Quick! Before I change my mind

DecisionsI got some brochures from our local Arts Centre for a song writing workshop.  I thought Miss Dee would be interested and it would give her something to do in the upcoming school holidays.

Initially the answer was a resounding: No!  As a good and understanding mother, I shrugged my shoulders and carefully placed the brochures on top of the kitchen table where they would be seen on a regular basis and waited.

About a week afterwards, Miss Dee announced she would be doing the workshop.  She had discussed it with a couple of girlfriends and they were keen to enrol.

A couple of days later, I wrote a text message to the Arts Centre Director to book a place.  Before I sent it though, I asked the “are you sure?” question.  Miss Dee looked at me with something akin to horror.  “I don’t know,” she wailed. “How can I be sure?”

I took a deep breath.  Anyone who knows me will tell you I don’t have trouble making decisions, so I always finding it puzzling how others don’t seem to find it quite so easy.  OK, I will be honest.  It drives me bananas.  You either want something or you don’t.  Simple.  Hence the deep breath.  I took another.

Before I could say anything, however, she beat me to it.  “OK, quick!  Send the text before I change my mind.”  I opened my mouth and just as quickly shut it and pressed the send button.

The workshop is not for another fortnight, but I am not expecting to hear any more about it until a couple of days beforehand when we will dance a similar routine.  The difference will be that she knows that once you commit to something, you do it (a family policy).  We started enforcing that policy since she was in kindergarten and it is well embedded now. So she won’t try to get out of it.  She will just despair at whether she made the right decision and then, more than likely, will love every second once she is doing it.

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe that decisions require consideration.  And there are some that require careful consideration, like buying a home and getting married.  But agonising over a decision or spending so much time analysing it that it consumes your life, is not healthy.

I’ve come across two major types of indecisions:

  • What if I don’t like it or it’s bad for me? (A typical Miss Dee problem)
  • I haven’t worked out all the details yet. I don’t have all the information.  (My best friend spends months researching information and all possible alternatives and outcomes even for things like the colour of her tea towels).

I know there are some theories out there that suggest you only make decisions that are a resounding yes, otherwise it’s a no. This supposedly simplifies your decision making and clears your life of things you are not really that happy with.

For me it’s a 20/80 rule.  If you have 20 per cent of the key information, then in most cases you can make a decision.  In the case of the workshop, Miss Dee loves playing and composing music.  She also enjoys spending time with other teens who share similar interests.  She also happens to know and like one of the teachers.  What she doesn’t know is what the other teacher is like (grumpy, boring, etc.), whether the workshop will be fun (what if it is too prescriptive or too basic?) and whether the other teens will be nice.

But why is it a problem to spend so much time making a decision or only choosing those things you are really sure about?

  • You are most likely wasting time on information that will not add much value (i.e. the effort to obtain it will not result in a great deal of extra certainty). In the case of my girlfriend, understanding the latest trends in tea towels will not really add much to the tea towel looking nice in her kitchen).  Time would be better spent doing things you enjoy (unless of course you really enjoy researching, in which case you should research more meaningful and useful stuff.)
  • You will be missing out on opportunities. If you wait long enough to make a decision, that decision is made for you.  Most things have an expiry date, like the workshop, which only runs that week.  Some think that being ambivalent means it wasn’t worth it.  But how do you know?  If you don’t try new things, you don’t know whether you like them or not.  And you never expand your horizons or learn new things.

I am not suggesting jumping in where angels fear to tread (although I have been known to do that), but rather that it’s OK to take some chances.  A decision is not the end of the road, it’s a just a fork.

If you make the wrong decision, you don’t dwell on it or regret it.  You simply make a new one and move on, grateful for the learning opportunity.

I still think that the day I stop learning, is the day I call it quits or do something different.

As Douglas Adams said: “I’d far rather be happy than right any day.”.


Decisions are made by those who show up.

Aaron Sorkin

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