January  2020     Edition 148
Second Guessing and Critical Thinking

Can critical thinking reduce the frequency and anxiety of second guessing?

   Yes, and here’s why.
Given a variety of choices, we’ll choose one.   During the time between choosing one and committing to that one, we’ll often re-think the choice, and wonder if it’s the right choice, potentially rehashing our thinking that got us there in the first place.   We call that second guessing.   You’re not actually guessing but re-reviewing the original choice, and potentially comparing it with all the other choices … again.

Second guessing is not

when we review a choice because of additional information, or the original issue has changed.   That’s re-examining our choice given new information.   For example;  If there’s a significant safety recall that’s just been announced regarding a car you’re about to purchase, re-thinking  that choice is not second guessing.

Second guessing is symptomatic of not having enough confidence in the original choice.

   If you have a lot of confidence in the choice, you wouldn’t re-examine it.  If your confidence is low, you’ll hesitate and potentially second guess yourself and re-think the alternatives once again.

To reduce second guessing

, you have to raise your confidence in the conclusion you reach, as well as the criteria you are using to choose.  

People have confidence when they have a strong Premise

that led to the conclusions.   A strong premise consists of information that you can rely on.   You have facts, you have experiences, you have read a good deal about the subject matter, you’ve done your research, and obtained views from others.   You know what assumptions you’re making and why you’re making them.  For example; when you’re looking to buy a car, you might research the safety records, the consumer reviews, the maintenance records, pricing trends, the warranty, even the reputation of the dealer.   You’ll take it for a test drive.  You should be clear about the assumptions you’re making regarding how long you’ll keep the car, and future maintenance costs.  Understanding this information will provide you the confidence that the conclusion you make about a car is based on accurate information with some depth, and good thinking behind it.

You also must have confidence in the criteria you are using

to decide to move forward.  For the purchase of a car; is your decision based on price, or gas mileage, comfort, color, etc?.   If you’re not clear on what’s really important to you, you will have low confidence that you’re making the right choice and will tend to second guess.  Eventually, after re-thinking perhaps several times,  you’ll uncover what’s really important.   Better however, to do that upfront, instead of as you’re second guessing.

Second guessing is OK.

  After all, if you’re not confident in moving forward, it’s very possible that the conclusion you have reached is actually not a good one.   If your Premise is weak, i.e. you don’t have good information to make the call, then it’s probably worthwhile to spend a little time getting that information so you can be confident in your choice.   Nevertheless, reducing the amount of second guessing will speed up decision making as well as lower anxiety about making the right call.

The Takeaway;
  Second guessing a choice is all about lack of confidence in that choice.   If you want to reduce the amount of second guessing, and the potential anxiety that goes with it, then spend a little bit more time upfront making sure you have good information (a strong Premise) and a clear criteria (list of what’s important).  With that, the decision to move forward is easy.

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