Why can’t we choose?

Jonas DoerrOpinion Columnist 

“What do you want to do this weekend?”

“I don’t know, what do you want to do?”

“I don’t know?” The conversants walk off and end up doing nothing that weekend.

This situation has happened to nearly everyone. I’ll be a mind reader for a second; you have a hard time making decisions. Was I right?

Nearly everyone does. One of the most fundamental parts of human existence is also one of the most difficult: making choices is not easy.

It’s hard to choose a college. It’s hard to choose a major. It’s hard to choose what to eat, what to wear, and what to watch. Even when there are only two options, like the Caf at 8 p.m., it’s still hard to choose.

When a group of people are bad at making decisions, a horrific cycle begins. One person defers to the others under the pretense of being nice. Another person says, “I don’t care.” Everyone tries hard to be the one who doesn’t care where they go the most. Of course, whatever they end up doing – going to Taco Bell, for example – will be something nobody truly wanted, because everyone just compromised.

Sometimes people feel like they can’t say what they want without being rude. Some people think it’s nice to defer to others. Some people just don’t know what they want.

Why is this a problem?

First of all, if you can’t choose, you’ll end up doing things you don’t want to do. You will end up at a restaurant you don’t like, for example. But more than that, you will find yourself stuck in a rut about what you are already doing.

Why is it so hard to put down Tik Tok or Instagram? Because it is a hard decision. Continuing scrolling essentially is putting off a decision. To put down the phone and do something else requires you to decide that you want to do something else, and you don’t have to make that decision if you keep watching cute goat videos.

Procrastination is also at its heart the postponement of a decision. Sometimes the hardest time to get started on your homework is when there is a lot of it. What should you start on? It’s easier not to choose, and this is why you will start doing something else.

If you become better at making decisions, you will be able to procrastinate less and spend your time more effectively. You will also be able to avoid groupthink.

Groupthink is a researched effect where a group of people, attempting to make a decision, agree with nearly everything the other people say. But this leads to bad things.

This effect was one of the reasons the Challenger mission failed. While some people had qualms about launching the shuttle, in the meeting to discuss the launch everyone quickly agreed, and the mission dramatically failed.

Groupthink doesn’t just occur in high-level meetings. It also happens in class discussions, clubs, and friend groups. People are often afraid to disagree, and it feels good when everyone is working together, so voila! Groupthink.

The difficulty of choosing also causes groupthink. It’s hard to choose to disagree. If you go with the group, you don’t have to make a decision. You can flow with situational inertia. But learning to choose would solve this problem, too.

The formula for becoming more decisive is simple: make more choices. Figure out what you want, and then try to achieve it. This is easier said than done. Many people do not know what they want.

One of the hardest things about choosing a major is deciding what benefits each major would provide for you and then determining which benefits are the most important. You have to know what you want.

Journaling is one way to improve this. Write down your thoughts and take some time to ponder what you want. Consciously thinking about what you want will allow it to come to mind more easily in the future.

After you know what you want, you have to try to achieve it. Don’t be a pushover.

This does not mean that you should be stubborn and rude. It’s hard to balance speaking up for yourself and being kind, but it’s important to try. Say what you want, and see how you can mesh that with what other people want.

Practice making choices, and you will make more choices and better choices.

Without effective decisiveness, we cannot lead our community. Decision-making is an essential part of leadership; training in it will build a strong community of leaders who can guide us to a brighter future.

Do not become choosy or picky, but choose more and pick more. A more decisive Gustavus means less procrastination, less groupthink, and better usage of our time. Can we do it? You decide. 

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