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That Chair Over There: The Two Sides To Decision Making

April 21, 2011

By John Munce, Deployment Executive, The Tatham Group

I’m of two minds about decisions.  It was my grandmother that taught me about them because my grandparents exemplify the two approaches to decisions.

One afternoon I was sitting with my grandmother in the TV room of my grandparent’s house.  The TV wasn’t on and I was lying on the floor reading even though there were three chairs lined up.  In the center and directly across from the TV was the big leather recliner that was my grandfather’s throne. To the right was the wingback chair with the floral print that my grandmother used.  To the left was a wingback chair that was not quite recliner but rocked and turned. My grandparents never sat in that chair.  Even the kids preferred the others.

I asked my Gram why my mother was having such a hard time making a decision.  I don’t remember what the decision was.  Gram said my mother was just like my grandfather.  They worried every decision like a dog with a bone.  They would pace back and forth considering all the alternatives.  They worried and worried about making the wrong choice.  They suffered from buyer’s remorse and equally from seller’s regret.

That was not my grandmother’s way.  She said, “Sometimes you just need to decide and get on with it.  Now, I can make a mistake.” She pointed to the third chair, the forlorn, mixed-breed, never-sat-in chair.  “Take that chair over there. That was a mistake.  But you just accept it and move on.”

Those are my two minds about decisions.  By nature, I can be a worrier.  I can also be decisive based on my gut.  Which wins can depend on the circumstances.

When choosing my cancer treatment team, I sought advice from 15 doctors and cancer patients.  I applied all my statistical and analytical skills from business school.  But the choices were not clear-cut. The tools did not carve the data into a winner and loser.  My worrying wasn’t getting me anywhere.

Then I heard my grandmother’s voice: “Sometimes you just need to decide.”  So I did.