A ‘Decisive’ Person Can Still Get Mired in Indecision

When what you are best at isn’t up to the task anymore

Deepti Kannapan

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Photo by Einar Storsul on Unsplash

I prided myself on my decision-making ability. I was great at letting the irrelevant factors fall away, looking at the facts, and just wandering around as my subconscious chewed on them.

I’d stay in a state of pre-commitment — holding my cards close to my vest — not ruling anything out or leaning in any particular way, until the shift happened.

Suddenly the little workers in my brain-office come out of sequestr­ation to report that the quantum state of possibilities had collapsed to one possibility.

When deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up, what college to go to, which city to live in, what hobbies or classes to sign up for, I took my time.

It didn’t seem like I was doing anything on the surface. I’d do a bit of research or ponder now and then, and then shrug and go on with my day. I wasn’t worried about not having an answer yet. Because I could vaguely sense that subconscious was working on it, and would tell me when it was ready.

This was how I made all the life decisions I was proud of. I waited — then I knew.

And the decisions I made this way tended to hold up well to scrutiny. When I knew, I knew. I’d mentally revisit them sometimes, and always come back with the same answer.

I could look back on my choices smugly and trace the ways they’d led to success. Not that everything I did worked out well, necessarily, but I was satisfied with where and how I’d directed my efforts.

What worked well for the big decisions stopped working for the little ones.

A lot of big decisions pile on early in life. Choices of career, geography, social life, and where you spend your time. Occasionally moving to a new apartment or asking someone out.

Over time, after the major life variables were decided, the next batch of decisions felt like minutiae. I’ve chosen a direction to go down, but I’m now on the hook for deciding the when, how, and what, day to day. What to eat for breakfast, how to address someone in an email (is it ‘Hello’ or just their…

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Deepti Kannapan

Painter, occasional cartoonist, aerospace engineer. Writes about sustainable technology, creativity, and journaling.