The Ministry of Decision-Making

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about decisions; the cost of making decisions and the flipside of that cost, which is the value of making decisions. That’s why a “no” is worth something: because it means a decision has been made.

I’ve been reading about how decision-making depletes willpower. I’ve been thinking about my own tendency, probably a general human tendency, to question a chosen course of action as soon as obstacles appear. I’ve been thinking about how our more sociopathic leaders show pride in taking “tough decisions” rather than expressing anguish at the consequences. About the emotional labour of decision-making in high-status jobs. About the emotional labour of decision-making in low-status social positions.

So yeah, I’ve been thinking a lot about it. And my most recent conclusion, expressed haltingly to my partner, was that it’s really good to put emotional labour into making a decision. It’s good to dither, to examine the options, to look before you leap. But when you’ve made that decision, reopening the decision-making process is toxic. It’s exhausting. It takes energy that should be spent on carrying out that decision. And if you’re questioning your path because of obstacles, you’re sapped of strength, less confident, less able to overcome those obstacles.

The same day I shared these thoughts, my partner found (completely by chance) that John Cleese has already said what I said, but probably more clearly than I did.

“We need to be in the open mode when pondering a problem — but! — once we come up with a solution, we must then switch to the closed mode to implement it. Because once we’ve made a decision, we are efficient only if we go through with it decisively, undistracted by doubts about its correctness.”

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