Blog: Creative Decision Making and Goal Achievement

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Blog: Creative Decision Making and Goal Achievement

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You’ll receive news about decision making, including topics such as career choices, strategic planning, goal achievement, will-power, procrastination, creative thinking, risk and uncertainty, intuition, etc. You’ll hear about research findings and get practical tips, book recommendations, or updates of upcoming events, for example workshops or talks on those topics.

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by Ursina Teuscher (PhD), at Teuscher Decision Coaching, Portland OR

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Self-Assessment: How Awe-Struck are You?

In a earlier post, I wrote about how feelings of awe can affect our decision making. Here you can take a quick self-assessment as to how often you experience awe in your own life.

Note that this self-assessment is not a scientifically normed scale. The items are loosely based on Michelle Shiota and her colleagues’ scales of dispositional positive emotions, where awe is one out of seven positive €emotions (the other six being joy, pride, contentment, compassion, amusement, and love). So far, not much research has been done on whether €experiencing€ awe is a stable trait within€ a person’s €personality structure. But regardless of whether €some people are more €naturally prone to it than others, the feeling of awe€ is an experience that we can seek out, if we choose to look for it.

Would you like to experience more awe in your life? If so, try to surround yourself more with natural beauty and seek experiences that expand your horizon. Or as one group of researchers put it: look for things that have “perceptual vastness”, to the extent that they might dramatically expand your usual frame of reference. In experiments, the feeling of awe has often been induced with images or videos of stunning landscapes, night skies, or the real experience of nature, such as standing under towering trees. The Greater Good Science Center (SGCC) at UC Berkeley suggests this video as a practice. There are also certain types of music that have been used successfully to induce awe, such as the song Hoppípolla by Sigur Rós.

If you take another look at the self-assessment scale above: on which of the items could you get a higher score with the easiest changes in your daily habits or leisure activities?

by Ursina Teuscher (PhD), at Teuscher Decision Coaching, Portland OR

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Posted in Creativity, Self-Assessments Tagged with:

New Collaboration of Portland Career Specialists

I’m excited and honored to be a new team member of the fabulous Vicki Lind and Associates. We’re a team of now five local career service specialists in Portland, Oregon. The specialties I’ll be contributing to the team are Job Satisfaction Coaching and Career Advancement Coaching.

My teammates are:

The five us share a deep commitment to helping our clients make meaningful contributions and find prosperity and balance through their careers.

Check out our website!

by Ursina Teuscher (PhD), at Teuscher Decision Coaching, Portland OR

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Posted in Career Decisions, Counseling/Coaching

Inspired: How Awe Affects Our Decisions

Feelings of awe and wonder make us feel smaller, but richer in time. This affects our decisions in several interesting ways.

Awe is a powerful emotion that we feel when we encounter something so strikingly vast (grand, beautiful, or powerful) that it overwhelms our mental capacity. Some researchers describe such vastness as “provoking a need to update one’s mental schemas”, while the rest of us might more succinctly call it mind-blowing. These feelings can be induced experimentally, for example by having research participants stand in a grove of towering trees or looking at stunning images of the sky, space or landscapes.

It turns out feelings of awe have interesting effects on decision making.

For one, feelings of awe can lead to more ethical decisions, more generosity, as well as more compassion. For instance, research participants who experienced awe were more willing to volunteer their time to help others.

Another effect is that people who experienced awe preferred investing money into experiences rather than into material products. As I discussed in an earlier post, this is a decision pattern that can lead to more satisfaction and well-being.

How Awe Affects Our Decisions

Why does awe have these effects on our decisions?

One reason is probably that awe expands our sense of time. Research participants who experienced awe, felt they had more time available and were less impatient. This kind of expanded time perception certainly influences decisions. For example, not having enough time is an often-cited reason for not engaging in leisure activities, and so a sense of abundant time could well help people choose experiences over material goods. Time perception also affects moral choices: people act more helpfully towards others if they have extra time on their hands, rather than feeling rushed.

Another explanation is that feelings of awe lead to feelings of a “small self”. For example, taking in the vastness of a natural landscape can make us feel small and insignificant, which could explain why people feel less of a sense of entitlement after experiencing feelings of awe. Being reminded of our own smallness may help us take ourselves and our concerns a bit less seriously and focus on others instead.

How Awe Affects Our Decisions

Warning: Side-Effects

The experience of awe has one more effect that we should be aware of: it increases our supernatural beliefs. The reason for this might be that awe lowers our sense of control over the world, and when feelings of personal control are low, people turn to supernatural explanations, as a means of lowering the uncertainty and restoring a sense of control. Feelings of awe do indeed lower people’s tolerance for uncertainty, and people who have a low tolerance of uncertainty are more prone to magical thinking and superstitious behavior.

by Ursina Teuscher (PhD), at Teuscher Decision Coaching, Portland OR

Selected References:
Case, T. I., Fitness, J., Cairns, D. R., & Stevenson, R. J. (2004). Coping With Uncertainty: Superstitious Strategies and Secondary Control1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 34(4), 848–871.
Darley, J. M., & Batson, C. D. (1973). “From Jerusalem to Jericho”: A study of situational and dispositional variables in helping behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 27(1), 100–108.
Kay, A. C., Gaucher, D., McGregor, I., & Nash, K. (2010). Religious Belief as Compensatory Control. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14(1), 37–48.
Keinan G. (1994). Effects of stress and tolerance of ambiguity on magical thinking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 48–55.
Keinan G. (2002). The effects of stress and desire for control on superstitious behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 102–108.
Piff, P. K., Dietze, P., Feinberg, M., Stancato, D. M., & Keltner, D. (2015). Awe, the small self, and prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108(6), 883–899.
Rudd, M., Vohs, K. D., & Aaker, J. (2012). Awe Expands People’s Perception of Time, Alters Decision Making, and Enhances Well-Being. Psychological Science, 23(10), 1130–1136.
Shiota, M., Keltner, D., & Mossman, A. (2007). The nature of awe. Cognition and Emotion, 21(5).
Valdesolo, P., & Graham, J. (2013). Awe, Uncertainty, and Agency Detection. Psychological Science, 956797613501884.
Van Boven, L., & Gilovich, T. (2003). To Do or to Have? That Is the Question. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(6), 1193–1202.

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Posted in Creativity, Decision-Making Tagged with:

German Translations of Decision Coaching Methods

(And you’ll also find some similar resources in English.)

I’m excited about my upcoming opportunity this month to teach several postgraduate seminars to career counselors in Switzerland again. The topic will be decision coaching methods: how to apply decision support tools in a career counseling setting. For that purpose I created course materials in German. I’m happy to share a part of those materials here, because I know some of my blog readers are native German speakers, or work with German-speaking clients, and have asked me before about resources in German.

The following are all downloadable pdf’s:German Translations of Decision Coaching Methods: Entscheidungshilfen in der Beratungsarbeit: Wegleitung und Methoden (Ursina Teuscher, PhD)

  1. Entscheidungshilfen in der Beratungsarbeit – Wegleitung und Methoden
    [Not the same, but the most similar resource I have in English: Decision making guideline – workshop handout with exercises]
  2. Vorlage für Szenarienbäume
    [In English: Paper/pencil template for scenario trees]
  3. Vorlagen für quantitative Entscheidungsmethoden
    [In English: Paper/pencil templates for decision tables and trees]

The first one is a guideline with exercises, outlining my framework and process for tackling difficult decisions. The German version includes a few more specific counseling methods than the English version.

German Translations of Decision Coaching Methods: SzenarienbaumThe second one is a template for a scenario tree that can give you clarity in thinking through risky options. Drawing this kind of scenario tree helps you get a clear structure into your thoughts or into a conversation by visualizing different courses of action and their possible consequences that are in or out of your control. It does not include a quantitive evaluation, but it is a good step in getting your thoughts ready for the quantitive part. Or, if you’re anything like myself or many of my clients or students, clarity may well hit you suddenly on the way there.

The third document contains several tools: two templates for classic decision matrices to evaluate options based on multiple criteria; a classic probability tree template to evaluate risky options; and also a less commonly found template that combines both of those tools, for decisions that involve multiple criteria as well as major risks.

German Translations of Decision Coaching Methods: Entscheidungsmethoden Quantitativ (Ursina Teuscher, PhD)Please feel free to use any part of these materials for your own personal use or to help others with their decisions. You can find more here among the rest of my collection of resources. (If you share any of this, I’m honored, and I appreciate your crediting the source as practical and appropriate. If you manage to sell it, I bow before you.)

Depending on your familiarity with decision support tools, you may or may not find these materials self-explanatory. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have questions about them.

by Ursina Teuscher (PhD), at Teuscher Decision Coaching, Portland OR

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Posted in Counseling/Coaching, Decision-Making, Problem Solving, Risk and Uncertainty

Valentine’s Special: Chocolate and Coaching

I’m offering a new coaching package for couples. Could you use some help improving your shared time management, figuring out priorities, getting better organized together? If you sign up for your first exploratory Strategy Session before Valentine’s Day, you’ll receive a box of the world-famous Teuscher Champagne Truffles at our first meeting.

Read more about the couples coaching program and schedule a first session here.

Couples Coaching Valentine Special
And no, you’re not the only one wondering: people keep asking me whether I’m related to the “Chocolate Teuschers”. Sadly, not that I know of. But that won’t stop me from loving them, and from using their most delicious treats to get us all started on a sweet note.

by Ursina Teuscher (PhD), at Teuscher Decision Coaching, Portland OR

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Posted in Achieving Goals, Counseling/Coaching, Decision-Making, Financial Decisions, Health Decisions, Problem Solving

Consumer Decisions: Should we Invest into Possessions or Experiences?

If your finances are limited at all as a consumer, you are constantly faced with the decision: how should you spend your money in order to get the most lasting happiness and satisfaction from your purchases? 

With the holidays and the gifting season coming up for many, this is a particularly important question, because you may be spending money on others, not just on yourself.

Consumer Decisions: Possessions or Experiences?

Photo by Duncan Rawlinson

Should we buy possessions or experiences?

A lot of research shows that spending our money on experiences, such as vacations and concerts, makes us happier than buying material possessions, like clothes and electronic gadgets. For experiences, we’re also more likely to regret inaction, that is the decision NOT to buy, as a missed opportunity. For material purchases on the other hand, we’re more likely to regret action by feeling buyer’s remorse afterwards.

A very recent study shows that we like to delay gratification more if the rewards are experiences, rather than material goods. In other words, when we buy things like clothing or gadgets, we want to use them right away. But when we pay for experiences, like vacations or meals out, we don’t mind some waiting before the event. You might say this makes sense, because once we have the material possessions, we can keep them, so why not get them sooner rather than later?

However, somewhat counterintuitively, the happiness we derive from material goods doesn’t actually last that long. One study asked people how happy they were with material and experiential purchases. Initially, their happiness with those purchases was ranked about the same. But over time, people’s satisfaction with the things they bought went down, whereas their satisfaction with experiences they spent money on went up.

Isn’t it strange that the happiness we get from a physical object, which we can keep for as long as we want, lasts less than the happiness we get from an experience?

Why do experiences make us happier and keep us satisfied for longer?

In the long run, it is perhaps obvious that most material possessions, being physical objects, lose some of their initial value, such as by wearing out, breaking down, or going out of fashion. But even before that, one problem with material things is that we adapt very quickly to them, because of the very fact that they stay with us. In general, we seem to adapt much more quickly to new things and situations than we expect – for better and for worse. Therefore, the very durability of a possession eventually robs it of its power to make us happy – and faster than we think. Experiences on the other hand, being intangible, not only suffer no such decline, but often get romanticized as they live on in our memories and our stories. They therefore often increase, rather than diminish, in value.

There are several other explanations why experiences make us happier and keep us satisfied for longer than possessions.

With this in mind, Happy Thanksgiving!

by Ursina Teuscher (PhD), at Teuscher Decision Coaching, Portland OR

Selected References:
Boven, L. V., Campbell, M. C., & Gilovich, T. (2010). Stigmatizing Materialism: On Stereotypes and Impressions of Materialistic and Experiential Pursuits. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(4), 551–563.
Caprariello, P. A., & Reis, H. T. (2013). To do, to have, or to share? Valuing experiences over material possessions depends on the involvement of others. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(2), 199.
Carter, T. J., & Gilovich, T. (2010). The relative relativity of material and experiential purchases. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(1), 146–159.
Carter, T. J., & Gilovich, T. (2012). I am what I do, not what I have: The differential centrality of experiential and material purchases to the self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(6), 1304.
Carter, T. J., & Gilovich, T. (2014). Getting the Most for the Money: The Hedonic Return on Experiential and Material Purchases. In M. Tatzel (Ed.), Consumption and Well-Being in the Material World (pp. 49–62). Springer Netherlands.
Chatterjee, S., Rai, D., & Heath, T. B. (2016). Tradeoff between time and money: The asymmetric consideration of opportunity costs. Journal of Business Research, 69(7), 2560–2566.
Kumar, A., & Gilovich, T. (2016). To do or to have, now or later? The preferred consumption profiles of material and experiential purchases. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 26(2), 169–178.
Mogilner, C., & Aaker, J. (2009). “The Time vs. Money Effect”: Shifting Product Attitudes and Decisions through Personal Connection. Journal of Consumer Research, 36(2), 277–291.
Rosenzweig, E., & Gilovich, T. (2012). Buyer’s remorse or missed opportunity? Differential regrets for material and experiential purchases. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(2), 215–223.
Van Boven, L., & Gilovich, T. (2003). To Do or to Have? That Is the Question. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(6), 1193–1202.

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Posted in Decision-Making, Financial Decisions

Are You Scared of Your Next Decision?

Scared of Your Next Decision?

Edvard Munch (1893): The Scream. Oil, tempera & pastel on cardboard. [Image rights in the public domain.]

Tonight will be a scary night for the bravest of us, with countless children roaming the streets, high on sugar, threatening to knock on our very doors.

However, even today, our most crippling fears probably come from within. Are you scared of your next decision? Afraid of making the wrong choice? Funnily enough, while dogs and – some say – children can smell our fear; on our own we’re not always very good at recognizing when and why we’re scared.

Here’s how you can recognize whether your decision scares you:

  • You avoid making the decision altogether, for example by procrastinating or by shifting the responsibility to others.
  • You get overly emotional about your decision. Maybe you get angry or burst into tears when others are bringing up uncomfortable truths about your situation? Such emotional outbursts are effective ways of shutting down a conversation, and they can be warning signs that your fears are holding you back from thinking and acting in the best way.
  • You keep investing into previous mistakes. This is also known as “escalating commitment”. When coping with poor outcomes of our previous choices, it is tempting to dig in our heels and devote even more resources to our current path, in the hope of somehow making it work. But sometimes, making the best decision for the future requires that we admit having made a mistake in the past. This is not easy: even admitting mistakes just to ourselves takes a lot of courage, but it can open the door to a new and better direction.

If any of these points ring true, take it as a warning sign that you might need more courage to approach your decision.

How to become a braver decision maker

The simplest way to get more courage is to take responsibility for your decision process, even if the outcomes are not all in your control. Follow a decision process that is in line with your values. Without being able to predict the future, we will never have a guarantee that good decisions will lead to good consequences, but there is plenty of evidence showing that a good decision process is indeed more likely to result in better outcomes. Since you will make many decisions over your lifetime, you can therefore be assured that if you follow a good decision process throughout your life, your decision outcomes will be better overall.

Four steps to tackle your decisions fearlessly:

1) Commit to a value-driven rational decision process. This does not guarantee good outcomes, but it does make them more likely.

2) Ask yourself: Which of my values matter for this decision? In other words, what are my personal criteria as to whether the outcome will be “good” or “bad”?

3) Think: What can I do that best fulfills all those values? (Think beyond your initial ideas. If necessary, use tools/visuals/charts etc to evaluate your options – I’m not getting started on all this here, but you know who to ask if you want to know more about creative thinking and evaluating options.)

4) Act. Knowing that you’ve made the best decision you possibly could have with your current knowledge – a decision that is based on your values, rather than on fear – will empower you to act with confidence.

by Ursina Teuscher at Teuscher Counseling, LLC

Selected References:
Anderson, B., Hahn, D., & Teuscher, U. (2013). Heart and Mind: Mastering the Art of Decision Making. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
Aschenbrenner, K. M., Jaus, D., & Villani, C. (1980). Hierarchical goal structuring and pupils’ job choices: testing a decision aid in the field. Acta Psychologica, 45, 35–49.
Bruine de Bruin, W., Parker, A. M., & Fischhoff, B. (2007). Individual differences in adult decision-making competence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(5), 938–956.
Dean, J. W., & Sharfman, M. P. (1996). Does Decision Process Matter? A Study of Strategic Decision-Making Effectiveness. The Academy of Management Journal, 39(2), 368–396.
Herek, G. M., Janis, I. L., & Huth, P. (1989). Quality of U.S. Decision Making during the Cuban Missile Crisis: Major Errors in Welch’s Reassessment. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 33(3), 446–459.
Keeney, R. L. (1996). Value-Focused Thinking: A Path to Creative Decision Making. Harvard University Press.

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Posted in Decision-Making, Procrastination, Risk and Uncertainty Tagged with: , , ,

Binge Working and Procrastination – Revised

Thanks to all of you who shared your experiences and thoughts about binge working and procrastination! Your insights have given me food for thought and an opportunity to make an addition to my hamster-wheel image. It now includes an additional stage: what Danna Schaeffer called the “tidal wave of joy and relief when you finish the thing and it is a success!”

Binge Working and Procrastination Revised

It is clear though that there are many individual differences as to how people experience binge working. The figure only shows one type of a particularly stable loop of reinforcement.

For some people, for example, bouts of binge working are very positive and productive experiences, without any of the ill effects shown in the image. For them, intense phases of working around the clock are simply a temporary effort for special projects. Rather than leading to exhaustion and burnout, those phases are followed by perhaps a break and then a more normal schedule a again.

On the other end of the spectrum are those for whom the cycle has only negative effects: they don’t get the joy and relief at all, but sometimes finish their binge working with a mediocre result because of the earlier procrastination, or even end up with a failure or a missed deadline, despite intense last-minute efforts. Those kinds of crises sometimes have positive longterm effects though. They can get people to finally break out of an unhealthy cycle by making serious and lasting changes to their work habits.

What I often see in my own coaching clients is that they have established a binge working routine because it used to work well for them in an earlier stage of their careers or education. As they take on bigger projects though, binge working becomes unsustainable, or leads to failure. This often happens to students as they transition from high school to college, or later from college to grad school, or even later in an academic career, with the need to publish and create an independent research program. It happens similarly in non-academic careers, as people move from supervised to leadership positions, and it happens to people who transition from an employed position to running their own businesses.

The general rule seems to be: the more independent and self-motivated your work is; the bigger your projects are; and the less tied those projects are to strict and frequent deadlines, the less likely a binge working schedule will be an entirely happy and successful one.

by Ursina Teuscher at Teuscher Counseling, LLC

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Posted in Achieving Goals, Counseling/Coaching, Procrastination, Productivity

Binge Working and Procrastination

Last-minute stress and binge working will improve your future procrastination as much as a hangover will improve your drinking habits.

At least that’s my hypotheses.

Guilt, Binge Working and Procrastination

Or what do you think? I’d love to hear about your experience. Do you sometimes work in somewhat excessive “binges”, for example through the night or throughout a weekend? If so, is this productive for you in the long run, or does it lead to the vicious circle in the image?

by Ursina Teuscher (PhD), at Teuscher Decision Coaching, Portland OR

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Posted in Achieving Goals, Procrastination, Productivity

Am I a Procrastinator?

Am I a procrastinator?“I know that I am a procrastinator, but taking this survey made me realize just how bad it is!”
– One of my students.

Clarry Lay, a psychology professor at York University in Toronto created the “General Procrastination Scale” as a research tool. While it is not intended for diagnosis, you can still get a general sense of your tendency to procrastinate across a pretty wide a range of situations.

In the interactive form below, you can simply move the sliders around and see your total score at the bottom. The total will be updated as you go along. A lower total score mean less procrastination, from 1, which would mean you don’t procrastinate at all in any of those situations, to 10, which would mean you procrastinate at every opportunity. Only the overall score at the bottom matters, because half of the individual items score in reverse.

A note for those interested in creating interactive forms: I’ve used JotForm for this self-assessment, with an added widget called “Sliders with calculated results”. I’ve searched a long time for a form creator that would automatically calculate results in real-time. This is the best I’ve found so far. I would be even more excited about a form with a submission button that would show results only after you submit your responses. If anyones know something like that, I would appreciate any pointers. Overall, I find JotForm extremely user-friendly and versatile, even the basic free version.

by Ursina Teuscher at Teuscher Counseling, LLC

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Posted in Achieving Goals, Procrastination, Productivity, Self-Assessments

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