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If You're So Smart, Then Why Do You Let Decisions Hang Over Your Head?

Why decision stagnation happens and how to solve it.

Pamela J. Hobart
Pamela J. Hobart
2 min read
If You're So Smart, Then Why Do You Let Decisions Hang Over Your Head?

If You’re So Smart, Then Why Do You Let Decisions Hang Over Your Head?

There’s some decision for you to make: about a job, relationship, move, trip, purchase, etc.

Maybe it’s huge, maybe it’s medium, maybe it’s small

Because this decision isn’t strictly urgent, you think about it now and then… without really getting anywhere.

Maybe you think about it daily, weekly, or monthly.

Maybe the cycles’s been dragging on literally for years.

The decision has now stagnated. You think in the same circle, hoping to find something new, but it only entrenches you further. Fun!

What causes decision stagnation?

Decision stagnation is common, and the causes of decision stagnation are clear:

  • simple inertia,
  • wanting to preserve optionality,
  • inability to get the right information,
  • unwillingness to stop research when its marginal value plummets,
  • managing (i.e. avoiding) tough emotions around uncertainty & risk

Decision stagnation sometimes takes a particularly cerebral form, though.

Smart people can generate an endless number of considerations, possibilities, eventualities, etc to feed into inner deliberations.

This shifting mess is easily mistaken for careful, nuanced thinking. It’s hard to call decision stagnation for what it turns into: garden-variety procrastination.

Decision stagnation is like a “first-world problem” of personal development. It runs rampant among those blessed with skills, means, social connections, health, and imagination. Decision stagnation probably won’t ruin your life, but it’s no picnic…

What’s wrong with letting a decision hang over your head?

Decision stagnation will erode your quality of life day by day, if you let it. Open loops create leaks in your psychic economy.

Even when thinking about a stalled decision doesn’t take up too much time, it could be sopping up plenty of energy: emotional energy, motivation, confidence, etc.

When a decision has stagnated and you keep it on simmer for a while anyways, that simmer bears some cost that’s become disproportionate to the benefit.

It’s not like simmering chili that becomes better with age, folks. Instead, you’re turning your pasta mushy :(

How to solve decision stagnation

First, you need to make the metadecision: should I make this decision right now?

If the answer is no: then decide to decide later and put the decision out of your mind.

If the answer is yes: then make your decision in a time-bounded and actionable manner.

You give the decision more attention, by escalating it, or you give it less attention, on the back burner.

That’s it!

Not sure how to make a meta-decision?

Good news! This is the topic of my toolkit/mini-course, Meta-decision: Now or Later

Meta-decision will offer a set of short videos, notes, and a worksheet to help you figure out whether you should make that decision immediately, or set it deliberately aside.

Meta-decision skills are learnable - a gift to yourself that will keep on giving literally for the rest of your life.

Even a slight improvement in decision-making could save you hundreds of hours

(not to mention the emotional savings).

As a thank you for your readership, take $10 off Metadecision now with this link ($35, usually $45).

You may not be naturally decisive, but there’s always room for improvement - start today.


Pamela J. Hobart Twitter

Philosophical Life Coaching in Austin, TX. Also mother of 3, Miata driver, and DIY manicure aficionado.