A Decision Hack: Copy Someone Else

I’m a maximizer. This means I tend to overcomplicate, overthink (and over-regret) decisions. A friend once told me “Good enough is good enough.” They are clearly a satisficer.

If there is a way to go from good to great, sign me up.

Ask me to pick out a pair of new running shoes and I might just break out in hives. That’s why I wear my sneakers until they’re threadbare and falling apart at the seams – literally. There are so many brands to consider (and forget simply re-buying old favourites; anytime I find a brand and style combo I love, the company changes the make and feel of said product).

Price point? Colour palate? Should I buy them online or in-store? What if I buy them and after a month they start giving me blisters – I won’t be able to return them and just think of all that money wasted! Wait – my sister just texted to ask if I’ve considered heel-to-toe drop. Never heard of it. Guess that sends me back to the drawing board.

And don’t get me started on paint colours.

A few years ago we needed to get our basement repainted. I had debated, looked at swatches, visited numerous paint stores (over a series of months), scoured the internet, finally settled on a colour, found a contractor and ordered the paint. When the first wall was finished and dry, the painter called me downstairs to see it. “What do you think?” he asked.

All I could muster in response: “It’s purple.” The pale gray colour I had lovingly agonized over for hours, was actually purple in disguise.

Decisions can be tough, especially if we already have Type-A, perfectionist qualities. But often we’re reinventing the proverbial wheel.

  • Does your running partner rave about their shoes? Why not try them the next time you’re in the market for a pair. (Note to self: heed my own advice).
  • Going to visit a new city and overwhelmed; ask friends and family for their top recommendations for dining, accommodations and destinations. Chances are you’ll get the highlight reel without having to slog through a full-length feature. My family does this every time we travel, and love to return the favour.
  • Have a friend who can’t stop raving about the company where he’s interning for the summer; might be worth storing those details away for the next time you’re on the job hunt.
  • Want to upgrade your stereo equipment. Ask that audiophile-friend what they have, where they got it, and if they’d buy it again.
  • Going to a restaurant and overwhelmed by the choices. If you’re meeting someone who eats there all the time, ask for their recommendation. Flying solo? Ask the waiter – it should be palatable at least.
  • Debating which elective English course to take at university. Poll your upper-year friends to get their take.

Most of the time people love to share their insights – good and bad. From complaints about a company’s customer service, to the wonders of their new mattress, or what restaurant knocked their socks off.

Sometimes research is fun. Sometimes research is necessary. And sometimes you can rely on other people’s research to reduce your own decision fatigue. Most of the time what someone else has decided will work well enough for you too – or at least be good enough.

Life is short and there are no end of decisions to be made; let’s not make more of them than we have to.

And if you’re ever in the market for gray walls with purple undertones, have I got a great paint colour for you.

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