Preference vs Binary: Understanding the Role of Desires in Decision Making

Dan Nicholson

Every decision we make, big or small, shapes the trajectory of our lives. It's a continuous and intricate dance between our conscious mind and subconscious desires, influencing not just our actions but the very essence of who we are. In this constant play between choice and desire, I’ve found that decision-making often presents itself as a binary choice - A or B, yes or no, right or wrong. 

The role of desires in our decision-making process is often underestimated, particularly when we reduce our decisions to binary options. As humans, we are complex beings with multifaceted desires that go beyond the black and white of “yes” and “no.” To fully understand the complexity of our decision-making processes, we need to dive deeper into the nuances of human desires and their impact on our choices.

When it comes to decision-making, preferences often don’t present themselves as simple binary choices. It's about knowing what we want, why we want it, and how much we want it. Because in the grand scheme of things, it's not just about the decision itself, but also the underlying reasons behind it.

Imagine a scenario where you have to decide between staying in your current job or accepting a new one. This isn't just a simple yes or no situation. Several factors might come into play, such as the desire for stability, the desire for growth, the desire for a higher income, or even the desire for more personal time.

Your decision is influenced by the strength of these individual desires and how you prioritize them. Maybe stability is important to you, but you also strongly desire growth, which your current job does not provide. Thus, your decision isn't binary; it's influenced by a matrix of desires, pushing and pulling in various directions.

Our desires can also evolve over time, adding another layer of complexity to decision-making. For example, your desire for stability may outweigh your desire for growth at one stage of your life, only for this balance to shift as your circumstances change. Thus, it's essential to continually reassess our desires, acknowledging their fluid nature and understanding how they can impact our decision-making.

The binary perception of decision-making often restricts our ability to see potential alternatives. By viewing our decisions within a broader spectrum of desires, we open up to the possibility of alternative solutions that might satisfy more of our desires. In our job scenario, could there be a third option that allows for both stability and growth? Perhaps a discussion with your current employer about progression opportunities or seeking a role within a more stable industry?

Understanding the role of desires in decision-making isn't just about making better decisions. It's about gaining a deeper understanding of ourselves, our values, and what drives us. When we understand our desires, we can make decisions that actually bring us closer to them.

In conclusion, Remember that decision-making is rarely a binary process. By acknowledging and understanding the multifaceted nature of our desires, we can make more informed decisions that better resonate with who we are and what we want from life. 

Life isn't binary, and neither are our decisions.

Pause and Reflect 

  • Can you think of a decision you made recently that was affected by multiple desires?
  • Can you think of a time when viewing a decision as a binary choice limited your ability to see potential alternatives? How would understanding your underlying desires have changed your approach?
  • How do you regularly reassess your desires and align them with your decision-making?
  • Do you think society pressures us to see decisions in binary terms? If so, how can we challenge this mindset and promote a more nuanced understanding of decision-making?

Dan Nicholson is the author of “Rigging the Game: How to Achieve Financial Certainty, Navigate Risk and Make Money on Your Own Terms,” deemed a best-seller by USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. In addition to founding the award-winning accounting and financial consulting firm Nth Degree CPAs, Dan has created and run multiple small businesses, including Certainty U and the Certified Certainty Advisor program.

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