Decisions. Our life is full of them. We have to make them all the time, from the moment we step into the coffee shop on our way to work we are bombarded with options. There is no denying that this is a luxury problem but I know I am not alone in stating that as options rapidly escalate our ability to choose disintegrates. Many times we compromise, often in a destructive manner. How? Well, many of us, including myself, keep options open, and make semi-decisions. We play it safe. Lately I have called into question my habit of doing this and I cannot help but wonder if this wishy washy decision making ability of mine is in fact a recipe for disaster?
As I sat sipping my early morning caffeine, slowly catching up with my e-mails, I saw that my Fast Company subscription had sent me an article regarding decision making titled: “Why Keeping Your Options Open is a Really, Really Bad Idea”. (It seems that the universe may be trying to tell me something?)
Fast Company’s expert blogger Heidi Grant Halvorsen beautifully elucidates how it is important to make a clean cut decision:
“…Human beings are particularly good at rearranging and restructuring our thoughts to create the most positive experience possible in any situation. The psychological immune system protects us, to some extent, from the negative consequences of our choices–because after all, almost every choice has a downside. The key to happiness is to dwell as little as possible on that downside.
When you keep your options open, however, you can’t stop thinking about the downside–because you’re still trying to figure out if you made the right choice. The psychological immune system doesn’t kick in, and you’re left feeling less happy about whatever choice you end up making.”
As Woody Allen says in “Broadway Danny Rose” (a must see) “you can’t ride two horses with one behind”. One has to make a decision and stick to it or else you won’t do things to the best of your ability.
“…new research shows that they don’t just rob you of happiness, they also lead to poorer performance.
Once again, it’s because thoughts related to making the right decision stay active in your mind when your options are open. This places a rather hefty burden on your working memory, and it’s distracting. When you’re still deciding what you should do, you don’t have the cognitive resources to devote yourself fully to what you’re actually doing. Your attention wanders. And as a result, your performance suffers. (For instance, in one study, people who made a reversible decision were able to recall fewer correct answers on a subsequent task then those who made a choice they had to stick with.)
So keeping your options open leads to less happiness and success, not more. Ironically, people don’t actually change their minds and revise decisions very often. We just prefer having the option to do so, and that preference is costing us.”
Obviously reversible decisions are not always bad, you have to put things in context. All decisions should be concluded after weighing pros and cons,but perhaps we should all try and dare to fail. If we were not so cautious we could potentially be more happy, making our own decisions and bravely facing the consequences of these decisions.
I must add, however, that sometimes we make the wrong decision. We then have to back track and sometimes admit that we made the wrong choice. That is okay. Yes, it may be humiliating and embaressing but get over it, everybody does it. Own your mistakes as much as you own your successes. “Failure” is in fact a wicked opportunity to learn and develop your skills and qualities. Failing is part of what life entails so don’t even try and avoid it, instead embrace it. As Robert F. Kennedy’s once said “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
On that note I leave you to go get a cappuccino, tea, juice? Oh boy.