How to Make Better Decisions

Imagine you’re out to lunch and you’re deciding between a fresh salad or a juicy burger.  Part of you wants to order the salad for health reasons, while the other part of you wants to devour the juicy burger.  When the waiter comes over to take your order, what do you do?

Your decision is largely based on what mindset you’re in.  If you’re thinking short-term, you’re likely to order the burger to satisfy your craving.  If you’re thinking long-term, you’re likely to order the salad knowing it’s better for your long term health.  There’s a problem with this mental calculation.  You shortchange yourself by thinking only in terms of short term and long term.  One must recognize the full scope of pros and cons with every decision encountered.  In order to understand the full scope, there’s a third time frame that must be taken into account.  

Understanding the Mid-Term

Let’s say you order the burger.  You’ve made the decision to indulge in a short term pleasure in expense of your long term health.  While you’re stuffing your face, all you can think about is how great a decision you made bypassing the salad.  Leaves are gross anyway.

All is well as you pay the check.  You head back to your desk ready to tackle the rest of your workday.  Unfortunately by the early afternoon you start to feel the effects of the greasy burger sitting in your tummy.  You’re tired, lethargic, and feel like a sloth (according to yummypets.com, sloths are considered one of the five laziest animals in the animal kingdom — the more you know).

Was the energy-sucking effects of the burger a short term or long term consequence? The answer is neither. In truth, feeling like a sloth is a mid-term consequence.  The feeling of exhaustion falls between the short term burger indulgence and the long term health concerns. Mid-term consequences exist in almost every decision we make.  See a few more examples below:

  • Binge Drinking
    • Short Term – Euphoric night
    • Mid-Term – Hangover
    • Long-Term – Damaged liver
  • Lie to a Friend
    • Short Term – Avoid a difficult conversation
    • Mid Term – Lose a friend
    • Long Term – Diminished reputation within the community

Mid-term consequences can also serve us in a positive way.  Case in point below:

  •   Get More Sleep
    • Short term – Go to bed earlier
    • Mid-Term – Easier time waking up in the morning
    • Long-Term – Feel more energized throughout the day

So What?

Why is it important to take into account mid-term consequences?  Because it forces us to take into account the full scope of our actions, which in turn allows us to make better decisions. 

Think back to the burger vs. salad decision.  Without mid-term thinking, you thought the negative consequence of ordering the burger was solely your long term health.  Now insert the mid-term consequence, and you’re looking at a consequential double whammy.  Ordering the burger impacts your afternoon energy (mid-term) and your long term health (long-term). 

With this new mindset, you’ll be more inclined to make a better decision. The exercise of taking into account mid-term consequences makes you realize every decision you make carries more weight than you initially think.  A seemingly trivial decision can impact how you feel — not only in the moment, but also in the coming hours, days, and months.

If you desire to improve your decision making, think mid-term.  Ditch the burger, but if you choose to get it anyway, at least know what you’re getting yourself into.   


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