Feb 092015 0 Responses

Bad Decision Making: Deciding Before You Have To

Never make a decision until you have to.

There are some decisions which need to be made now. To wait is to risk. If you do not make the decision now, you will likely make a poor decision later. It’s true with exercise, money, food, character, and a host of other issues.

You should decide right now what you will eat 12 hours from now. If you decide now, you will likely make the decision in light of the long-term perspective. You will choose healthier options and make wiser choices. If you wait until it is time to eat, you run the risk of poor choices. A greasy hamburger has much more sway over a person in the moment then 12 hours before. (See: What to do Right When You’ve Already Done Wrong)

You should not choose in the moment of whether to get out of bed and exercise. The decision will be much more difficult. You will be tempted to continue to sleep. If you choose before going to bed what time you will get up and stick with that decision, you will make better choices.

You should choose right now the type of person you want to be. Don’t wait until you have the choice to cheat to determine if you are the type of person who will cheat. Choose now, because you will choose better than if you wait until later. (See: You Better Make Up Your Mind)

Some decisions need to be made sooner.

Other decisions need to be made later. To act now is to risk. If you make the decision now, you will likely make a poor decision. More information will come with time. You will grow and mature. A delay might even remove the need to make a decision.

You should wait to make up your mind about people. Rarely is there a need to make a definitive first impression or early opinion. Get to know them. Understand their story. See who time proves them to be. Whether it be a new boss, your daughter’s new boyfriend, or just someone you met, give it some time before boldly making up your mind. (See: Never Give Up on People)

You should wait to make up your mind about results. There is no need to judge the value of counseling, two sessions into counseling. There is no need to reevaluate an exercise plan, a few weeks into the new lifestyle. I will often meet with people, determine a course of action, and a week later hear the person has completely given up on what we decided was best. “It wasn’t working,” they will say. “It’s only been a week,” I will respond. Wise choices often do not provide the immediate good feeling or outcome we desire. They are wise because of the long-term, not the short-term. This is what makes wise decision-making so difficult. Give it some time.

You should wait to make up your mind about a job. Don’t feel pressure after the first interview to determine if you want the job or not. To do so puts you in a position of need and possibly desperation. At minimum it will negatively impact your negotiating ability at maximum it will cloud your judgment from discerning if the job is even a good fit.

Do not make a decision today which can be fairly made tomorrow. If there are consequences to waiting, then do not wait. Do not delay decision-making out of fear or laziness. Yet if there is no benefit to deciding something today, but there is benefit to delaying the decision, do not make the decision today. (See: What a Timeshare Presentation Taught Me About Bad Decision Making)

Steven Sample, in his book The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, discusses what he calls “thinking grey.” He says that as a leader it is important for him to refrain from forming an early opinion about something so that he can fairly evaluate all the facts. Humanity is prone to believe the first side of the story they hear. This often gets us in trouble.

By thinking grey, we keep an open mind about issues until it is time to make up our minds. When we decide too early, we close our minds to new information and we are biased toward any information we see. This results in poor decision making.

Sadly, humanity often delays decisions they should make now and rushes decisions they could save for tomorrow. Unless we recognize this human tendency, we will fall for its trap. The result will be disastrous for us and others.

Don’t decide until you have to.

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