Decision-Making - Default Option

| Decisions | Guidelines | Default Option | Opportunity Cost |
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When faced with a pending decision, one way to avoid grid lock is to establish immediately a default option in case you can't make a clear, obvious decision.  The number one favorite default option is to retain the status quo...just keep on keeping on.  However, with a little imagination, one can usually find a better decision alternative, even it is only a slight deviation than the status quo.  The default option may not perfectly solve the problem or personal need, but it represents an immediate alternative.  Having a default option in your back pocket give you some confidence that if worse come to worse, you would know what decision to make.

For example,  a young, just married couple are moving into an apartment complex on their college campus after the honeymoon.  They originally wanted a simple, inexpensive, one-bedroom apartment, that was big enough to hold their joint belongings that would be expanding greatly with all the wedding gifts.   They were disappointed when all the one-bedrooms apartments were taken.   They were eventually offered two choices.  The first choice was a simple, inexpensive two-bedroom, one-level apartment, which was only slightly more expensive than the one bedroom they were initially seeking.  The second choice  was a new, modern, two bedroom, split level apartment with a loft/study.   It was 35%e more expensive.  They couldn't decide which of the two offers to pick.  Very wisely, they selected a default option which was the least expensive of the two.  It satisfied their original need, provided more room than a one-bedroom apartment, and was only slightly more expensive.   They would think about whether they were willing to pay extra for the more modern, slightly larger apartment.      Thus, they were able to concentrate on planning their wedding, not having to worry about the apartment until the commitment date arrived.  As a post script,  when the time came to make a decision, they still couldn't decide between the two options, so they just went with the default decision.   They never felt pressured nor did they anguish over the decision.  Having a default option gives you peace of mind in knowing that indecision would not spoil the decision that must be made. 

So, rule number one in decision making is always have a default decision in your hip pocket, even before you start deliberating.  If an obviously better alternative cannot be found,  then rely on the default decision.   Still, if the decision is an important one, having a default decision doesn't mean that you can ignore the work that should be done in finding an even better choice.  Thus, by definition, a better choice is simply one that is better than the default decision...not better over all.  If you do find a better alternative, then it becomes your new default decision.  Keep up this process of finding successive improvements to the default option until time runs out.  When you finally are forced to make a choice, you choose the best alternative that you have identified to date.   Often, the choice will be the default option.     So, make sure the default option is a good one. 


Website last updated on 10/19/08
Copyright 2005 Charles W. Sooter.  All rights reserved.