I often see people make decisions much more quickly than they need to. It is certainly a habit I am trying to rid myself of. As humans we feel the need, when presented with a question or a problem, to answer it sooner rather than later. It comes from a need, that we all have to varying degrees, for closure, to take the issue off our mind. More than anything, we feel ‘stupid’ (thick school) if we are confronted with a problem we have not yet solved.
We can feel we look like we are not that smart if we cannot come up with a quick response. One of my favourite writers, Mark Twain, dealt with our need to respond more quickly than we need to. With his inimitable wit he suggested, ‘It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.’
Our drive to respond quickly in making important decisions is not a problem if we’re choosing a movie, big problem if we’re choosing a car, a house, a career – or a partner. From a weight management perspective you would be surprised how much less you eat if you slow down your decision making when it comes to choosing what to put in your mouth next. You see all of these choices are initially driven by emotions around these needs for closure, comfort, or not to feel a fool, or to keep up with the Joneses. Over time, the emotions will be replaced by rationality as our higher self is given the space to do what it does.
In certain situations, one has to make lightning fast decisions. The following comes from a pre-flight briefing from a Canadian Starfighter F104 instructor (thanks to Noel Whittaker the financial guru who sourced this lovely quote). These jet fighters were the first combat aircraft capable of sustained Mach 2 flight – yes, that is twice the speed of sound – and at full noise, it could go quite a bit faster again! NASA later used them for spaceflight training. So things happen very quickly in these machines and they did not have a great safety record. Indeed, the Canadians’ nickname for it was the ‘Widowmaker’. Accordingly, the briefing by the trainer to trainee co-pilots went like this:
“If you hear me yell, Eject! Eject! Eject!” the last two will be echoes. If you stop to ask ‘Why? you’ll be talking to yourself, because by then you’ll be the pilot.”
Fortunately, we can generally make decisions more slowly in life. I would suggest that as a rather obvious guideline, the more important the decision, the more time should be put aside to make it. So a movie, several minutes; a car several weeks and a partner several months – and then a couple of years more before embarking on the complete lock-in – having children!
When I have to make an important decision, my first response is a question: When is the deadline?
I then put some thought/research into the question early on and let my unconscious mind turn it over and then I revisit it leading up to the point at which I must decide – sometimes, if it’s important, I will ask for an extension. In this way we allow our higher self to dominate over our ‘intuition’ and ‘gut feelings’ that can often be driven by these powerful emotional forces that have nothing to do with making a good decision. This is the art of the ‘slowfull decision’.