Decision making in adolescence can be the absolute worst experience, because it feels like every decision you make has taken on new importance. There are overwhelming amounts of decisions to make: Do I get a job, or have a huge roster of after school activities? Do I do my homework right now, or wait a few hours? Do I want to hang out with these people? Do I tell my parents about the person I like at school? Which college do I go to? Which colleges are right for me? These questions all eventually require an answer, and therefore there must be a decision making process. They say that adolescents make bad decisions because they believe they are invulnerable, howver that is not the case according to various studies, including one by Susan Millstein and Bonnie Halpern–Felsher, who show through their study that adolescents are actually less likely than younger adults to believe they are invulnerable to natural disasters.
While the natural disaster thing might seem very different from deciding if you are going to try out for a sports team, the decision making process is universal in all cases; “Decision theory specifies five steps that should be involved in deliberative decision making: (1) Identify the possible options, (2) identify the possible consequences, (3) evaluate the desirability of each consequence, (4) assess the likelihood of each consequence should each action be taken, and (5) combine everything according to a logically defensible ‘decision rule’ that is most likely to result in a desired positive consequence or reduce the likelihood of a negative consequence.” These are the steps laid out by a whole series of psychologists, but in this case explained by Jennifer Wolff and Lisa Crockett. What this indicates is that whenever a decision comes up you can actively go through these steps to isolate what it is that is beneficial to you.
So you have options in front of you, and you weigh their possibilities, and you get stuck, because both options have possible favorable outcomes. For example, say you are deciding between trying to get a part time job or trying to join an extracurricular activity at school. The job offers you the freedom of having your own money, and independence comes with that. It will look good on college applications to have been a student splitting time between a job and school, and show that you are a hard worker. Extracurricular activities however, offer opportunities for leadership, a sense of community and are social. They too are good for college applications, and can be beneficial in the future. Now assuming you have a job lined up, and are already have decided on what kind of extracurricular you are interested in, you are probably stuck. You want to do both, but know that there is only time for one. How do you then make this choice?
Trust Your Intuition
Though it is something most people advise against, trusting your gut when it comes to a serious decision can be beneficial. Researcher Daniel Kahneman would support decision making based on intuition in a stable situation. This means that if you are under serious pressure then trusting your instinct could be a bad idea, it might be better to trust your brain instead. So decision-making comes down to a universal process that we all use, but the way to make the best of it is to slow down the process and go step by step. Making decisions under pressure can be exceptionally difficult or challenging because people don’t give you time to make a choice. A secret no one tells you is that a lot of times, you can ask for more time to think about it.
It is not shameful to ask for advice, or to seek out someone who might have a different perspective. Parents might bring to mind some consequences you have over looked, and friends could sympathize with the decision making process. People are always ready to offer their thoughts, but the flip side of this is that you do not have to take their advice.
There is always the chance you will make a choice and regret it later. With the big decisions like college for example, there are almost too many options. You do not run out of choices to make after you make one decision. There is a chance that you could dislike where the decision takes you, and you can make a choice to change it and get to where you want to be.
Photo by Graur Rrazvan Ionut