My battle with indecision

We all have problems with indecision.

When we’re given the option to choose between two things we try to weigh the best option based on our tastes, the benefit to us, or some other criteria. In general, we tend to think the more options we have, the better. We value the ability to choose for ourselves.

Unfortunately, having several options makes it more difficult for us to decide, and when we do decide we tend to be uncertain that we made the best choice. In fact, there are several articles and books written about the subject.

So where does that connect to me?

Lately, I’ve noticed that I’ve started to develop analysis paralysis, where I’ll go back and forth between several options for days or weeks before I make a decision. I’ve realized that I end up wasting all the time I use to decide what option is best and that I don’t get any benefit out of it.

As an example, I have a story.

Last month, I mentioned that I went to Texas to visit with three of the Big 4 accounting firms. Although I had a hard time making a decision about which internship offer to accept, that’s not what this story is about. If it were, I think the time I spent making a decision would be more understandable.

Instead, I want to talk about something much less important.

One of the firms I visited gave all of us a Fitbit Charge 2 during the office visit. A Fitbit isn’t something I would have bought for myself because I’m not really interested in the wearable smart device idea. That said, if someone wants to give me one, I’m not going to turn them down.

The problem was after I got home I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do with it. I looked up the Charge 2 on Amazon, and it was selling for about $150, although the price has since dropped. My first thought was to sell it and get a free chunk of change, but then I wondered if maybe I might enjoy wearing it myself or giving it my wife. I kept going back and forth between the two options. At one point, I told my friend that I was having a hard time deciding what I wanted to do with it, and he offered to buy it from me for his wife. I still couldn’t make a decision.

How ridiculous is that?

It’s one thing that it took me a while to make a decision about which one of the internship offers I wanted to accept. Accepting an offer can have a big impact on my life, especially since accounting internships typically (but not always) lead to full-time job offers at their conclusion.

It’s a totally different thing that I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to sell a Fitbit that I got for free, or keep it for myself.

As an aside, I eventually decided to keep it.

But it took me way too long to come to that conclusion.

I Realized It Was Time To Decide

My experience with the Fitbit made me realize that I’ve become non-committal and wishy-washy about making decisions. I pour huge amounts of energy into pouring over the pros and cons of almost every situation I’m in. Half the time I can’t even make a decision about where my wife and I should go out to eat on our date nights, and we end up going back and forth asking each other where we want to go. The same thing goes for deciding which movie we want to watch together.

Again, it’s ridiculous. And it reminds me of something I was taught when I was eighteen.

A bad decision, quickly made, is better than no decision.

If you’re decisive and commit to something that turns out to be wrong, adjust and fix it. The important thing is that you made a decision and acted, instead of letting inaction dominate your life. We’re so worried about making the best decision that we waste our lives not making any decision.

I’ve read that those who are financially successful in life reach their decisions quickly and seldom deviate from them. I don’t know if that’s true, but I’m willing to bet that there are more wealthy individuals that make firm decisions than there are wealthy individuals that go back and forth for ages before they decide what they want.

Even if that’s not true, I know I’d rather be able to use the energy I’ve been pouring into analyzing different alternatives to go after and accomplish my goals and dreams.

If you’re familiar with economics, the concept of marginal benefit comes to mind about how I’ve been making my decision. I’ve been spending time making decisions well in excess of the extra benefit I receive from making the preferential decision.

So, I’ve decided that I’m going to fix it.

From now on, I’m setting a goal to make my decisions quickly. Better to have taken a definite action and been wrong than to have meandered between two options until the decision is made for me because one option isn’t available anymore.

As part of that, I’d like to challenge you to set your own goal to be more decisive, and I’ll let you know how my own decision-making process has improved as time goes on.

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