So Much To Decide
Research estimates that, of the 35,000 “remotely conscious” decisions we make every day, 226.7 of them are about food.
That 226.7 seems low to me and other people I know (I asked them). Then again, we also have to decide:
- What to wear for which part of what day
- What tasks we will plan to accomplish
- Who we will engage with socially, to do what
- How much money to save, where to save it, how to spend it, where to donate it
- What to do for work, where to do it, how to do it
- Whether to have children, how many, where they go to school, who they play with
- Whether, when, how often to call your mother
- Whether to take the umbrella today
- On and on it goes, with no end in sight, ever…
So it’s a lot.
We could also discuss what is meant by “remotely conscious,” and when we think it’s best to go with our gut or put some more conscious thought into the mix. But I am making a decision that, for this post, I would like to focus on the cost of working decisions too hard, and what we can do instead.
Working Decisions Too Hard
Maybe you think that, the harder the decision, the more time you should spend making it? Think again. Consider (Jean) Buridan’s Ass, a 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.
Wonderful, isn’t it. And to back it up, an article entitled Irrational Time Allocation in Decision-Making reported on fast moving, less accurate bees winding up with more nectar than the slower, more accurate bees; and human subjects earning greater rewards (snack food, dollars) when a deadline was imposed on the subjects to break any deadlock like the one suffered by the ass.
What Makes Decisions Hard
Sometimes decisions are hard because there is roughly equal risk and reward on either side. You’ve heard of buyer’s remorse, happens less 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, because we are often so fearful of getting it wrong, making a mistake.
But the real mistake is in the overthinking itself, because it is so expensive. So, for example, 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, the job, whatever it was that you obliterated out of existence by overthinking it, just like the donkey.
So here is something I live, breath, 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.
What a delight it is to bear witness to the new decisions my clients make – new homes, new jobs, new wellness habits, 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 new decisions in their lives and feel all the better for it because they now know, love, and trust the self in charge.
So when you decide to make a change, decide also to make it work — if for no other reason than just to know you can. And then do it again. Decide. Commit, Repeat. Practice, practice, practice…and see what happens.