How to make decisions

This is a test article I am running at the moment. It will likely be changed or updated at some point, but for the most part, it should still prove helpful to you.

There are two proven ways to assess whether doing something is worth it, along with one way I have narrowed down for myself.

Cost/Benefit ratio: how much will this cost versus how much will it benefit you. Example: Buying a candy bar: $.50 for a few moments of delicious satisfaction? Probably worth it. Living on candy bars: $70 a week on one food you’ll be sick of in 3 days and will quickly rob you of your teeth, waistline and dignity? Not a very savvy investment.

Reward/Risk ratio: what the payoff for doing something is compared to the potential backlash. Example: Giving the finger to someone that cut you off in traffic: could cause a newsworthy story of road rage, but will likely do nothing but piss them off and make you feel just a little better. Ramming their car off the road? That will certainly let them know you’re angry at them, but will also damage both vehicles (which you’ll be liable for financially), possibly cause bodily harm to you both, and will certainly cause you quite a bit of legal trouble, amongst other problems.

They do have a key difference: the first emphasizing a known cost, the latter a potential cost. But both are fairly similar, in that both highlight a payoff for yourself, whether material or not. The method I like to use is two-fold:

1. Does the real world reward/benefit outweigh the risk/cost and effort?

2. If not, will it be entertaining enough to justify it? For example, I once bought a drink for some loser at a bar I was sitting at. Waste of $7 in an investment sense, but the show I got watching him stumble around and make a total ass of himself was the most hilarious thing I had seen all week, so in my head this was totally justified. Had this cost me, say, more than $50, or had somehow gotten me into legal trouble, I might sing a different tune about this, but it cost me very little for quite a show.

How does this apply to you? Obviously this isn’t to say you should treat your choice to grab those Reese’s cups at the checkout line like a life or death dilemma: that’s trading a dollar for a treat. But many decisions you make, or are told to make, tend to be very high on the risk/cost side, but with no guaranteed benefit/reward. A few of the things I am against, like marriage, kids, owning a home, getting that doctorate in sociology, etc., happen to be the highest risk for what is arguably a widely varying field of reward.

In your life, you will be faced with many choices, some more important, others more trivial. How you approach those choices will more or less dictate how your life will end up, so it’s very pertinent for you to work out how to make these choices for yourself, and more importantly, learn how to remove emotion from the more important ones. It’s understandable to impulse buy a bacon wrapped Snicker’s, because you only spent like $2 and an hour on the toilet is probably the worst consequence you’ll face (and let’s face it: a bacon wrapped Snicker’s is goddamn worth it).

It’s much harder to take out a loan to buy a Lamborghini and a pet tiger with the same logic. Both are probably awesome to own for a while, but the $2000 oil changes and the regular child maulings aren’t an expense you want to have in the future. And to throw in one that’s both high risk and reward: you could be in dangerous territory, and choosing to escape means you may die, but staying means you will certainly die; choosing to escape is high risk, but the reward is getting away from guaranteed death.

I can’t tell you which each and every single choice is right for you; that’s for you to decide. But, in no small part of watching people take every choice like “it’s destiny” or it’s “meant to happen” or “they deserved it”, and the suffering that comes with it, I implore you to at least figure out for yourself how to make a judgment call to tell whether what you’re about to do, or buy, or participate in, will benefit you, or your future. And in the end, you’re the only one in control of what you do in your future; you might as well pave part of that path for yourself. Hell, if nothing else, make that choice entertaining. You owe at least that to yourself, right?









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