Psychological Self-Help

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Ask students what decisions are most carefully and logically made,
and they wisely admit: what car or sound system or house to buy. Ask
what decisions are made under the greatest social-emotional pressure,
and they say: sex and its unwanted consequences, like having an
abortion or giving up the child or getting married prematurely. Ask
what decisions are made almost accidentally, and they say: whom to
date, choice of major (career), and getting pregnant. Clearly, there is
a lot of room for improvement in decision-making. 
I'm 47 years old and I've figured out what I don't want. All I have to do now is decide what I
If you want a place in the sun, you must leave the shade of the family
-Osage saying
Barriers to careful decision-making
It seems that the most important and pressured decisions are
made with the least objective thought. The most careful choices
involve cars, sound systems, and houses, where there are lots of
technical facts and research, even though there isn't much difference
between manufacturers, such as General Motors and Chrysler. In
contrast, there are enormous differences among partners, careers,
planned and unplanned children, etc.; yet, our selection process is
sloppy where the range of choices is great. Why? Largely because
strong needs and emotions interfere. As we have discussed, the strong
needs for sex and love push us into marriage and/or parenthood. We
may spend years in high school, college, and graduate school
preparing for a career without even one day of actual work in our
chosen field. Furthermore, we may have initially selected that life-long
career because we liked one teacher (totally unrelated to the work).
Likewise, chapter 3 tells us that the values guiding our lives are often
hand-me-downs or pushed on us by parents, friends, or our
There are many stumbling blocks to good decision-making
(Wheeler & Janis, 1980). First of all, we may deny there is a problem
or assume there is no solution or grab the first solution that occurs to
us. Or, instead of hastily making decisions, we may postpone making
them. Kaufmann (1973) called this decidophobia, an incapacitating
fear of making decisions. 
When you have to make a choice and don't make it, that is in itself a choice.
-William James
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