TED Conversations

This conversation is closed.

Decisions? Choices? Alternatives? Too little information? Too much information? Just how do we decide? Facing a decision? Share here.

Similar Challenges @ similar times. Identical choices to face @ identical places. Everything from what college major to choose; to when, if, & to whom you should marry; to have kids? Yes/no? How do I prepare for a future when I don't get anything -- but old? We all face similar challenges; all the time; every day of our lives. Why not share? Here!

TED has 14 talks on how to make Good Decisions. So far, I've seen talks that cover issues with marketing, healthcare, and major economic decisions involving how to improve life for all people everywhere.

If you had 50 Billion dollars, what global problems would you solve first? Economic Analysis gives a surprising set of priorities. And Global Warming is way down the list as far as "Bang for the Buck" is concerned.

Dan Gilbert says that YES we CAN synthesize our own happiness and we do so every day inside our own brains. And drugs have nothing to do with it. Also Professor Gilbert gives a more complex talk on why we make bad decisions. It would seem that we can blame evolution for that one.

Choices are hard to make. Important choices can be terrifying. We've all felt the same way when we had to choose & then face up to unintended consequences in Life! Choices-in-life? We all face 'em. Share here.

  • thumb
    Jun 15 2013: So that is where I am today. I need to decide if I can withstand yet another very invasive surgical procedure, and two months of these horrible hard painful tubes sticking out of my face. The anxiety alone with them in caused me to cry daily and at one point I even had a knife in my hand wanting to cut them out myself. At this point, when the surgeon suggested this new plan, I broke down and he (like Lizannne) recommended counseling in order to gain some strength before pursuing such a long term stressful situation. The thought of waking up after the surgery and seeing these tubes again may just be more than I am willing to take. I am so tired and I really have tried so hard, but at this point I wonder if it is just god's will that this is what is to be. I have been fighting for ten years now, through 14 surgeries and have been such a burden to my husband and my mother (who should be enjoying her golden years). I will begin making phone calls on Monday to some counseling services, if for no other reason to just get some feedback about whether or not this is truly my decision to make. I don't wan't people to say I didn't do my best. But I think I am way past what my best is at this point. Lizanne, you mentioned a chat with you - I don't know how to do that. Thanks so much to both of you.
    • Jun 15 2013: Amy, I am sending you zillions of positive vibes right now!!!!!

      Simply click on my profile, and on the right, you'll see in red, 'Send Lizane Hennessey an e-mail', which will come directly into my inbox.

      Amy, what I wouldn't give to come over for that cup of coffee right now!!

      Sounds to me like you're having trouble seeing the forest for the trees right now! I'd be more than happy to lend an 'ear' and although it's a virtual one, it's attached to flesh and blood, and I would really like to talk further with you about all this!!
      • thumb
        Jun 15 2013: Lizanne: Caught them!!!! Thanks!!!!!
        • Jun 15 2013: Hey, we're online at the same time! That's almost as good as having a coffee together!!
          I edited my post just now, while you were replying to it, I think!
    • thumb

      . . 100+

      • +1
      Jun 15 2013: Dear Amy: Hang in there!! Never give up!!
      Janine's talk is very inspiring and I hope it can be helpful to you
      Sending you a big hug ❤
  • Jun 9 2013: If I had 50 billion dollars what global problem would I solve first? None. Money cannot solve problems. The intelligent use of money solves problems, maybe. I do not possess such knowledge alone.
  • thumb
    Jun 27 2013: Information is never too much stuff, the only thing is, in my opinion, that we need to know is how to classify it, filter it, and give priority to those results obtained that may most interest us
  • thumb
    Jun 24 2013: Everyone makes "higher" cognitive problem solving decisions with the prefrontal cortex (front of the brain) which receives information from throughout the body and nervous system. We make decisions based on past memories and experiences, and these experiences shape and influence how our nervous system functions. This is called "Interpersonal Neurobiology". This goes to say that relationships we share from birth and all through life, influence the way the nervous system functions, and which certain genes are expressed more than others, which ultimately emerges into our behaviours, reward systems, how we interact with others, make complex decisions, problem solve, and our capability for healthy social skills.

    Understanding this, Integration is what is key to a healthier brain, healthier relationships, and of course "good decision making". Integration is; Honouring our differences, but linking the differentiated parts together. This is key not only for a healthy brain, and relationships, but also our mindset, and the more Integration, the more rational decisions can be permitted to emerge.

    Watch Dr. Daniel Siegal on TEDTalks, he goes into this in much more depth.
    • thumb
      Jun 24 2013: Thank you so much for the recommendation, but "Houston, we have a problem!".

      I searched for Dr. Daniel Siegal's video on TED & TEDtalks and got nothing. Doesn't mean it isn't there. What it means is that my browser can't make this work! Blast it!

      If you could post here again and link to the video on TED, that always helps.

      If you really like this talk, count it as one of your favorites on your profile. That way you can always reference it in any post you give (i.e. "Please see my profile for the link." ).

      Sometimes if I search for a video and can't find it. I look again a day or two later and there it will be. So if I don't hear from you, I will search again.
      • thumb
        Jun 24 2013: yea sorry about that it was on TEDxBlue,


        Anyways thats the link on youtube, he's brilliant really, you'll enjoy it.
        • thumb
          Jun 24 2013: I watched the full video you recommended (I watched the last 2/3 of the video 3 times to make sure I got it!). I also started another video, but it is past my bedtime. So I keep your link & watch again tomorrow. Dan Siegal is brilliant. You can really tell that he's trained as a dancer/choreographer. His gestures are fluid, expressive, and consistent, like a spoken language of their own. His voice has a measured timbre such that the intonation itself contains additional meaning. And it isn't hard at all to intuitively feel the content of his understanding. I'll bet he can be living hell on graduate students. True Artists have that characteristic.

          Huey Freeman, we've just met and you know me so very well! Thank you.
  • Comment deleted

    • thumb
      Jun 22 2013: .
      You are right!

      This is because we have:
      (1) "Too little information " on valid happiness.
      (2) "Too much information" on invalid (harmful) happiness.

      (from Be Happy Validly!)
  • thumb
    Jun 16 2013: I don't recall seeing a TED comment site so dominated by one member as this one is by Juan Valdez. Is he a moderator or just overflowing with enthusiasm? For me it is distressing. We are limited to characters in our remarks, shouldn't individual contributors be limited in their posts?
    So it is in this mood of slight annoyance that I enter my 2nd comment.
    Where on earth is the importance of evaluating our own decision process in public? Any focus on each of us almost always results in trivial opinions that are more appropriate for the other social media chat and video arenas.
    It is our group decisions, our national and global ones that need attention.
    Sometimes TED becomes a little too psychoanalytical, speakers telling us the significance of body gestures, building and maintaining confidence, achieving inner happiness, and presumably other self-help rhetoric that I must have missed.
    My friends, and assuredly TED has magnificently created an ambiance of camaraderie, let us join in trying to persuade TED to prevent a single member from excessive comments, except the moderator of the topic; let us express our preference for new knowledge that will benefit our societies rather than silly personal advice.
    I'm not referring to those speakers who relate their overcoming huge challenges, for those are truly inspiring and encouraging with broad impact.
    I suggest that the best advice for personal decision-making comes from our grandmothers for it is they who have monitored the events of everyone in the family. Psychologists are strangers, I refrain from using charlatans, who know nothing about us and waste our time as they drag us back to age zero. TED's objective is sharing ideas that can improve the world, I think we all know the 'Me' generation, added very little to that endeavour.
  • Jun 13 2013: I feel its more about filtering out the unimportant ones
    • thumb
      Jun 13 2013: Yeah! Very few of the decisions I make every day are important. Most are generally trivial. They don't mean much to anyone but me!

      But for those few important decisions, -- you stay awake at night thinking and thinking. Critical decisions are tough!
  • thumb
    Jun 10 2013: Simply put, we shouldn't beat ourselves up over every decision that we make that doesn't turn out to be the right one or hat makes us worry that we could have made a better decision.
    Yes, we have a fairly short time in this earth and yes, we do have quite a substantial amount if decisions to make, but that's just all the more reason to not get too upset about mistakes made and to not get too overwhelmed about decisions that need to be made. Whether it is deciding on what to major in college or picking what color swim suit to get, stressing too much about it is just unnecessary anxiety.
    • thumb
      Jun 10 2013: I agree. Life is too short for that!

      We all need to learn how to make our own happiness. And once we have done that, we just need to do it!
  • thumb
    Jun 10 2013: Always trust what feels right to you. If it is not clear than you should try to find an alternative or abandon whatever is putting in a position that you must make a decision. If you cannot make a clear decision then you might not be ready for any results that might transpire from it and it couldl make you unhappy. Like choosing a college major, maybe you need a year to reevaluate what you want to do.
    • thumb
      Jun 10 2013: Raymond, your profile identifies you as a man of distinction. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.

      "Always trust what feels right to you." That's the best thing I've heard on TED in a while!!

      I cannot remember what TED talk it was that brought this up, but I am reasonably sure it was one of the ten talks by men listed above. One of the bald guys, I think (I am going bald so there may be a bias there). But what was said, was something I have always known. Apparently, there is a significant amount of scientific research that proves your statement - "Always trust what feels right to you."

      Or more importantly: "Always AVOID what does NOT feel right to you!" That statement has two parts to it. And it's the part about NOT doing something that feels wrong . . . that (I believe) can save your life.
    • Comment deleted

      • Jun 10 2013: Hahaha, Juan, you are forgiven for flooding my inbox! It was more a tiny leak than a flood, though. ;)

        I know exactly what you mean about the "Vulcan Mind Meld" experience. I get it often here. A case of like-minds, of synchronicity. More proof of how interconnected we are! It's not just you!!
      • Jun 10 2013: I don't know... you'd be surprised how many sci-fi geeks like us are out there, Juan! I knew exactly what you meant. George called it 'the force', and he wasn't wrong.

        Sounds like an excellent plan, Juan. I am all for it!
        • thumb
          Jun 10 2013: What a great privilege -- to know that I am so well supervised here on TED! That may sound like a sarcastic statement, except for the FACTS! Fact is, if you are doing or learning something that is important, you appreciate 'supervision.' Here is an example:

          If you are learning to be a fireman, you have to get it RIGHT. If you don't, you die. And others may die with you. Therefore, you get the crap kicked out of you in training. Because when the chips are down, you have one chance and one chance only to get it RIGHT! So get it RIGHT! And Right the FIRST time! Doctors, soldiers, paramedics, adventure sportsmen, ICU nurses; explorers -- they all know exactly what I am talking about here.

          I find sometimes that I think of TED that way . . . I wonder why? But I am motivated to get it right!
      • Jun 11 2013: Wow, I had not even considered this, Juan. Thank you for bringing it to my attention!

        Making a mistake could cost lives, if you are a lifesaver. The list you mentioned are all enormous risk-takers, who not only risk their own lives but others as well, if they should make a mistake. The tolerance is zero.

        Motivation to get something right, understanding material, delving into oneself for questions and answers, that's what binds us all!
        • thumb
          Jun 11 2013: To your astute comments, I shall respond in a way that I have not -- since the 1970's:
          "Right On!"
  • thumb
    Jun 10 2013: Sometimes too much information leads to confusion and too many choices could fuel indecision.
    So, in making decisions, information is good; but only helpful information, the sort that empowers, is good.
    And you gotta decide; waiting for some perfect time or moment or condition would probably keep one waiting till the 90th birthday.
  • Jun 9 2013: Making a decision,choice from many alternative is not difficult when a person makes decisions based on what he actually loves to do. But, as we human beings are easily influenced by the external factors, like the pressure of peers, pressure of society. We are more concerned about our peers, and the society, that , If i choose this or that what would my peers would say of what would the society feel about me. And sometimes the contradictory research reports of so called experts also creates confusion.Take for example. some times the researchers say coffee is good for health and sometimes say coffee is bad for health. And they keep on alternating their research.
  • thumb
    Jun 9 2013: Expand your education as broadly as possible. The more you know, the easier the decision. Too many rely on back-fence and diner chatter where most pretend to be informed in order to dominate conversations to appear wiser that they are.
  • Jun 8 2013: I personallybelieve that one has to take responsibility for one's own decisions, good or bad. I feel that education plays a big role; the more information one has, perhaps the wiser the decision. I.E. if I had known more of basic psychology, perhaps I might not have made the most devastating choice in my life...my life's partner. Increased knowledge might have prevented me from becoming entangled with someone hving all the (hidden?) symptoms of psychosis. Without this knowledge, even the wisest among us are likely to fall prey. On the other hand, I think back a generation or two ago when one's professional choice was limited to what one's ancestors did. Was that not much easier, less time consuming and effective. After all, we had been well trained in this area from birth. Another important factor...decisions should NOT be made based wholly on selfish reasons, i.e. the so-called ruling/powerful plutocrats are so selfishly single-minded that they cannot grasp that after they have glomed up all that the rest of us give them (taxes), then what? Who will remain to feed their insatiable thirsts? Interesting dialog and ponderings.
  • Jun 8 2013: The priority of the problems are different for each country in my opinion. For the Netherlands I'd say the first priority should be to take control of overhead costs Not by budget cuts but by creating a lean and mean government and by getting unemployed people back involved in society. Unemployment rates are incredibly high but we are short on teachers, nurses and affordable daycare so re-structuring the system and empower people to take responsibility for society as a whole would be a tremendous step forward.

    Then I'd say education because innovation becomes increasingly important so instead of numbing their brains and teaching them that asking questions or making mistakes is a bad thing, it's time we teach them how to be creative, collaborate and live with respect for themselves and others.

    Healthcare would be next. I still find it odd that I can rent a great Hotel room for 100 euros, but a hospital bed costs me 200 euro's a night?... The hotel room comes with room service but a nurse costs extra... hmmm

    So we'll have 50B left which I suggest we invest in innovation centers. Much to gain from further developing nano technology, dna manipulation etc. Imagine how much time you can spend on creative arts, space travel or just socializing when we all have a 3d printer that can print anything from food to your personally designed transportation by using nano technology and the elements as a cardridge. That would leave 95% of the planet unemployed, but nobody hungry or homeless. But now I'm getting carried away. ;-)
  • thumb
    Jun 7 2013: I chose accordingly to the laws of physics. This pretty much narrows it down.
    • Comment deleted

      • thumb
        Jun 7 2013: On my own with my decisions, yes, but only in those universes where my wife allows it.
        • thumb
          Jun 7 2013: Does your wife know my wife? That sounds really familiar to me! And the older I get, the better it all sounds to me. Just do what she says. That's the secret to a happy marriage. And if you want to do something else, make an excuse and go do it.
  • thumb
    Jun 30 2013: Sadly Juan, 50 billion wouldn't even get us started. :-) I think a large portion of the choices we make every day are the wrong ones, yet we lie to ourselves or ignore the consequences because of the innate propensity we humans have to be governed by our emotions or personal motives. I've made several bad choices already this morning. I took the toll road instead of side roads to work because it was faster instead of saving money, I ate that egg mcmuffin, hashbrown and OJ instead of the bagel, etc. Unfortunatley, this applies to our national-level decision-makers as well. Instead of focusing on issues objectively, politicians are influenced by their party affiliation and voters to make decisions that may not always be the "right" decision.
  • thumb
    Jun 29 2013: That's a good question and fascinating talks related to it:

    My simplistic rule is - good or bad. Is my decision good or bad? There's a flip to it - good for whom? For what? it may be dfificult to answer as life is complicated. the world is changing fast, History will judge whether this decision is good, either history in my closest family, in the community, and globally. Personally, I have to say that it's difficult to make decisions. To like something on facebook is one thing (a feeling that makes you like something) but if you analise why you like it and what the consequences may be, it's difficult.

    "We should have preferences that lead us into one future over another. But when those preferences drive us too hard and too fast because we have overrated the difference between these futures, we are at risk. When our ambition is bounded, it leads us to work joyfully. When our ambition is unbounded, it leads us to lie, to cheat, to steal, to hurt others, to sacrifice things of real value. When our fears are bounded, we're prudent; we're cautious; we're thoughtful. When our fears are unbounded and overblown, we're reckless, and we're cowardly.

    The lesson I want to leave you with from these data is that our longings and our worries are both to some degree overblown, because we have within us the capacity to manufacture the very commodity we are constantly chasing when we choose experience.
    Thank you. "

    I just think that when it comes to the "future" mentioned in this talk, the preference should be simple - happiness for everybody, possibilities, individualism. And, to add a point that I've made here before - all that without hurting anybody.

    I liked all the talks in some way and the thing I would like to point out is this - paradigm. It influences the choice.
    • thumb
      Jun 29 2013: Thanks to Mary M., as demonstrated below; I found the talk.
      • W T 100+

        • 0
        Jul 1 2013: Oh Juan, Juan.......she was quoting from this TED talk:


        How could you not have known that?
        Don't you memorize the talks like the rest of us to quote from them at random?

        So, go ahead, ask me how I found the talk..........because there is a super fast way.....I learned it from a TED staff member in one of our conversations last year.
        • thumb
          Jul 1 2013: To quote you dear Mary M: "So, go ahead, ask me how I found the talk..........because there is a super fast way.....I learned it from a TED staff member . . . "

          Please do share. I await this revelation, attendant to your divine wisdom! Please share.
      • W T 100+

        • 0
        Jul 1 2013: Here is the link to the conversation hosted by a TED staff member.


        She taught us that if you remember certain words from a talk, you can go to Google, and type the words you remember in between quotation marks, then type talk on ted.com after wards, and the TED talks containing these words will pop up.

        This is what I typed on Google:

        "The lesson I want to leave you with from these data is that our longings" talk on ted.com

        And BINGO.......Dan Gilbert's talk comes up.

        Isn't that a neat trick?

        I have used it many times when looking for old talks, and also for helping other TEDsters find talks.

        I wish the divine wisdom was mine.......but alas, it is just another idea from the great TED site.
        • thumb
          Jul 1 2013: Quoting here: "I wish the divine wisdom was mine.......but alas, it is just another idea from the great TED site."

          Mary, you have offered a very slight distinction; without a hint of a difference. And both TED, and all of us who remain, would suffer interminably w/o your divine presence & remarkable grace. And thank you. JV
      • W T 100+

        • 0
        Jul 2 2013: Well, I suppose that my presence and grace is a reflection of yours dear Juan.....and of so many others on here who indulge my whimsical ramblings....although at times I have been known to provide a link or two that are upbuilding and worthy of spreading.

        From now on you will be able to help me carry the burden of additional knowledge and ideas of finding TED talks.........and you will pay it forward?

        Have a beautiful week..............Cheers!!! (taps steaming coffee mug on computer....)

        [edited spelling]
        • thumb
          Jul 2 2013: Shall pay it forward . . . willco. Git 'er done! Pay it Forward! Kevin Spacey. Mary, you are an inspiration to all. JV
  • Jun 29 2013: Follow the facts,follow your heart.
    • thumb
      Jun 29 2013: I have two rules for that:

      1) Know the facts; always give the facts priority -

      2) Know your own heart; you can't make even a reasonable decision (much less an important one) w/o that!

      3) Never let things get 'personal.' Save that for when it's dark; and you know it's totally safe.

      Wait! That's 3? Well, who cares if I can't count.
  • Jun 28 2013: if I had 50 billion dollars i'd be as rich as bill gates. i'd go buy my own island or continent or something and set up my own country where people could do what they want. that is my decision. now give me the money.
    • thumb
      Jun 29 2013: If they gave you that much money, could you spare some for me? I need [at least a better] job.
  • Jun 27 2013: Hi Juan. My comment was in reference to the original text vs. audio-video.
    • thumb
      Jun 27 2013: Quote: First of all, here's what students think is going to happen. They think they're going to maybe come to like the picture they chose a little more than the one they left behind, but these are not statistically significant differences. It's a very small increase, and it doesn't much matter whether they were in the reversible or irreversible condition.
      Wrong-o. Bad simulators. Because here's what's really happening. Both right before the swap and five days later, people who are stuck with that picture, who have no choice, who can never change their mind, like it a lot! And people who are deliberating -- "Should I return it? Have I gotten the right one? Maybe this isn't the good one? Maybe I left the good one?" -- have killed themselves. They don't like their picture, and in fact even after the opportunity to swap has expired, they still don't like their picture. Why? Because the reversible condition is not conducive to the synthesis of happiness. End Quote.

      I think Dan Gilbert misspoke. The transcript matches the context. Please add your comment to the comments section that follows the video on the TED web site. I have heard that the Presenters (Professor Gilbert) do read the comments on their presentation. And occasionally they reply to comments. I do believe that Professor Gilbert will respond to your correction. Or you can email TED
  • Jun 27 2013: In the paragraph that begins with "Wrong-o. ... Why? Because the reversible condition is not conducive to the synthesis of happiness." Please note that in the audio/video presentation, Dan Gilbert says IRREVERSIBLE condition
    • thumb
      Jun 27 2013: I went back through my last 100 comments on TED & there was no "Wrong-o" comment from me. I may have deleted such a comment because it MIGHT have been construed as inappropriate. So, unfortunately, I am clue-less as to exactly what this might refer to.
  • Comment deleted

    • thumb

      R H 30+

      • 0
      Jun 22 2013: Yes. That's it. Isn't 'choice' a decision on an action or outcome? If we 'choose' but take no action - see no alternate result, it's merely mental and verbal exercise, an impotent and generally useless activity. "I'm going to do this or that", but never do it. "I'm going to change this or that", but nothing changes. "I believe this or that", but our actions speak otherwise. Now the flip side is that we choose and change, then face the result. Often our 'change' falls short of the 'ideal' we originally had, or our 'choice' leads to a 'change' beyond our expectations. But it seems it does come down to the necessity of 'will'. If there is no will to affect the choice, then the 'choice' is moot. Cheers!
  • thumb

    R H 30+

    • 0
    Jun 22 2013: I wonder if choice comes down to 'will'. I can 'choose' something, it can make sense in my head, but do I really 'will' it to be so? If we, then, do not carry out our 'choice' to the end through our will, have we chosen?
  • Jun 21 2013: I wrote a universal decision making app for Windows 8. Pleas give it a try

  • thumb
    Jun 15 2013: Amy, I cannot imagine the kind of challenge you are facing right now. Even my imagination won't take me anywhere near the place where you must be -- to face such a challenging set of choices.

    I offer you here my prayers, my best wishes, and my most sincere hopes. And I offer you more of same on behalf of my family. I really do. We will all keep you in our thoughts.

    Late note: I lit a father's day candle for my Dad in church today. But Amy Winn got her share of prayer time as well. Prayer counts. Prayer matters. And although many do not thinks so or agree w/me . . . prayer can change things. I believe it Amy. I do.

    If an Atheist/Agnostic wants to offer me an alternative to that, I'll listen. But to me, prayer beats hell out of a "Get Well Card." Cards & notes are very important to the suffering & those faced with difficult challenges. But a statement of unity & strength & solidarity with the suffering of even one other human being -- even by a prayer! That MUST have value in this world. And what you do or do not believe about god has very little to do with it in the end. We stand together when we join our thoughts and hearts together. And prayer plays a big role in that. It does.

    But I'll leave room here for anyone who wishes to differ w/me on that opinion. I'd like to hear from 'ya.