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Jordan Belfort shares with us the importance of decision making — not only the importance of making the decision, but also limiting our decision-making scenarios to a minimum. We often focus on items in life that do not matter. We become so caught up in trying to make the “perfect choice” in every situation, that we are unable to be fully attentive to what matters the most. Strategize important moves, and the rest will fall into place.

Computer choices

The jet fighter first appeared as a small blip on the radar screen. Within seconds, its speed, altitude and direction had been calculated and programmed into the ground defense computer. A missile was locked onto the target, and the order to “fire” was given.

With the missile making a beeline toward the plane at three times the speed of sound, it would all be over in about 15 seconds. But not today.

The pilot of the approaching aircraft fired a projectile of his own, releasing into the air millions of tiny glass fibers covered in aluminum. Instantly, the radar screen lit up with a literal cloud of targets for the missile to hone in on.

The missile was instantly defeated, not by shooting it out of the sky, but simply by confusing it. The missile’s targeting computer was overwhelmed by the choices it had to make and, in the end, made no choice at all.

Have you had days like that? So many little tasks to perform, so many decisions to make, that your ability to get things done just shuts down, leaving your head in the clouds?

CEO choices

Apple Computer Founder Steve Jobs had an iconic wardrobe — black turtleneck shirts and blue Levi’s 501 jeans. It became his signature style and a part of his public persona. But by limiting his choices, Jobs also simplified his life. Any one shirt and any one pair of pants, and he was off to work to make more important decisions.

Former Google employee David Shin recounts on quora.com a Q&A session with Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The founders were asked how they handled the daily barrage of emails. One of them answered that he starts at the top and works his way down, and goes only as far as he feels like going. Anything he doesn’t get to, will never be read.

Some people end up amazed that they get an email response from a founder of Google in just 5 minutes. Others simply get what they expected — no reply at all. And the Google founder always gets what he wants — simplicity. This allows him to save decision making for when it’s most important.

Limiting choices

Studies show that limiting the choices we make every day can increase self-control, patience, will power, even creativity. Defining a daily routine and then sticking to it can minimize distractions and maximize our ability to make good decisions.

If you’re a marketer, you know that offering fewer choices to customers increases the likelihood of a sale. Like the aforementioned missile, we all want to zero in on a target, a goal, a solution; and the fewer choices we have to make, the quicker we can get to what we want.

If you’re a parent, you know how important it is to establish daily routines for your children, so they have a sense of structure in their lives. But when we hit adulthood, it’s not difficult to abandon structure for all those newfound freedoms. And with freedom, comes choice, and with choice, comes consequences.

Few decisions we make are ever perfect. We weigh the pros and cons. We compromise. We give it our best shot. If we have a choice between two options, we’ve got a one-in-two chance of making the right decision. With 10 choices, we now have a one-in-10 chance of getting it right. It then becomes easier to open ourselves up to self-doubt, even if we do make the right decision!

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