If you’ve ever struggled to make a decision today’s blog post is for you. Whether it’s something big, like deciding whether or not to take that job in another country, or something simple like what to choose from the menu (my personal struggle!) there’s a reason behind your reluctance to make a decision and newly published book The Art of Decision Making can help…
The Art of Decision Making is published TODAY and it’s one of the most useful books I’ve read this year so far. It analyses why we procrastinate, what the forces are that hold us back and why some people are just naturally indecisive. Helpfully, the book also provides the solutions to overcome our worries to make smart choices and commit to making a decision. And the great news is that I’ve got TWO extra copies of The Art of Decision Making to give away to two lucky winner so read on to enter my giveaway below.
I definitely needed to read this book as, even though I move quickly and determinedly once I’ve made a decision, I find it tricky to get to that stage. The author Joseph Bikart looks closely at the fears that surround our choices and helps us move from hesitation to decisiveness. There’s an extract from the book below that analyses the things we do to avoid making decisions – do you recognise any of these traits in yourself? And what can you do to improve these?
A London newspaper recently featured an article about a trend called “Mono-living”. According to its author, choice is overrated. One of the advocates of the trend is Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook CEO and co-founder. Apparently, Zuckerberg sticks to one simple outfit of which he owns many copies: grey T-shirt and grey hoodie. “I really want to clear my life,” he once said, “so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.”
This is how we risk becoming creatures of habit and may end up getting stuck. It is also, however, an effective defence mechanism, creating the illusion that we are more focused and efficient. Yet more focus on being stale isn’t particularly desirable! And I’m sure the Facebook CEO shows more interest in his business decisions than in his wardrobe selection. What about our other defence mechanisms?
Outsourcing our responsibility toward our own decisions. “Why don’t you decide? It’s all the same to me.” Delegating the decision to someone else in this way may not be a matter of consciously deferring to their greater wisdom: instead, it may simply be a form of surrender. Moreover, when the other party is equally indecisive, this can lead to a comical bout of ping pong until exhaustion takes hold, and a decision is finally made by default!
If the other person has our best interests at heart, we may end up with a favourable outcome. However, even if this happens, our self-belief, our sense of ourselves as effective agents of our own development, is hardly reinforced by this kind of proxy decision making.
The next defence strategy is the endless postponement of decisions: procrastination. Occasionally, it will be in our best interest not to decide immediately, and instead give ourselves time for reflection. The underlying idea is that a more informed decision is likely to be a better one. However, it is clear that some of us exploit this principle as a pretext for avoiding decisions, hoping that if we wait long enough, the choice will be made for us.
My main issue with this approach is that it relies on a false premise: that we can control the timing of our decisions. Pushing things into the future creates the illusion that we have mastery over our decision making, whereas in reality postponing a decision is often akin to negating it. Although we think we are exercising our power, we are, in fact, relinquishing it.
It is good to bear in mind that the decision I refuse to take today and postpone until tomorrow will be necessarily a different decision. The variables around it will have changed, not just the timing. In some cases, a previously available option may have disappeared – and even if it hasn’t, the conditions of its availability will have evolved.
The unspoken motto of procrastination should be: “The decision is dead, long live the decision!” In other words, let us not delude ourselves into thinking we are dealing with the same decision: we are either dealing with a new decision or with the ghost of a defunct one. However, procrastination – like the broader quality of indecision – can have other sources. One of them is the pursuit of perfection.
Perfectionism is often used as a variant of procrastination, an excuse to keep postponing our decisions and actions. In a whole range of situations many people will feel it is laudable to aim for optimum results, leaving no room for imperfection. On the other hand, there will be occasions when spending more money or effort to improve a good outcome even more is not the best use of one’s time.
As part of the quest for perfection, we will often blame a lack of knowledge: “I can’t decide until I have all the information in hand.” Secretly, deep down, we know that this is another form of procrastination, and we will never really have all the knowledge we wish for. When making decisions, we should be grateful for the information we have, rather than fearful about the knowledge we lack.
This points to one of the greatest myths around procrastination: the idea that if I postpone today’s decision until tomorrow, I will be better informed then than I am now. If we are inclined this way, we need to ask ourselves, what is this critical information that will make all the difference? In other words – as much as I am disinclined to publicize my age – what will I learn between today and tomorrow that will make the 17,521-day-old version of me better able to decide than the 17,520-day-old individual I am now? The answer is likely to be: not much! However, if such reflections point us in the direction of any critical information that we may be lacking, we should then employ all our energies to finding it… today!
The quest for perfection does not merely show lack of realism: it can also be regarded as narcissistic. Imperfection is intrinsic to human nature, yet many of the goals we set up for ourselves ignore this fact. When idealism infects our decision making, we can start entertaining dangerously unrealistic ideas about our own capabilities.
When it comes to decision making, the impossible quest for perfection gives us the perfect alibi to keep living in the virtual world – where perfection is always a possibility. The problem is that whilst we entertain this illusion, we do not live. This idea is reminiscent of Anna Freud’s prosaic yet insightful line: “In our dreams, we have our eggs cooked exactly how we want, but we can’t eat them.”
Did any of these traits ring true for you? Can you see how some of these avoidance mechanisms can stop you from making clear decisions? I hope that by analysing your usual behaviours you’ll be able to make some changes and cut out the procrastinating in the future! If you want to read more, The Art of Decision Making has been published today 9th July 2019, and is available on from Watkins Publishing.
If you’d like to win a copy of the book for yourself, I have TWO fresh-off-the-press books to give away to two winners. There are plenty of ways to enter the competition via the Rafflecopter below and the giveaway runs until the end of the month, so you can tweet as often as you link during that time and earn even more entries – good luck!a Rafflecopter giveaway
Giveaway open to UK residents only. The giveaway runs from 9th July – 31 July 2019. Two winners will be chosen at random from all Rafflecopter entries after this date. The winners will be contacted via email and will need to provide a UK delivery address to receive their prize.
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