Don’t be a donkey- Make a decision

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.”

Make a Decision

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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  • TRUE: “And indecision in one area will cripple your effectiveness in all other areas.”
    During times of indecision, it is seems to attract stress, chaos, and a feeling of being stuck. Thanks for sharing Dan!

  • Cliff Feightner

    When it comes time to make a decision
    You may need more than your vision
    Get some advice
    Enough to suffice
    To help you in your provision

    • Ah Cliff – another zinger. So true that we need more than our vision – we need plan and action.

      Thanks so much for your poignant and witty wisdom.

  • Jody

    Thanks for the timely wisdom. Unfortunately, I seem to fall into this type of trap very often.
    The other thing I find is often people don’t want to give any advice, for fear of influencing your decision-making
    (ironic when that is what I want).

    • Marlo Larson

      I agree so much on this! Just give me your honest opinion! Right? Common response in my life is, “oh well you’d be great in both those areas…” grrrr

  • Jory Butler

    Great reminders Dan. I think we all have a tendency to stall because of fear or other factors. Thank you for breaking down decision making. Jory

    • Jory – It’s an easy trap to fall into. And don’t even get me started about “waiting on God.”

  • Wow. Never heard of Buridan’s Ass but that will preach!

  • Chet Skwarcan

    I would have responded sooner but couldn’t decide if I should…thoughts?

    • Chet – love it. Just keep considering the options – ha!

  • Marlo Larson

    I often am stuck, trying to hear God’s direction ! He’s so quiet sometimes ! I never know if that means, wait, your call, no or go for it!!!

    • Marlo – I think that if we’ve been walking in God’s will as we know it, we have enough information to make any decision quickly.

  • Pablo Radu

    Wow, so much truth in there. I once was in that place, and I can’t understand “How could I?” Thanks God is past.

  • I love this illustration and have seen it happen many times. I want to remember it when I’m in that place of choosing between two equally good options.

    • Debbie – yeah, that’s when it’s tough. But I often remember that I have the option to come back to the other decision at some point in the future anyway. So I just decide and don’t second-guess myself.

      • Not second-guessing ourselves. Now that’s a discipline that should be taught in school!

  • Chas Tomasik

    That’s my dilemma at the moment. I want to open my own plumbing company soon but want to purchase a house first to avoid all of the additional paperwork that comes with being self employed. I printed your business plan but should I even start working on it even if I don’t plan on opening it until a year from now? Love your podcast. Thanks for all you do, God Bless

  • Michele Perez

    Someone recently said this to me “If you choose not to make a decision you still have made a choice” and it is now my favorite quote! So much truth in this and I never thought of it this way. So much power!!!