It is 11 p.m. and you’re very hungry. The thought of fried chicken makes your mouth water and your stomach rumble. Your hand is about to dial your favorite chicken place to order your usual menu. Then, all of a sudden, you brain pops the question: isn’t it too late? You’re thrown into a dilemma: to order or to not order, that is the question. Your instinct knows ordering will make you happy and content, but your common sense tells you, you will feel bloated and heavy the next morning. Should you or should you not order the fried chicken?
When faced with a decision as a rational, calculating being, people are usually risk-averse and try to make the safest, most beneficial decision. Every choice has their list of rational and instinctual reasons, and since they do not have a hierarchical order and one-toone relationship with each other, people go back and forth, trying to come to a conclusion.
You can already guess the outcome of the fried chicken dilemma: the involuntary early bedtime with a hungry stomach because you spent too much time to make a decision and by then, all chicken places have closed and is rationally, without a doubt, too late to be ordering anything. You failed to make a decision, let alone act.
Now, the example above is a very common yet somewhat less serious of a dilemma. Every day, we make those decisions to go through our daily lives: lunch menu, when to start on the homework, etc. But, from time to time, we are faced with a decision that is more influential, causing us to pause and go through all the pros and cons: employment, oversea travel plans, education, and so on. It is at those times when we spend the most time and effort devising the best possible outcome. We would list out all the advantages and disadvantages of a choice and even run a simulation in our minds, predicting the outcomes.
But why predict the outcome when you can already have it in your hands? The longer you stall, the longer it will take for your results to come out, and longer deliberation does not always mean a more outcome. Personally, I have had many cases where overthinking led to the demise of my plans but one most significant experience I had was in high school, writing my college applications. For me, my overthinking and the lack of action cost me a year.
Despite my experience being quite personal and extreme, the cost of overthinking is, in fact, high and recognized by many. There is a reason why there are many articles on major business magazines and newspapers such as Forbes and Harvard Business Review discussing ways to not overanalyze and not prolong the decision-making process. The opportunity cost of spending time on decision-making is high and time is limited.
I am not saying should decide on the spot, no calculations at all. Proper analysis of a choice is important, but once it surpasses the adequate amount, it may cause more problems than solving.
When faced with a decision, get a pen and a piece of paper, sit down, and write down all the pros and cons. Analyze all the choices you have with the information in your hands and don’t fret about imperfect information. Do a little research but don’t fall down the rabbit hole of looking up every single possible consequence of your choices. No one has perfect information and can predict the outcome accurately.
So, the next time you feel the urge to order fried chicken, make up your mind before the store decides for you. Decide and act on your own accord. As Theodore Roosevelt said “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.” Don’t overthink, act.