One of the joys of coming out of the pandemic is that we all get to dine out again. At times, though, especially on the Open Table app, I’m overwhelmed by the number of restaurant choices as well as the number of menu options at each restaurant. It makes me think about the “infinite browsing mode” from Pete Davis’ book Dedicated that I highlighted in an earlier edition. With so many options and a fear of making the wrong choice, many of us have anxiety about decision making and, at times, may even be paralyzed from making any decision at all.
This topic makes me think back to the movie, The Hurt Locker. In the movie, Jeremy Renner’s character is a risk-taking staff sergeant with a gift for defusing bombs. In one scene, Renner has a returned home and is shopping at the grocery store. He stands, seemingly paralyzed, in front of the aisle of cereals looking at the hundreds of cereal boxes in front of him. I can remember being struck by this scene and thinking that while having options is good, there is simplicity in a singular purpose, such as keeping yourself and your comrades alive in a war zone. So how can we make decisions without excessively considering our options?
Before even thinking about the decision-making process, it might be helpful to remember that what happens after you make your choice might be as important as the choice you made. In Dedicated, Pete Davis noted that Stanford Professor Baba Shiv made the point that “The major factor for successful decisions is not what option you choose, but whether you remain committed to the choice.”
It is also easy to second guess decisions by imagining how great another choice would have been. But it is a false equivalency to compare the reality of your situation under a choice made with the projection of what might have happened if you had chosen differently. We have no idea on the outcome from the other choice so it’s a fruitless and painful exercise to dwell on what might have been. Often, we believe the options we could have chosen would have worked out perfectly. We’ll never know so why waste the energy thinking about it.
One trick I use to help speed up my decision-making process is to ask myself “what additional information will I gather by delaying this decision?” If I can’t determine what I will gain by waiting, I’m ready to make my decision. Similarly, we have a propensity, especially when a decision doesn’t work out, to rewrite history. We focus on why we should have known that it was a bad decision and bring in facts that we didn’t have at our disposal when we made the decision. While this process doesn’t impact that decision that was already made, it can create a pattern of indecision for the future. A mentor and friend of mine once told me that I could always recover from a bad decision but that I couldn’t recover from indecision.
This week’s selection is:
The China Hustle (Hulu)This documentary written and directed by Jed Rothstein tells the story of investors seeking new alternatives for high returns in China until the discovery of a massive web of fraud calls everything into question.