One of those life skills that seems to be very useful, and I’ve been slow to learn, is this idea of making decisions with incomplete information.
It seems like so much of what we have to decide in life is what we really don’t know what the full picture is.
So we have to, time after time, make decisions in the dark.
At least if it’s not total darkness, at least we don’t have ever the full picture.
Like the story of the blind men feeling the elephant and describing the elephant based on what they feel.
It’s like we only have one part of the elephant, and we’re now making decisions about the elephant, you know, based on whatever part we happen to be able to sense.
And that can be very frustrating, especially for anybody with perfectionist tendencies, because you know, how can you decide? Don’t have enough information.
I want to gather more information, and gather more, more, more, but we don’t have unlimited time to gather that information, and even if we did, we just don’t have unlimited access to the universe to be able to figure out everything that’s going on in the universe so we can make a decision.
So one way or another, we have to make decisions without really knowing what’s going on, and that certainly can be very difficult.
I remember many years ago, from learning to play the game of poker, that’s where I was able to first experience this, and learn, in some rudimentary way, how to make decisions without knowing.
I mean, when I first started it I just found the game almost impossible to play, because it would come around to me, and then, well, do you want to call, raise, or fold? Do you want to risk more money, or do you want to give up and save your money? Uh, well, I can see what cards I have.
I don’t know what cards they have.
So how can I decide? I need to know.
I need to know what cards they have, and then I’ll know whether it’ll be the correct decision to risk more money or to bow out and save my money.
But I’m being asked to make this decision, and I don’t have the necessary information to make the decision, and so my first reaction was just to be like completely frozen, because I simply cannot make this decision.
I mean, the answer is undefined.
I mean, it’s like you ask somebody a math question, and there’s like a missing number.
“2 + x equals what?” “2 + x.” You can’t- you don’t know what x is.
So incomplete information.
And I just didn’t want to make that decision.
But you know, being forced to, eventually people are like OK, you know, hurry up and make your decision.
You can’t just like ponder it forever.
So I had to simply make decisions.
And then I started to learn about probabilities, and think about OK, you know, I have, you know, I have a pair of deuces, and there’s, you know, four hearts on the board, whatever it is.
Sometimes I can just guess, well, it probably doesn’t look good for me.
Or maybe it probably does look good for me. […]
But it’s still incomplete information.
It’s still not easy to pull the trigger and make that decision when you really don’t know what the result is.
But after some practice of this, it was almost like training in the ability to make decisions with incomplete information, because you eventually reach the point where you can make a decision even when you don’t know and you can still be confident.
Like I can say, you know, based on what I have and the cards that are on the board, I should raise here, and my odds are good, and even if it turns out oh, the other guy had two aces, so you know, he had aces in the hole, which was, you know, very small odds of that happening, and so I lost.
So yeah, I made the wrong decision, but based on the information I had, I made the best decision that I could, and there almost becomes a certain kind of confidence that can come from making decisions, even if you’re wrong, you can still feel good that you made that decision, because you made the decision knowing what you did.
And of course, those that take gambling too far, then this can become a big problem, because they’re constantly making these decisions with incomplete information, but it seems like for anybody, there is something to be learned from this approach of being able to just say “I don’t know the full picture.
I don’t really know exactly what’s going on.
But based on my best guesses about what’s going on, this is going to be my move for today.” And reevaluate with the information that comes in over the day, reevaluate for the next day, and then make your call once again.
There’s something that’s somehow freeing about just being able to give up the need for total information and just accept my information is partial, my ability to choose correctly is partial, but I will simply do my best with what I have today.
So I’d be curious to hear if you’ve had any experiences like this, or how do you help yourself to be able to make decisions when you really don’t know the answer?
#decisions #incompleteinformation #lifeisagamble