Decisions and Time (wasted) to Make Them

Not What You May Think…

Maybe you think that the harder the decision, the more time you should take making it? Think again. Better yet, you may want to quit that endless thinking, thinking, thinking altogether. Too much thinking. Not just you. It’s what we do. More or less. Take (Jean) Buridan’s Ass, a paradoxical, philosophical thought experiment that dates at least as far back as Aristotle, and goes something like this: An equally hungry and thirsty donkey, placed exactly halfway between a stack of hay and a pail of water, cannot decide which way to go. Paralyzed with indecision and, therefore, approaching neither the food nor the drink while he tries to decide, the donkey dies. In Irrational Time Allocation in Decision-Making (Oud et al), we read about a study (Burns) in which fast moving, less accurate bees wind up with more nectar than the slower, more accurate bees. They cite this study in relation to their own finding that human subjects earned greater rewards (snack food, dollars) when a deadline was imposed on the subjects to break any deadlock like the one suffered by the ass.

I believe and teach that the reason some decisions are so darned hard is because there is equal or near equal merit on both sides. You’ve heard of buyer’s remorse, not so much when the one you bought was a lot better than the one you didn’t. But when it was ‘six of one, half a dozen of the other’, it’s tougher. And the toughness of that decision is expensive; for example, when while you were going back and forth in your head afraid to make a mistake, someone else stepped up to the plate and took your one that got away – a home, a mate, whatever it was that you obliterated out of existence by thinking it to death. Just like the donkey.

So here is the other thing I live, breathe, and teach: It is not the decisions we make but what we make of these decisions once we have made them that makes all the difference in our lives. When people come to believe in themselves, to know that, whatever it is, they can and will throw everything they have at making it work, they jump for joy into new people, places, and things. I marvel at the changes my clients* make – new homes, new jobs, new love interests – often without even talking about these particular decisions directly in our work. All because they all of a sudden realize they can do this – they can make changes in their lives and feel all the better for it because they know, love, and trust the self in charge. I think I can. I think I can. Do something, make a change, make it work, to know you can. And then do it again. Practice, practice, practice…and see what happens.

For help with this or something else, call or write at:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:  202.617.0821

“Irrational Time Allocation in Decision-Making,” Bastiaan Oud, Ian Krajbich, Kevin Miller, Jin Hyun Cheong, Matthew Botvinick, Ernst Fehr. 13 January 2016. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.1439

*Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2016. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.




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