In medieval logic there is the dilemma of a donkey that is placed equidistantly from two piles of food of equal size and quality. A perfectly symmetrical situation. If the behavior of the donkey is completely rational, it will have no reason to prefer one pile to the other and therefore cannot reach a decision over which pile to eat first. So it remains in its original position and starves to death. This dilemma is called “Buridan’s ass.”
I find many people immobilized by the challenge of choosing – even if both choices are apparently attractive. Two great schools, two great jobs, two great business ideas – and yet time passes with no decision being made. In my graduate psychology brainstorming groups we would create “what if” scenarios. What if the donkey, aware that he is starving, flips a coin to make a choice? But how does he then decide which pile of food is “heads” and which is “tails?” Ah yes, another decision.
If you are looking at two new potential jobs, how do you ultimately make the decision? If you are considering Denver or Miami, how do you make that call? If you have been accepted at Harvard and the Peace Corp, what will help you choose?
The trick is there aren’t two choices here, there are three: If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. It’s just as obvious a choice as either of the new options. So you may as well make it interesting by changing the scenery. Tweet This
Remember this sequence: (1) Clearly state the issue (2) Get the advice and opinion of others (3) List your options (4) Choose the best option (5) ACT. Don’t be a donkey – you just might starve as a result of the indecision. And indecision in one area will cripple your effectiveness in all other areas. “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” James 1:8
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