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Studies Find Big Decisions Make People Happier and 61% Americans Rethinking Their Lives and
Madelaine Claire Weiss, LICSW, MBA, BCC -- MIndOverMatters Madelaine Claire Weiss, LICSW, MBA, BCC -- MIndOverMatters
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Washington, DC
Monday, November 29, 2021


Table of Contents

Big Decisions on Steroids

What used to be just for mid-lifers is now available to everyone—the chronic, if not crippling, weight of decisions about which way to turn in our lives. The great pause of the pandemic gave us all the time and space to do this.

People began to rethink everything because they could and now it’s kind of taken over. Witness the great resignation. They say on the news that women are leaving the workforce because they can’t get childcare. Not so fast.

Seems the decisions to leave the workforce, for men and women, are at least as much about working crazy hard to make other people rich at the expense of oneself and one’s own. Hence, the start-up boom that economists are projecting my be here to stay.

Too Much Too Fast?

One author in the Harvard Business Review details 11 decision making myths with helpful tips, many but not all of which apply for people who make decisions too fast. The 11 myths are:

  1. I like to be efficient.
  2. I’m too busy; I don’t have time to give to this decision.
  3. I just need to solve this program at this moment.
  4. This is my decision alone; I don’t need to involve anyone.
  5. I know I’m right; I just want data or an opinion to confirm my own thinking.
  6. I trust my gut.
  7. Decision-making is linear.
  8. I can pull my ideas together well in my head.
  9. I have all the information I need.
  10. I can make a rational decision.
  11. There’s just one way to do this.

The general idea is to bring something the author calls the “cheetah pause” into the decision-making process, something akin to a “speed bump” for the mind.

Cheryl Strauss Einhorn calls it that because, not only are cheetahs really fast, but they can slow down and turn on a dime. Using the pause could help us to refine our decisions, let’s say when new information emerges or things simply change.

Too Little Too Slow?

The ones who move too fast are not the ones I worry about though. For some reason I don’t often see people in my practice who tend to make careless, hasty decisions. Maybe it’s because like attracts like; as in, they enjoy being in their heads as much as I enjoy being in mine.

Or, maybe it’s because I see a lot of Millennials, and the same Stress in America report that gave us the 61% of Americans rethinking how they are living their lives also mentioned that Millennials are struggling with decision-making most of all. Especially when the decision is really hard.

But the experts tell us that, albeit counterintuitive, the harder a decision is the less (not more) time we should spend on it. Consider it this way from my earlier post on decisions and the time we waste to make them:

Take (Jean) Burden’s Ass, a paradoxical, philosophical thought experiment that dates at least as far back as Aristotle, and goes something like this: An equally hungry and thirsty donkey, placed exactly halfway between a stack of hay and a pail of water, cannot decide which way to go. Paralyzed with indecision and, therefore, approaching neither the food nor the drink while he tries to decide, the donkey dies.

In Irrational Time Allocation in Decision-Making (Oud et al), we read about a study (Burns) in which fast moving, less accurate bees wind up with more nectar than the slower, more accurate bees. They cite this study in relation to their own finding that human subjects earned greater rewards (snack food, dollars) when a deadline was imposed on the subjects to break any deadlock like the one suffered by the ass.

Make a Big Decision and See What Happens?

So, just in case you are agonizing over whether to stay or go in work, in love, or grappling ad nauseam with something in some other aspect of your life; a study by economist Steven Levitt (Freakonomics), published in The Review of Economic Studies, found that participants who made the big changes were “markedly happier than those who had soldiered on in their previous course.”

Other studies have found that we regret chasing ‘shoulds’ more than we regret chasing our dreams, and that we have more regret over what we didn’t try than what was tried and failed.

Of course we are not saying to change for change sake, willy nilly, without any regard to common sense and concern for others. That said, Levitt’s advice from a review of Levitt’s publication:

‘Society teaches us “quitters never win and winners never quit,” but in reality, the data from my experiment suggests we would all be better off if we did more quitting’, said author Steven Levitt. ‘A good rule of thumb in decision making is, whenever you cannot decide what you should do, choose the action that represents a change, rather than continuing the status quo.’

I love this and hope you do too. Or maybe you don’t? Either way, would love to hear what you think.

Warm wishes for the holidays,


Photo by Josh Relower on Unsplash

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Name: Madelaine Claire Weiss
Group: MindOverMatters, LLC
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