(Psychology Today) Decision-Making: Facing the Challenge of Making 35,000 a Day

Jennifer Guttman Psy.D. Posted Jul 16, 2019

Seven ways to help you make better choices

My mission as a therapist and motivator is to help people become more empowered, self-reliant, and masters of their lives. Through research and interactions with clients, I have developed several techniques that help my clients achieve self-actualization and life satisfaction.

One of these core techniques is decision-making. Regardless of the size of the decision, it can be an ominous and challenging process for most people to make them. It’s unbelievably daunting because people make an average 35,000 decisions each day. These range from trivial decisions to weighty decisions and it’s normal that people’s self-confidence can backhandedly suffer trying to make the “right” choices.

Using Self-Actualization to Build More Esteem

Self-actualization, originally introduced as a concept by German neurologist and psychiatrist Kurt Goldstein and popularized by American psychologist Abraham Maslow, is the process by which people are motivated to achieve their full potential. I believe that when we’re able to reach our potential, we can also achieve life satisfaction. On the path toward actualization/satisfaction, Maslow notes that other needs must be met, most importantly, our esteem needs. I feel decision making is a vital building block for manifesting self-confidence, which is a critical esteem need.

One issue I find prevalent with most people is their tendency to delegate a good portion of their 35,000 daily decisions to those around them: family, friends or to “the consensus.” We’ve all been in the position of wanting someone else to pick or weigh in on the restaurant to eat at, where to go on vacation, performance objectives, choosing a college major, where to live, whether to rent or buy, making a career change, what diet to choose, how to fix a computer glitch, how to answer a questionnaire or a realistic budget for non-essentials. We do this as a way of searching for the “right” decision, as if there is one. In today’s world of social media, we’re predisposed to believe that there are correct choices that lead to “perfect” outcomes. However, the truth is everyone is guessing, even the people that look like they’ve made all the “right” choices. Our search for a “right” answer undermines our self-confidence and leaves us lacking the competence to trust in our ability to problem-solve effectively.

Placing a Time Limit and Trusting Yourself

This dilemma inevitably rings true in my practice when my clients take deep dives into many questions, eventually surfacing feeling more confident. Yet, seldom do they come up with a better answer than if they have skipped the deep dive and gone with their intuition, previous knowledge, and experience. Trusting in ourselves builds confidence in our reality.

Another problem is that making decisions is the only antidote to decision avoidance. Consistently making smaller and larger decisions develops decision stamina which increases our level of self-confidence. Doing this also decreases the mental exhaustion that comes with the fear of decision-making.

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