07 October, 2014

No need to decide this right now

Today was gentle yoga with Elizabeth at The White Studio.

I think I've said it before, but it's a perfect antidote to a really intense power yoga class. The space, the energy, the peacefulness.

Elizabeth mentioned how one of her students was having a tough time at work and was trying to make a decision about whether to stay or leave her job. Elizabeth's question to the woman was "Do you really need to decide right now?"

And that sort of reminded me that so many of the things that I struggle with are decisions that have become urgent for me, even though they are not urgent at all. It's just that when my brain starts running an analysis, it feels like there needs to be a decision and an action immediately, so that I can neatly close it up and move on to the next thing. But that's fiction. Not required.

For example, the decision about whether I will keep doing hot yoga or not. I don't actually ever need to make that decision. I may need to make a decision (not yet) about whether I will renew an annual membership somewhere, or choose some other payment method. But that decision doesn't need to happen until that time comes. The emotional attachment is that I had a bad experience, and I wanted to react. Decisions are a way for us to react to the world. "If the world does this to me, I will do that!"

Usually the urge to take that action subsides, and often it subsides very quickly.

I made a bad decision the other day. Actually, before I tell you that story, I should back up and tell you about a book I have been reading. It's called "Thinking Fast and Slow." It's by a behavioral economist. It's very good. In one part of the book he is talking about how, when people have only good options, they tend to be risk-averse, whereas when they have only bad options, they tend to be risk-seeking. What does that mean? Here's an example.

Let's say I gave you two choices:
  1. I give you $900.
  2. You play a game where you have a 90% chance of winning $1000 (but a 10% chance of winning nothing).
Which do you choose? Well if you're like most people, you take the $900 and call it good.

Instead, consider this set of choices:
  1. You pay a fine of $900. 
  2. You contest the fine and you have a 90% chance of losing $1000 overall (but a 10% chance of getting out of paying the fine).
Which do you choose? Well if you're like most people, you take the gamble.

So why is the choice the opposite in each case? Read the book and find out why :)

But to my point about the bad decision...

Meh. Actually, maybe I don't need to tell you about my bad decision.

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