Overthinking and Decision Making

Ah, the dubious pleasures of overthinking…  I recently had been reminded of my overthinking pathology by someone who has known me a while (BTW, if you’re reading this I hope you’re well and taking care); so I smiled with recognition when I read this Wall Street Journal’s article (here).

There’s a lot of grist for the ol’ noggin, but in the spirit of not indulging this character defect, here are a couple of passages that caught my eye:

Dutch researchers … recently found that people struggling to make relatively complicated consumer choices — which car to buy, apartment to rent or vacation to take — appeared to make sounder decisions when they were distracted and unable to focus consciously on the problem.

These days, I try to take advantage of this by deliberately distracting myself when I have decisions to make and situations to meet.  A brief walk, a little puttering in my garden, or a small prayer or meditation — sometimes all three, a little ora et labora — do wonders to get my mind off the issue.  Which is exactly what I need to do.

Moreover, the more factors to be considered in a decision, the more likely the unconscious brain handled it all better…  “The idea that conscious deliberation before making a decision is always good is simply one of those illusions consciousness creates for us,” Dr. Dijksterhuis said.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked myself into something stupid because I’ve “thought it over a bit.”  Some of the worst mistakes I’ve made caused when I tried to be too clever by half about a response.  You know, saying something that is “true,” but not the “whole truth.”

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