I’m currently struggling with one of those biggish decisions that come around now and then. Yes, it’s time to think about replacing my car, which means I have to decide what to replace it with. What should I do? Mortgage the house and buy a Ferrari, obviously. But failing that?

My rational self (poor lonely thing) suggests I define the problem I am trying to solve with solution ‘new car’, then identify my relevant values, create some criteria, apply them to options and decide.

As if.

My emotional self (did somebody say red and fast?) is telling me that I’m not a middle-aged man with responsibilities, that stylish, fast, cool is what I need.

And then I stumble across thought-provoking Professor of Psychology Ellen Langer from Harvard University, who, if I understand right, suggests that:

  • When we are stuck between options and can’t decide, this tells us that the options are psychologically equal for us, so just choose one and go for it. Choosing randomly in this case makes as much sense as any other approach.
  • In a complex world where we can never have all the data, we still tend to believe that there is a correct answer and we can know what it is. News flash: There isn’t and we can’t. Make a call and live with it.
  • The idea that we can correctly predict the outcome of any choice in a complex world is an illusion. So again, make a call and live with it.
  • We can never know what would have happened if we’d made a different choice, so don’t worry about it. Make a call and live with it.
  • The search for more information is an attempt to find the data that will allow us to distinguish between alternatives, thereby making the right option ‘obvious. But that data doesn’t exist, so put the spreadsheet down. Make a call and live with it.
  • Don’t be fooled into seeking the right decision. Rather, seek to make the decision right. Make a call and make it work.

Wise words. So let me try randomly selecting my next car. I roll the dice and…. What do you know? Ferrari it is.

If you are interested in more from Professor Langer, check out of This Working Life on ABC RN, or her .