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How to make a more rational choice?

As we discussed in the article “Can we control our choices?” that I invite you to read first, a choice is an undefined mixture of emotion and reasoning that is totally dependent on the context and the type of choice to be made. To simplify, a choice is mainly the result of emotions and processes that we do not control, combined with more or less thinking conscious and unconscious.

We make many unconscious choices all day long. You also make some choices that involve conscious reasoning, whether it is a choice you have to make in the moment, or a choice you have to make later.

In order to rationalize a choice, it is necessary to implement a voluntary reflection. It is essential to have as precise an idea as possible of what one really wants and to be as objective and rigorous as possible in the nature and elaboration of the arguments but also in the evaluation of the consequences, and finally to accept them.

You are invariably looking for the most acceptable compromise.

Making a choice is, above all, choosing a consequence.

We can dissociate certain contexts:

  • To make a choice alone, which engages only us, including in its consequences like choosing a strawberry or vanilla scoop in its ice cream cone.
  • Making a choice alone, but one that has consequences for others, such as a career choice.
  • Making a choice together, where it is a search for compromise so that the consequences suit both parties in roughly equal and acceptable proportions such as an amicable divorce or the choice of a vacation destination.
  • Making a group choice, more or less large, and/or in the same principle, the consequences will be accepted by the majority as the election of a mayor or a president of the Republic.

Whether you have to make a choice alone or with others, the problem is the same: to identify objectively and realistically the consequences of this choice and ideally, to focus on facts, tangible elements rather than opinions and to ensure the development of a clear argumentation on which a consensus can be ratified.

In pairs or groups, you will have to agree on the different arguments and their order of importance in order to reach a consensus on the evaluation of the consequences.

I’ll come back to this later, but for now, let’s focus on the different situations you may find yourself in.

Of course, this is going to bring up some scenarios that may relate to your choice of career direction, but I’m going to keep it general enough to fit in with a global approach.

Several cases of figures thus:

  1. You may be faced with a choice when you don’t know what you want.
  2. You may be faced with a choice when you think you know what you want.
  3. You may be faced with a choice to make when you think you have to choose between one or more of the options already identified, but you may not be sure that you have completely covered the issue either.


Your degree of rationality when making a choice is limited by your thinking, frame of reference, knowledge, experience, education, convictions and beliefs, influence, representations and cognitive biases, at a minimum.

Your emotions do not have a control center as you imagine it. They are the result of millions of years of evolution, but also of your experience, representations, etc.

Pure rational choice is impossible.

Here is a suggested process to follow in order to make the most intelligent and reasoned choice possible.

  1. Identify all the components of the situation and the elements to be considered.
  2. Develop arguments on each of the defined points (regardless of the number of people).
  3. Critique the arguments and then make a constructive criticism of them, assessing their meaning or interest in the context of the choice to be made, their objectivity and their value by defining a scale from the most important to the least important.
  4. Verification that we base ourselves on facts and not on emotions or impressions.
  5. Verification of the intellectual honesty, the dynamics in which the choice is made. Am I acting in good faith and what is at stake in this decision?


I will clarify each item on the list with the intention of being as simple and understandable as possible and then I will use the example of choosing the right training. I chose this example because my main readership being parents, it is important that these topics have a concrete application to facilitate conceptualization.

To define what you want and make a choice, you must, of course, study the problem. You can’t make a rational choice without information, so this process aims to go deeper into the situation, to help you clarify what you want and finally to make an informed and most rational choice.

I mentioned above, you must first know what you want and be sure of it. That’s part of the process. No matter what scenario you find yourself in.

If you have already made a choice, but still have doubts, the best thing to do is to start the process again, especially if you can’t answer clearly or with relevance to these few questions and others that will come to your mind: What are you basing your decision on? Are you basing it on an impression, a piece of advice, an article? How serious is this source? Is this source indisputable? Why do you think you want this? What is your goal and why? etc.


  1. Identify all the components of the situation and the elements to be considered.


It is a matter of listing everything that you consider should be taken into account in your choice, by broadening your thinking as much as possible. You have to go deeper into the subject to understand it better, then do more precise research, if needed, on some elements, on the state of science and in particular on the existence of a meta-analysis, which is the highest level of scientific proof. A Cartesian approach, certainly, which should not necessarily be limited to, but which cannot be ignored. Secondly, consider the consequences of your choice, its implications, for you and possibly for other individuals or goods depending on the context.

Choosing a vocational course:

The prerequisite as I said is to know what you want to do for a living, what job you want to do.

You will also need to identify what you want from your training in terms of learning or specialization.

You will need to define selection criteria including how you will compare them.

Finally, list everything you need to consider: program, specialization, cost, transportation, distance, duration, accommodation, country, how often you want to see your family, food specialties of the area and what you will do with your pet.


  1. Develop arguments on each of the defined points (regardless of the number of people).


The point is to argue about the real importance of taking into account the elements you have identified.

Choosing a vocational course:

  • A random point: Maximum cost of the training

Fact: My parents can finance a training course for me at a cost of USD 10,000 per year all inclusive.

Sample reflection and argument development: Should this be a criterion for choice? Do I have other financing options? Have I asked one or more banks about their terms for a loan to finance my education that I will pay back when I am in business? Am I willing to do this? What are the risks? etc.

After all these questions: what final decision do I make on this point and why?


  1. Constructive criticism of the arguments, their meaning or interest in the context of the choice to be made, their objectivity and their value by defining a scale from the most important to the least important.


Choosing a vocational course:

  • One item: Opinions gathered on the training or school/university

Fact: 2 people interviewed at an education fair booth or open house, raved about this training.

These opinions influenced you.

That said, should you consider them? Is their source reliable? How can you verify it? Have you verified the information given? Are these the students most likely to give a good picture or have a convincing speech? Did they offer any critical thinking, any real bad thing mentioned? How much weight will you give this element? Can it be considered at the same level as other elements and why?

A special note on the level of arguments that are too far from the problem and the issue to offer a relevance that would require dwelling on them, as for example: you are reorienting yourself and changing university and your argument is: “I chose my last training for its program and I was disappointed, the program should not be part of my main choice criteria. ”

Obvious sophistry and argument that have no other interest than to have you make an error in judgment. Above all, it is necessary to really analyze the program study you had done and make sure that the next study is very thorough to remedy the problems experienced.


  1. Verification that you are basing yourself on facts and not on emotions or impressions and that nothing was forgotten.


Once you have done this work on ten or twenty arguments, you will have to review everything. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t listen to your intuition or your feeling about an element of this or that training, but it is necessary to dissociate feeling and reason, and to try to determine where this “impression” comes from, how you explain it and what place you think you should give it.


  1. Verification of the intellectual honesty, the dynamics in which the choice is made. Am I acting in good faith and what is at stake in this decision?


When you choose a training course after having chosen a profession, because choosing a training course is NOT choosing a profession. First you choose a profession, then the training that will allow you to train for it as you wish.

In many families, the choice of university or school is made in consultation with parents, who have taken a certain “place” in the thinking process.

These are some examples of questions you can ask yourself to check your momentum and ensure your intellectual honesty in the thought process.

Is it my choice?

What state of mind am I in when I make my decision? Are there external elements that influence it?

Do I want to please people? Do I want to impose my decision or to be the one to decide by putting aside certain arguments? Am I in a power struggle with my parents? If so, why? Have I been honest in defining the consequences of my choice? etc.

Remember, a choice is a compromise with yourself or with others, there is no ideal choice and even less a purely rational one.

This process, far from being ideal, seeks to allow you, if you follow it, to considerably increase the rationality of your choice and to have a clearer vision of some of the reasons for your choice.

I hope this will help!

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