’t a better option out there. Like perfectionism, certainty is a fool’s errand. Sure, you could pursue information ad nauseum, but more information doesn’t necessarily mean better information. What I’m describing is known as analysis paralysis. To become unparalyzed and take action, set a time limit for making the decision. You can’t predict the future, you won’t know if your decision will turn out the way you intended until you try it.

What if you’re simply afraid to make the wrong decision or you’re feeling self doubt? I promise that you are not the only one that feels this way sometimes. It’s called imposter syndrome, and many high achieving, successful people admit that they suffer from imposter syndrome. Here’s what you can do to overcome this obstacle. Be kind to yourself. Critical thinking does not mean that you should be overly critical of yourself. Think about your past accomplishments and give yourself the credit you’re due. Talk to a friend or colleague you like and trust to remind yourself of the good qualities you have. Now is the time to build yourself up, and silence that self doubt.

Finally, it’s important to remember that all decisions are experiments. You can anticipate likely outcomes, good or bad, but you won’t know what these outcomes are until you test your hypothesis, AKA your decision. With experiments, there are opportunities to change course if the outcome is different than you thought, or if external variables change the outcome unexpectedly. When you are conducting an experiment, whatever the outcome, you’re going to learn from it. As we look at ways to overcome these obstacles, remember, not making a decision is its own decision.