Friday, January 4, 2008

Knowing What you Want

Despite the fact that most humans have unlimited wants, most people can't articulate exactly what it is they want. I've been searching for an apartment the last few weeks. I've looked at a lot of apartments to try and figure out exactly what I want. Just the other day I thought I finally found a place that was good enough that I wanted to submit an application. I wasn't sure though, so I wanted to think about it and discuss it with my girlfriend.

Well right before I could submit an application, someone else did and got the apartment before me. It got me thinking about how I should have just made a decision about the apartment when I saw it. Before I spent all the time looking around, I should have really narrowed down what I would and would not accept. It's so often happens with people. People just don't know exactly what they want, and when faced with making a decision, they have decision paralysis. You would think that given my job as a decision maker, I wouldn't have a problem making decisions, but I guess I'm only human.

I think this plays out in so many ways that are even more important than finding an apartment. People have this problem when deciding what they want to do with their career. I've talked to so many people who know they don't want to be doing what they are doing now but can't tell me what they really want to do. Worse, I've seen people switch to a job just to leave their current job, without really considering what was wrong with their current job and if it would exist at their new job.

Do you ever face decision paralysis because you don't know what you want? If so in what situation?


  1. Terrence, for me, I think it depends on the person. My husband and I are polar opposites when it comes to knowing what we want. My end of the spectrum is that I think I will be happy with anything and end up making rash decisions and regretting them, but my husband is exacting in knowing what he wants and never finds it. So, be happy you're in the middle a bit!

  2. At the begining of (last) year I had decision paralysis. I had just finished an undergraduate degree and I had some options open.

    Find a job.
    Study to become a math teacher.
    Go back to uni and add compsci to my math degree.
    Go back to uni and add statistics to my math degree.

    I ended up adding compsci, which I believe was the right decision (for me) in the end.

    The difficulty was not that I didn't know what I wanted, but that all the choices were good. And I could only do one of them...

  3. Have you ever seen the tv show "Spice Up My Kitchen?" If you haven't, the premise of the show if kitchen re-modeling. The designer always offer the homeowners 2 design option (yes, only 2). The first thought I had was: 2 isn't enough. However, every homeowner was fine to choose from just 2 options.

    To me, we humans like choices but only from a narrowed down selection. That makes our decision easier. For instance, on the show, the designer takes one of the homeowners shopping for new appliances. The designer always leads the owner to a couple of fridge selections and asks for the owner's opinion. I realized why that is when I was looking at new fridges at Best Buy. There are so many. The majority look very appealing. There are so many cool features and colors. I wished I had a designer with me.

  4. I'm in the exact situation that Joshua had described. There are so many paths I can take. How do I know which is the right one? I don't. I can do the research, but I've learned that with jobs you don't know what you've gotten into until you're there.

    Like my friend was telling me the other day, if I find that I'm in the wrong path, I can always try another one. Be rational and financially smart about your change, but don't ever stop trying if you're unhappy. Nothing will change if you stop trying.

  5. Thanks for the comment Brooke. Yeah, i guess I need to look at the bright side of things. Thanks for keeping it in perspective :)

  6. Yeah, I know what you mean by this. For me, I usually don't have too much of a problem given good choices. But right now, in this apartment hunt, I'm not having lots of good options. If I had to choose between near perfect places, I think it would be a lot easier for me.

  7. [...] listings or going to go see places. One of the things I’m struggling with is figuring out exactly what I want. For me, I have a few requirements for the place I want to live and it is making it hard for me to [...]