We are moving our office and I’m in the market for a new flat screen television for our conference room. The choices are numbing. A decision that should be fun has become painful. So I looked for a website to help me make the “perfect choice.” After answering more than 30 questions on how I plan to use the TV, price, display size, picture and sound, it delivered the 10 best TVs for me. It’s a great list, but it left me even more overwhelmed than before. Why? Because I have no context for what makes a good TV different than a great TV.
We want our decisions to have a rational veneer to justify our choice — especially choices that carry serious consequences. In reality, we are sometimes completely unqualified to make the choice in the first place. Taking this list to the TV store made me feel better, but I could be buying an orange while wanting an apple. I don’t have the technical background to see past the marketing.
The financial factory creates equally impressive questionnaires designed to make us feel good about our choice. But your outcome largely depends on the agenda of the questionnaire giver. If I asked Samsung for the best TV, do you think they would tell me to buy a Sony? Doubtful. Compounding the problem is most of us don’t have the context to arrive at rational, objective conclusions. Especially in areas where we have no expertise.
Next time, I’m going to find a friend that loves TVs, tell them my story and let them pick. They will likely deliver a much more optimal result and I get the joy of not laboring over a decision I am not qualified to make. How does this apply to your life?