Mental models are frameworks that simplify complex systems. They help you understand the world and make better decisions. Consider mental models as tools that make you think in a more systemized way. Without mental models, you may continue to do what you do without knowing the why and the destination. Moreover, you might be inefficient and missing opportunities.

One of the exciting mental models I came across lately is the hard choice mental model[i].

It helps you categorize decisions across two axes, the impact of the decision and how you can compare the options.

The hard choice mental model

hard choice mental model

  • No-brainer

When you have a decision that has a low impact on your life and chooses between comparable options, then the choice is a no-brainer. You should make a quick decision.

  • Apples/Oranges

When your decision is a low-impact decision and you compare entirely different options, you need to refine your criteria to choose between the options. In the end, it’s a low-impact decision.

  • Big Choice

This is when it starts to get interesting; you are now dealing with a big life decision. However, the choices are easy to compare. All you have to do is gather more information weighing the pros and cons, gain confidence, and then execute.

  • Hard Choice

This is where the hard decisions lie; they are high-impact decisions and hard to compare options. You need to take your time and use different decision tools such as weigh the various criteria for each choice.

Using the hard choice mental model, you can know which decisions you should spend time processing and when to execute without regret. For example, in a restaurant, the order is usually a no-brainer or apples/oranges decisions.

Next time just order the third option in the main courses section unless you are allergic.

A. Shoukry

This article is originally published by A. I. Shoukry

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[i] Wes O’Haire, a product designer from |