Why do some decisions feel better than others – that is, independent of the outcome?

In an earlier post I wrote about different ways/orientations to set goals and regulate behavior – prevention and promotion focus: First one referring to a focus on absence of negatives, and the latter one to achieving positive things. If you reflected on the questions at the end of that post or completed the  Regulatory Focus Questionnaire, you have an idea which one is more dominant for you.

I had also mentioned the strategies to reach these goals. One can either pick a means that will maximize possibilities – an eager strategy; or she can pick one that will minimize potential mistakes – a vigilant strategy.

So far it’s a recap of an earlier post. Here’s what’s new: the fit between the regulatory focus (prevention vs. promotion) and the strategy you use to reach your goals (vigilant vs. eager). Recent research shows that the fit between these two factors has important consequences for motivation, decision-making and the value we get from our decisions.

First, the fit between regulatory focus/orientation and the means to reach the goals influences the motivation. A person with a prevention focus has a stronger motivation to pursue a goal when using a vigilant strategy rather than an eager strategy.

For example, a sales manager with a prevention focus will have higher motivation when using a strategy that emphasizes watching out for costs, rather than looking out for profits. If you’re leading a team of people with diverse regulatory orientations that would mean you’re better off to frame goals accordingly, and be flexible in suggesting a mix of vigilant and eager strategies that would map onto both prevention and promotion orientations.

Secondly, when the fit between orientation and strategy is high people feel more alert both when making decisions and after making a decision. They also evaluate their decisions more positively. These two consequences combined could explain why a particular decision can be more satisfying for some than for others independent of the outcome of the decision– both across different people (e.g. in a team) and for the same person across different decisions.

Finally, the fit also has an impact on the value people assign to outcomes. For example, people with prevention or promotion orientations assign a higher monetary value to an object that they have chosen by using the compatible strategy – vigilant or eager, respectively. What does that mean? Your perception of how valuable something increases when your decision-making reflects the fit – you also become more likely to pay a higher amount for it.

These findings have important implications for the enjoyment of goal pursuit. The higher the fit the more satisfaction you’ll get from pursuing your goals. This also means you play an active role in the value you get from an object or a service through your regulatory focus and the strategy you choose to make a decision. You can increase the enjoyment you get from goal pursuit by being aware of your regulatory orientation and by being mindful in choosing a compatible strategy to maximize the fit between the two.

Feeling good about your decision and the outcome of your decision is under your control. The better you know yourself the better you can regulate your behavior and the better you feel! Now, how good is that?

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