Incidentally, Kierkegaard kinda tried to answer this question 5 years later in Either/Or. A couple of related snippets:
"I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations — one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it — you will regret both" 
And a more long-winded version:
"Marry, and you will regret it; don’t marry, you will also regret it; marry or don’t marry, you will regret it either way. Laugh at the world’s foolishness, you will regret it; weep over it, you will regret that too; laugh at the world’s foolishness or weep over it, you will regret both. Believe a woman, you will regret it; believe her not, you will also regret it… Hang yourself, you will regret it; do not hang yourself, and you will regret that too; hang yourself or don’t hang yourself, you’ll regret it either way; whether you hang yourself or do not hang yourself, you will regret both. This, gentlemen, is the essence of all philosophy" 
Having said that, my take on that quote is that it seems a bit of a cop out - a way of absolving oneself of the consequences of ones actions.
You may well regret both, but perhaps you will also enjoy one, or you will regret one less, or regret one more, or one has ramifications which due to your (hypothetical) selfish nature you may regret but are better for society, etc etc etc.
Or is it meant to be more of a call to action as opposed to inaction? Make decisions, because you are damned regardless, so at least add your own breath to the winds of fate?
Many, if not most people also experience periods where narrative is negative, and where we conclude that the choices we made were all the wrong ones. And quite likely most of us live with a combination of the two, depending on what area of life this 'narrative' occupies, depending on how much our self-respect or self-hatred is tied up with these areas, etc.
The core problem, I think, is not primarily that we construct all sorts of highly subjective, distorted, self-serving or self-harming narratives, but that we get too attached to them and desire these narratives to be consistent.
On the other hand I've met people (few of them though) who don't seem to have this desire to construct and maintain narratives, and while they do generally seem to live happier lives, some of them are perhaps a bit too lacking in introspection/narration and suffer from that.
"Adding your own breth to the winds of fate" is adding 0 to 0.
And given your name it could seem that we both share the same origin as Kierkegaard :)
Their experiment was based on coin flips and self-reported happiness, but basically those who made the big change after the coin told them to reported being substantially happier, and if you dive into the data, you'll see that those that went with the biggest decisions (quit a job, get married) saw a double digit improvement in happiness.
Paper is here: http://www.nber.org/papers/w22487
I've made what seem to be four major career decisions in my life. Aged 14 at school I was in tears because I couldn't do one of the O levels I desperately wanted, the school pretty much forced me onto this new Computer Studies course they'd just started running. As a direct result it grabbed me and I worked in the games industry for a good few years.
In my late 20s a friend offered me a role earning a lot more money wearing a suit in the IT department of an insurance company. A very tough choice as I loved the industry but after a couple of weeks of heart wrenching I took it; absolutely no regrets 25 years later.
Now at work unless I can decide using experience or hard facts I'll either choose not to decide or do a coin toss. It infuriates some people but if I can't sensibly analyse it any more and my crystal ball isn't working that day then random is far better than wasting time thinking about it.
One other thing to help make a quick decision is to toss a coin and whilst it's in the air think how you want it to land and then go with that. The limited time forces you to choose what is generally the route you subconsciously want.
Either just do it, or just don't do it. Don't sit on the fence. None of life's decisions (save maybe jumping off a bridge) are anywhere near as irreversible as they seem when we're facing them, no matter what we choose, and the worst thing is to remain paralyzed and let both opportunities pass you by.
and making children
It takes years to measure the quality of a parenthood or a marriage.
The funny thing is that when you do that, you almost always make up your mind immediately. It's like deep down you already know what the right thing is, and the act of explcitly stating the 'business requirements' (doing the morally right thing, for the long term good) just makes it obvious - no divine intervention needed! I'm pretty sure it's just a clever mental hack, but it does work.
In a state of contemplation for instance, fears and self-centered cravings have less of an influence over decision making. The mind might be great at identifying Kahneman-style cognitive biases (or in the case of the article, imagining failure conditions), but a deep, silent awareness can help inoculate the biggest biases of all: fear & craving.
But it's still subject to the biases associated with gut feel -- primacy, recency, selectionl; that can be countered with the article's "shut up and calculate".
Another similar one is to flip a coin and see if you're disappointed in the outcome or not (or alternatively, think about which coin outcome you're hoping for before you look at the result).
Though as for that the passing there /
Had worn them really about the same
The poem is saying two things:
1. The line you quoted: Even though one of the paths looks special, in fact both are well-trodden paths. The walker is making a decision on imaginary evidence. The poem is mocking the poor decision-making process and retroactive rationalization.
2. (granted, not in the text, but in the context). The poem is about Frost's friend Thomas having trouble deciding deciding whether to volunteer to fight in WWI. Thomas died in the war.
"The road [supposedly] not taken" did make all the difference, but in a negative way. The walker should have used the rigorous method the article proposes.
>The walker should have used the rigorous method the article proposes.
Curious how you'd justify this statement with the text.
Of course if you see A coming originally and don't want to flip again, then we know that you're OK with A.
But if you do want to flip again, then you just know that you don't prefer A -- you can't deduce from that that you want B.
You can still:
(a) prefer B
(b) dislike both
Nope. All your choices are bad. Make a play.
The one adage I heard that's very similar: Decide to base your decision on a simple coin-flip. Throw it, and cover it so you don't see what side it landed on. You'll know very quickly which option you're hoping to see under that hand.
There is consensus in the decision making literature that the direct scoring method described at the end of the article is flawed for measurement theoretic reasons, and a vast range of elaborate preference elicitation methods have been developed. There is also work in philosophy on value structure that is partly relevant, though not yet at the level of economic modelling.
In a nutshell, the article is interesting but sound decision making is much harder and more complicated than the author portrays it. I just wanted to mention this for people who aren't aware of it, there is a vast literature in this area.
Edit: Although I prefer pseudonymity I've decided to give it up on this opportunity for some shameless self-promotion. If you're working in nontraditional decision making or the ethics of risk, please check out our conference:
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“You do not know where your decisions come from. They pop up like hiccups. And people have a great deal of anxiety about making decisions. Did I think this over long enough? Did I take enough data into consideration? And if you think it through, you find you never could take enough data into consideration. The data for a decision for any given situation is infinite.
So what you do is, you go through the motions of thinking out what you will do about this.
Worriers are people who think of all the variables beyond their control, and what might happen.
Choice is the act of hesitation that we make before making a decision. It is a mental wobble. And so we are always in a dither of doubt as to whether we are behaving the right way, or doing the right thing, and so on and so forth…and lack a certain kind of self-confidence. And if you see you lack self-confidence, you will make mistakes through sheer fumbling. If you do have self-confidence you may get away with doing entirely the wrong thing.
You have to regard yourself as a cloud, in the flesh. Because you see, clouds never make mistakes. Did you ever see a cloud that is misshapen? Did you ever see a badly designed wave? No, they always do the right thing. But if you would treat yourself for a while as a cloud or wave, and realize you can’t make a mistake, whatever you do, cause even if you do something that seems to be totally disastrous, it will all come out in the wash somehow or other.
Then through this capacity, you will develop a kind of confidence, and through confidence, you will be able to trust your own intuition. But this is the middle way,
of knowing it has nothing to do with your decision to do this or not, whether you decide you can’t make a mistake
or whether you don’t decide it, it is true anyway, that you are like cloud and water.
And through that realization, without overcompensating in the other direction,
you will come to the point of where you begin to be on good terms with your own being and to be able to trust your own brain.”
Besides making it easy for every invited member to submit and compare alternatives, it allows teams focus discussions by structuring decisions in a visual, clear way (weighted pros & cons, multiple weighted decision criteria, etc.), contrast opinions of different contributors and manage a configurable the process to drive engagement.
I hadn't heard of the concept of "premortems" but the decision structures are flexible so any decision could be configured to support them (either one "premortem" per alternative or one per alternative/participant pair).
If anyone is interested in a demo of Resolutt, please let me know.
The actual decision can matter a lot, but if you don't know, then it, unfortunately, depends on luck.
We tend to worry about the future, so we tend to think about decisions by the way they will affect us in the future. But the truth is you can have all four options, including obviously correct decisions that lead to small or no difference in outcome, as well as very unclear decisions that lead to big difference in outcome.
I think you should just focus on the decision itself, make sure you have all the information, and if the two options come very close to each other, just make the call, regardless how big the influence of the decision on your life is going to be.
I wrote about it once in the context of using it to potentially learn a new technology, but it applies to everything.
You can check that out at https://nickjanetakis.com/blog/would-socrates-use-docker-tod...
A regret minimization framework
"I wanted to project myself forward to age 80 and say, 'Okay, now I'm looking back on my life. I want to have minimized the number of regrets I have,'" explains Bezos. "I knew that when I was 80 I was not going to regret having tried this. I was not going to regret trying to participate in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal. I knew that if I failed I wouldn't regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried. I knew that that would haunt me every day, and so, when I thought about it that way it was an incredibly easy decision."
My decision making process always involves multiple alternatives and backup plans. What if I got laid off from my job shortly after starting, what if I suffer from some medical issue later down the line, what if a better opportunity comes along etc.
This process helps assess whatever weaknesses a decision might have and also helps calm my ever-present sense of economic dread. It's much easier to make a big decision when you have multiple backups if life throws a few curveballs at you.
And as it turns out when I got laid off earlier this year being prepared made it a lot easier to deal with. I almost never make a major decision without considering multiple possible outcomes; outside of the one I had to make to start my career.
For example the marriage decision is easy - there are probably less than 5 points in everyone's life where that decision is even entertained. Because there are only a few times when you are not married and dating someone who might be the one.
However the divorce decision is ... well a lot more frequent because you are always married and will then over a 50 year period find pints where The Big Decision is in your mind.
A default go for it is not always the right thing
Same for leaving your job, selling your house, etc
You might be better off yes - but you could find yourself making the same decision 3 months later
1) Complex decision making in stressful situations. When you are under stress, you won't be thinking properly or have time to weigh all the pros and cons. However, you can plan ahead and consider what you would do under particular circumstances. Having a plan means you can act, right away.
2) Avoiding taking premature decisions. This helps you avoid the stress and distractions that come with deciding things that are not immediately relevant and frees you up to focus on more urgent things. Deal with it when you need to and when you have all relevant facts but no sooner.
Another exercise that I do is, for each option, I ask "What's the worst that can happen, and what will I do when it does?"
It turns out, a lot of times, the worst is not that bad, and correcting it is simple, should it arise. Often, the choice is simply not that important and each alternative is OK. This makes is much easier to make the choice.
For example, you can be evaluating the purchase of a new car, but if you have slept poorly or haven't eaten recently, you may not be in the best state to make a wise decision.
We often check the parameters for each decision, but not as often hyperparameters (how much time do I have to make this decision? how reversable is it? how am I feeling? how much domain knowledge do I have?). I think a concrete checklist for major decisions is quite useful - we abstract up from the decision and ensure that our _decision-making process_ is sound.
For the interested, I wrote about this here: https://alexpetralia.github.io/2017/11/27/NL-2017-11-27.html
In particular I have thought of corporation using this as a way to gather input from all the persons that interview a candidate for a job.
Anyone on this thread interested in seeing a demo?
I'm sure something gets lost in journalistic summary, but isn't there an alternative explanation for this? If you're contemplating a choice, and there are many things that seem plausible, it's because there are many acceptable outcomes. So it's not because you've thought about a lot of choices that you make a good choice, but that if something is going to go well, chances are there's many ways for it to go well?
I like this idea.
Some might then say, "well, narrow down the list to 3-5 options". Well, how does one go about doing that? Am I to perform the pre-mortem and value analysis on all 50 of these potential options? Randomly select a few to discard (since having so many options suggests perhaps that all have enough benefits to be viable?), or maybe run some kind of "tournament" where I play off each option against one another, loser is discarded and we continue on until there is a winner?
I appreciate the article and will take some of its lessons into account but I'd love to hear what the author of the piece would think about my situation.
#ThingsEnderWigginKnew For those who never read "Ender's Game", the main character must play an unwinnable game where he is given 2 choices where both decisions end in death. He manages to find a hidden third option (killing the Giant) that allows him to continue playing.
I don’t think there will ever be a way to make a “big decision” with thorough analysis that will make you certain you made the right choice. There are too many variables to ever know for sure the “right” choice
The book replaces the balance-scale approach (pros-versus-cons) with a series of diagnostic questions ordered so the most obvious issues come first. If at any point the answer is against the relationship, there is no need for further diagnosis, the decision has been made.
I prefer Branson's approach: "Screw it, let's do it".