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Our lives are defined by the decisions we make. Most of us use intuition, random thoughts, instant feelings and social norms to make decisions. But these tools often deceive us, leading us into unwanted situations that are not always optimal.

If you want to take informed decisions in life, read the following books.

Thinking Fast and Slow

Perhaps the best contemporary book on decision making is by Daniel Kahneman titled Thinking, Fast and Slow. The book completely changed how we see our brain’s dynamics of decision making. The author won the Nobel prize because of the book. At its core, Thinking Fast and Slow says that our brain has two “systems.” System 1 is emotional and jumps to conclusions, whereas System 2 is more logical, slow and works on deeper problems (focusing attention, 17*93). The book also lists several biases which affect our decision making process.

Nudge

If you want your employee to work harder, you can devise small environmental changes, reward ( or punishment?) systems, new seating arrangements to get the desired outcome. These changes are called “Nudges,” according to the book authors  Richard Thaler, Cass Sunstein. A nudge is nothing but a small factor that helps making decisions that’d help you reach your goal. For example, fast-food chains have a “nudge” to subtly force customers to pay more if they have a “default” option of upsize fries.

The Paradox of Choice: Why Less Is More

We think that having “choices” helps in decision making. Wrong. If you want to make someone unhappy, overwhelm them with choices. Looking for shoes? Here are 25000 shoe choices online. Looking for a job? Here are endless “opportunities”. Want an apartment to rent? Spend 8 months looking for the “best” apartment of your dreams. All of this results in paralysis (spending ages to decide). And what happens when we choose something after all? We become unhappy (Buyer’s Remorse). We become sad thinking on all the “what ifs” by imagining how our life could have looked like if only we’d have chosen something else.

Barry Schwartz’s Paradox of Choice will also help you with tips and tricks on how to decide for optimal happiness in this overwhelming age of options and choices.

Principles

Ray Dalio is the 58th richest man in the world. Dalio heads billion-dollar hedge fund Bridgewater Associates. In this book titled “Principles” Dalio wrote about the fundamental truths he learned during over 35 years of running the hedge fund. These principles apply to work, job, marriage, business and other aspects of life. Ray Dalio takes an algorithmic approach toward decision making: create a new criteria, slow down and see what does your criteria look like and what decisions it could lead to. But don’t stop there. Keep refining your criteria(algorithm)

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