Wouldn’t it be nice if all we had to do in life was make a series of yes-no choices?
Despite the continued efforts of politicians, journalists and many who set themselves up as experts on this or that, things are rarely either/or. Each day we are presented with oven-ready information that is easy to consume because of the way we are fed it.
It suits politicians, the media and markets to reduce things to yes-no choices. They know that categorising and packaging ideas so that they nudge us towards a ‘simple’ choice satisfies our need for order and simplicity, and at the same time, their need for us to comply. It is a habit which ignores both complexity and alternatives, preferring unity to diversity.
We find it comfortable because it reduces the need to think about things, suspending judgement in the process. As children we hated it when our parents said “wait and see”, and as adults, we don’t have to; as grown-ups, we can make up our own minds.
There are times when decisiveness – the sort we see modelled in reality TV and by politicians – is a genuine asset. Real leaders, after all, know their own minds and don’t hang about getting where they are going. Their lives, it seems, are all about yes-no choices.
But in our own lives we can’t do that all the time. The bigger decisions usually require some reflection. We know too much deliberation is not only inconvenient, and it it can even become neurotic. Yet the opposite wouldn’t work either; if we tried to live by the yes-no choices creed we’d be a pain to ourselves and frustrating to those around us.
But we continue to lap up the propaganda. Decisive people are successful people, and successful people know their own minds. It’s a self-sustaining argument, the fip side of which is “if you can’t decide at once you must be a lersser person”. So when making decisions we fall again into the same trap.
Deciding on a course of action does not have to be reduced to “act/don’t act”, the range of options could also include, for example, “decide later when I’ve got comfortable with a period of not-knowing”, or telling ourselves and others “I don’t know” and being OK with that.
Even in writing this post I am finding that things are getting complicated. I was hoping to write a pithy and tidy few paragraphs about yes-no choices, and wind up with a snappy conclusion. Ah well, time to practice what I preach!