The Costs of Indecision

When with a friend at a café the waiter asked what flavors of ice cream we wanted. Being unable to decide at the moment, she vacillated between strawberry and grape sorbet and ended up with both. Two scoops were actually more than she wanted, so I ended up with more than my single scoop of coffee ice cream.

So, indecision can be costly, but someone else may benefit, so all is not lost.

What is the source of indecision?

Fuzzy Values. Indecision occurs when your values are unclear. When one course of action is obviously superior to the other, the choice is easy. When you have no clear basis to choose one option over the other, you can get stuck.

Fear of Regret. Post-decisional regret is an unpleasant experience. Having made a commitment in one direction, all of the positive qualities of the road less taken look more attractive. When actually making a decision, you actively suppress those attractive qualities of the alternative. After you have made a commitment, those qualities once more return to remind you of what you’re missing.

Getting stuck in indecision is a costly experience. If nothing else you lose time and time is the most valuable, non-renewable resource going. You may also lose opportunity or paying more for the opportunity you choose. At work, indecision affects other people whose work is somewhat dependent on that decision.

Here are a couple points for moving past indecision.

    Enjoy the Arbitrary. When you do not have clear values one what or the other on a decision, it likely makes no difference. This situation calls for making an arbitrary decision with the expectation of enjoying whatever comes your way.

    Live and Learn. The decision point creates a learning opportunity. If the consequences of a choice differ greatly from expectations, that choice has created valuable information.

    Know Your Values. It is important to reflect on your values and to note how they relate to an important decision. It is best to review these qualities systematically before the choice is thrust upon you. But if the situation calls for immediate action, the best guide is recognize the most important value that relates to the situation and let it guide your action.

Ice cream flavors can provide a metaphor for life decisions and work decisions. How do you make the most of each decision making event?

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