Can you make decisions?

I was talking with a friend recently (who is in the final steps of finishing his PhD) about the pros and cons of grad school. Not all of them (that could take forever :P), but just generally. This came about after I commented that one thing grad school has definitely improved in me, is my ability to critique stuff. I’m much better at reading and tearing about a paper than I was 5 years ago. When reading about a user study, it’s not just gut feelings that something doesn’t seem right, I can usually pick out reasonings as to why.

In return, this friend asked what I thought some of the downsides are with grad school. And then shared what he thought was the biggest one. And that’s the inability to make easy decisions. He said this was originally pointed out to him during a talk with a professor during his undergrad as he considered continuing on. The prof warned him, that he would no longer be able to make easy decisions, like what to buy at a fast food store.

This is not something I had thought about a lot before hand, but I definitely have to say it’s true. Now, I’d say I’ve had a hard time making decisions before grad school, but I think it’s even worse now. In fact, I’ve also complained to my mom (and her back) about how irritating it is to buy stuff now as there is too much choice. And, I think partly because of my scientific background, when products make claims like they’re better than the others, are will kill 99% of all germs, or guaranteed to make your clothes stay brighter, I want to test it. I want proof. Which means, I end up standing in the aisle staring at all of the choices wanting to tear my hair out, and even sometimes, pulling out my phone to do some on the spot research on products.

And don’t get me started on menus at most restaurants. I’m actually glad that there are a few foods that I can’t eat, as that can cut the choices in half. So, when I find an item that I love, I generally always order the same thing every time at the restaurant. Trust me when I say, I’m not impressed when they decide to remove it. Do they really want to add more stress to my life?

Actually, as I write this post I’m reminded of a book I heard about, but have yet to read. I think it may be the next one I go out and pick up. It’s called The Paradox of Choice  by Barry Schwartz.

Have you noticed this come into play for you? Or has grad school somehow made it easier for you to make decisions?

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