Do you act impulsively or do you only take risks after lots of contemplation?
Which of these tendencies do you think is preferable?
I’m often accused of being an impulsive person.
Growing up, I was the kid who ripped the classroom sink off because he wanted to be first in line to wash his hands. I was the one who broke the window to get into my basement because I didn’t have the key.
Ok, maybe there was an element of impatience there (and that’s still an issue), but you get the point. I was constantly being scolded and told “think before you act”.
And all this conditioning eventually got through. Throughout high school and college I thought my way so far into my head that I got stuck in there. I couldn’t decide on the “perfect” major to study. I couldn’t approach girls because the circumstances were never “right”. Hell, even simple decisions like when to workout or what to eat became difficult for me.
I’ve since actively re-trained myself to be an “impulsive” person. And I’m all the better for it. I make faster progress on my goals. I rarely fall into neurotic, compulsive thought patterns. And, at the end of the day, I get more of what I want.
Society trains us to “think” instead of “do”
You see, I believe that society’s tendency to “think” things through is a terrible one. We’ve become a society of thinkers instead of doers.
We’re trained this way from our youth. Our entire schooling system is built upon thinking, after all. Every class we take, aside from physical education, is structured so that we absorb a lot of information, be it historical facts, laws of physics, or economic principles.
We don’t DO anything besides sit in a desk and listen, read, and write for hours upon hours. Then we’re “tested” and we must regurgitate it all back, verbatim. Even problem solving classes like math often require a “proof” to show exactly how we arrived at our answer.
It’s commonly accepted that the best way to solve a problem is to consider all of the information you can get your hands on. All of the angles must be considered before making the “correct” decision. This is complete and utter bullshit. The costs of OVERTHINKING things are simply too high:
- Increased social anxiety from wanting to think about the “right” thing to say
- Chronic worrying that prevents us from quitting jobs we hate or ending unhealthy relationships
- Crippling indecision that causes chronic stagnation in our goals, careers, and personal happiness
Yes, some information should be considered before making a decision, but we are EXTREMELY intelligent and intuitive beings…
We simply DON’T need to study every single angle to make a good choice.
Our first instinct is almost always right
“The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.” – Malcolm Gladwell
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink he makes the convincing argument, through various anecdotes and studies, that our split-second decision making capabilities are far more accurate and fined-tuned than using a more drawn-out, analytical process.
This seems counter-intuitive. I mean, more information equals better decisions, right?
Wrong. As Gladwell asserts in the above quote, it’s not more information that allows us to make “good” decisions, but rather a better understanding of the situation, the information we have access to, and how that information is relevant to the decision at hand.
He gives an example about a museum that’s considering purchasing an ancient Greek statue. It costs millions and millions of dollars. But the museum is unsure whether or not the piece is authentic, so several “experts” are called in to run tests on the stone that it’s made from. After various tests are run to analyze when it was made and where the stone originated, the museum decides to buy the piece.
Some time passes and an art historian quite knowledgeable about the era the statue supposedly came from visits the museum. As he lays his eyes on the piece, he immediately says that something is off and expresses his hope they didn’t actually buy it. After further investigation it turns out he’s right, the piece is a fraud, and it was a giant waste of money. The point being – his split-second decision was more accurate than the drawn out, analytical process the museum initial utilized.
What this means for you is that when you’re faced with a tough decision, where there’s no obvious answer, you’re better off making a quick call and going with your gut. This will usually be a better choice and, perhaps more importantly, it will sidestep the various costs of overthinking the choice.
2 common areas where “analysis paralysis” cripples men
1. Women and dating
When it comes to women and dating, indecision can be the difference between meeting a girl you’re attracted to or letting the situation pass you by.
Whether it’s a cute girl you notice at the bar or someone you have a “crush” on at work, overthinking the decision to make an advance will almost always backfire. There will never be a “perfect” moment to approach and the possibility that she’ll reject your advance is always going to be there. Thinking about it more WON’T change anything.
2. Career and business
Indecision by analysis paralysis can keep you in a job you hate, prevent you from starting your own business, and stop you from going after what you really want.
Too many guys won’t quit a job and try and get something better because they over-think all the bad things that could happen. And this paralyzes them indefinitely. Too many guys don’t step out on their own and try to start a business because they analyze every little thing that they’ll have to do rather than just jumping in and going for it.
3 ways to break free and overcome “analysis paralysis”
1. Practice small decisions
By practicing making small decisions quickly you’ll train yourself to make the big ones quickly too. Choose your dinner from the menu in 10 seconds. Pick the restaurant you’re going to eat at instantly. Decide what you’re going to wear instantly. Make up your mind if you’re going to be attending a particular event or going out without hesitation.
2. Ask yourself if you’d do it tomorrow
Another powerful way to make a decision easy is to ask yourself “would I do this tomorrow?” This distances you from the decision and allows you to make it with a clear mind, that’s not affected by laziness or self-doubt.
3. “I can do it” affirmation
When you’re facing a tough decision – like quitting a job or breaking up with your girl – repeating to yourself “I can do it” will pump you up and motivate you to move forward despite fear or uncertainty.
Make faster decisions – because obsessively thinking about them will only FUCK YOU OVER…
When in doubt – always TAKE ACTION…
Or as David Deida put it:
“Men who have lived significant lives are men who never waited: not for money, security, ease, or women… Every moment waited is a moment wasted, and each wasted moment degrages your clarity of purpose.”