Making faster and faster decisions can look like the proper response in a culture obsessed with speediness and efficiency that bleeds into the reckless and hasty. But as investment banker turned-law educator Frank Partnoy’s Wait: The Art and Science of Delay (2012) argues, while fast thinking—like fast food—hits the spot on occasion, too much speed can, however, be counterproductive.
Today we jump faster and more frequently to firm conclusions. We like to believe there is wisdom in our snap decisions, and sometimes there is. But true wisdom and judgment come from understanding our limitations when it comes to thinking about the future. This is why it is so important for us to think about the relevant time period of our decisions and then ask what is the maximum amount of time we can take within that period to observe and process information about possible outcomes. … The amount of time we take to reflect on decisions will define who we are. … Our ability to think about delay is a gift, a tool we can use to examine our lives. Life might be a race against time, but it is enriched when we rise above our instincts and stop the clock to process and understand what we are doing and why. A wise decision requires reflection, and reflection requires pause.
Time pressure, high stakes, and emotionally charged situations make it more likely that we will deviate from rational decisions and fall back on heuristics—caveman thinking indeed. Mental shortcuts may have their place for helping us to navigate quotidian risks like crossing the road or boiling a kettle. However, for every decision that can be made in a moment, there are many others where a considered and judicious approach may save you from calamity.
Idea for Impact: The next time you feel pressured to make a quick decision in the face of the unexpected, try to slow down, take a breath, and ask yourself whether your natural desire to get on with it needs to be tempered with caution.