Reality Check: When there’s no perfect option

Have you ever needed to make a decision, only to find that there isn’t a single perfect option among the possibilities?

That’s the usual case, isn’t it? If there were a perfect option, we’d go right ahead and choose that. There would be no decision to make!

According to Dr. Glasser’s choice theory, humans have basic needs, including a physiological need for survival. But Glasser also identified four psychological needs: belonging, fun, freedom, and power. (The power need is also referred to as self-worth or achievement, not necessarily power over anything.)

Different people have different levels of each need. One person might have a strong need for belonging; another could have a strong need for freedom. Regardless, choice theory suggests that we are motivated to satisfy those needs.

Can awareness of our needs help us make more effective decisions?

Brittany and Brian want to buy their first house. The process is both time-consuming and stressful. Nothing suits Brittany; it’s too big, too small, too new, too old, too private, not private enough, and so on.

Brian, who just wants a place to live and not pay rent, genuinely wants Brittany to be happy. His view is, “Honey, just pick what you want. As long as you are happy, I will be happy.”

You’d think that would make it easier for Brittany, wouldn’t you? No such luck.

Brittany has made pro-con lists and watched real estate listings like a hawk. But she just can’t make a decision. No house has “spoken” to her, and she is petrified of making a mistake that could have permanent consequences.

So here’s one more consideration for Brittany to add to her decision-making process. “Which basic needs am I trying to satisfy with this choice? While the purchase may have some connection to all of my needs, is there one that is most important?”

For example, Brittany may see the house as satisfying her survival need, literally a “roof over their heads.” Consistent with that would be the need for affordability, even if it’s less luxurious than she’d like.

Belonging could be a strong need for Brittany. Choosing a house in a community where she feels at home and comfortable, with people she knows and shares values could be important.

She may perceive that home ownership will satisfy her need for fun! She could have fun decorating the house, gardening or with recreation opportunities.

Freedom could be a need, perhaps exemplified by the attraction of a private place away from neighbours, where Brittany perceives that she can live without interference.

The self-worth need could also be satisfied through the joy and pride of ownership.

Examining the choice through the lens of the needs is really just another way to find an answer to these sometimes difficult questions, “What do I want? How will I know when I have it? What would it look like if I had it?”

As we struggle with a dilemma where no option is perfect and where we’re having difficulty weighing our options effectively, here’s a question that could be helpful:

Which is the need that we most want to satisfy? Which option is most likely to satisfy that need?

When we’re faced with imperfect choices, none of the choices will satisfy all of our needs. Can we get our other, less-critical needs, met in some other way?

What do you think of using this approach when making a difficult decision?

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