In this article I’ll showcase how I make decisions in environments of high uncertainity, whether it’s in relationships, health or business.
Uncertainity in health
I first noticed the problem with uncertainity when I got interested in nutrition. Like most people I wanted to improve my quality of life: lose weight, gain more muscle, be alert and focused throughout the day. But the problem with nutrition is that scientifically it’s a mess.
Not all of it of course. Every year we know a bit more. Epistemology is a science but any self-respecting epistemologist knows that their methods are highly limited in terms of how an individual should live. And not a lot of highly controlled, diverse, big sample experiments have been done in nutrition. Last but not least, individual people are different from a statistical group average.
As an example most people have brown or dark hair but that doesn’t mean that blond or redhaired people don’t exist. And right now I’m just talking about hair color. It’s not a very complicated subject but already we have problems with certainity. Because what some people would consider blond, I would consider brown.
So what do we do about nutrition? The fundamentals we should know in nutrition would be biochemistry and the 1st law of thermodynamics. Calories in and calories out. However, it’s not that simple, there is nuance. The first law won’t be broken but will be adjusted for. For more information on how to actually lose weight I suggest you consult your personal physician. Women and men have different needs and no woman or man is the same as other women or men.
Uncertainity in relationships
Reducing uncertainity in relationships would mean to prefer meeting face to face. Being able to see someone’s emotions and behavior will help us better understand what is being communicated intentionally and unintentionally. Furthermore, we need to consider that individual preferences are highly variable.
Consider dating. There is nothing we can do if one day we prefer chocolate over vanilla ice cream. Similarly we do not choose who we love. We simply do. The same goes for other people. They don’t exactly “choose” to love you. There are cultural conditions and luck that go into that process. To better explain that: consider the fact that beauty standards vary from culture to culture. Being thin hasn’t always been a beauty standard nor is it today in every corner of the earth.
So another fundamental trick is to simply meet more people. Instead of getting hung up on one person you simply meet more people until preferences match.
And it’s not just dating. Meeting more people helps you understand if it’s you who’s doing something wrong in social circumstances or maybe you just met a bad apple. It also increases social competence when you finally meet someone you really like.
One study found that most people meet their partners through friends or work. Friends and work might be what is most common because these are environments where we run into the same people over and over. The mere-exposure effect states that the more often we see something the more familiar and pleasant it becomes.
Uncertainity in business
Finally, in business the Pareto principle is the king of the fundamentals. Are you focusing on the 20% that gives 80% of the results? Are you cold calling clients or are you avoiding doing that by designing your website? Cold calling clients will eventually pay off as your sales skills increase and your understanding of the clients needs and wants does too.
However, if you’re stuck designing your website you will never understand what your client wants. Which brings us to an equally important fundamental truth of business: it’s not about you, or your product, it’s about what the customer needs.
Wrapping it up
In conclusion I have a few principles for decision making in uncertainity:
- What are the fundamental truths in a given field? If it’s complicated then it means you really don’t understand it.
- Always account for variable change.
- Don’t take big risks but instead learn to take smart small risks.
- Learn as much as you can before making a decision. Consider your options. Maybe ask second and third opinions.
- Uncertainity isn’t avoidable. Mistakes are inevitable. The best we can do is play the best game we know.