‘Indecisiveness is the number one reason for failure.’

by Mémé

“Indecisiveness is the number one reason for failure. Lack of ability to make a decision in a timely manner causes most people to fail with their projects and plans. Identify this challenge and decide to no longer let it be a setback from your success.”

I searched for a quotation to use as the opening for this post, and I got this from a motivational speaker whose book is titled No Excuses.

We often talk about the qualities we wish to develop in our children. Being Totebaggers, after the obligatory nod to future happiness, we usually rank conscientiousness before self actualization, grit before reliance on natural talent. Adventure is laudable in its (youthful) place, but making tradeoffs and being in an overall secure position are the way most of us have conducted our lives and we would prefer our children end up that way too.

In looking at my own life, I would like to propose another quality that is not usually mentioned – decisiveness. I do some vague thinking about what I might want to do at a future and foreseen decision point, but the time comes I take a shockingly minimal amount of time to act. In consumer matters, this is evident. When we bought the townhouse, I went onto the local real estate site, went out alone one weekend in our neighborhood, preselected 3 places, took DH the next weekend, we picked one and made an offer. Done. I was thinking about a new Camry so I put some cash in an account, a very short friend mentioned that she was getting a new RAV4, the lightbulb went off, I spent one evening on the computer and bought the car the next day. But in much greater matters as well. Going to grad school, changing jobs/retiring, getting a divorce (4 mos from move out to initial decree). Obviously not all of my hasty choices work out optimally, but I am always moving forward and if I turn out to be wrong I just pick myself back up and make a change if necessary.

So do you agree with the idea that decisiveness of this type is a positive quality? Can it be developed? Do you think that extended reflection or analysis paralysis is like other “innate” personality traits that are impossible or very difficult to change?


88 thoughts on “‘Indecisiveness is the number one reason for failure.’

  1. Nice topic.

    Yes, I agree decisiveness is a positive quality and that it can be developed. The development requires freedom to make mistakes with little long-term consequences. And once the pattern is established, it will be hard to change.

    Most especially, I think money decisiveness needs to be trained and the best way is letting a kid learn from the experience of unwise but generally trivial purchases. e.g. all the kid crap they want to buy from the toy section(s) of stores that will break as soon as it gets home, or, as they get older, spending limited $ on fast food very frequently with friends (health issues aside) vs saving for a bigger experience.

    Non financially:
    “Dad, should I use the clear glass plates or the middle sized white plates (slightly smaller)?”
    “Dad, should I start the dishwasher?”
    “Dad, should I add more pesto sauce to the pasta?”
    Me (to all those questions): “I think that’s a decision you can make.”

  2. You know what I think is the number one reason for failure? Thinking that there is one specific reason for failure that applies in all circumstances.

    [Sorry, Meme, I just really hate motivational speakers who spout pablum. :-) ]

    I do think decisiveness plays a part. DH’s company is about to lose a potentially huge opportunity because they are stuck in analysis paralysis; it is a bigger risk and a different way of doing business than they are used to, and so they are sitting and spinning and asking DH to present updated cost figured for the nth time, to the point that they are going to lose the deal with the commercial partner, who is out of patience.

    OTOH, remember the stories of the Korean(?) pilots who were so sure they were right that they piloted their aircraft into fatal crashes, while the copilots failed to speak up.

    For decisiveness to be a force for good and not evil, it needs to be balanced with the wisdom and experience to identify a good opportunity, the analytical ability to assess the pros and cons accurately, and the humility to recognize that you might be wrong and assess the downside/come up with a backup plan.

    It’s funny, because at work, people sometimes think I am too quick to decide and shoot from the hip too much — I generally know what the answer should be, I’ve done this for enough years that I have the experience to see where this situation fits and what will likely work and what likely won’t, and so the solution is just pretty obvious most of the time. [What was that book, about how following your gut instinct isn’t really as slapdash as it appears, because your gut instinct is really the sum total of all of your experience? That’s me].

    OTOH, on the personal side, I struggle quite a bit with indecisiveness, especially if it costs money. Because I was raised to see money as an extremely tight, limited resource, anything that I buy has to be a permanent commitment and the best possible choice. And that, of course, creates a lot of self-imposed pressure to get it “right,” which breeds analysis paralysis and lots of waiting to make sure nothing better comes along. DH, OTOH, sees money as the ultimate renewable resource, so he can be more objective. We had multiple discussions/almost-arguments over the car, because I was almost in tears at the thought of spending that much money on an entirely frivolous purchase, and he is sitting there explaining the math of, well, if it doesn’t work out, we resell it in a year, and we eat $XX money, and that kind of loss isn’t going to interfere with any of our long-term plans, so what are you getting so upset about? Oh. Well, when you look at it that way. . . .

  3. I also agree that decisiveness is a positive quality. I think that it is easier when you know you can easily (from a time and money perspective) make another change or rectify the mistake. I think three things come into play – decisiveness, initiative and authority.

    What Fred described, I would say shows what I am trying to describe. “Should I start the dishwasher?” to me indicates the child is decisive – he/she can see it is full and needs running, has some initiative because he/she asked, but may not feel that he/she has the authority to implement that decision.

    While it sounds silly, as a child I was reprimanded for starting the dishwasher without permission because (1) in my mom’s opinion it wasn’t full enough and I was wasting water, and (2) my dad was angry because his shower went cold (he, unknown to me and at an odd time of day for him decided to take a shower at almost the same time I started the dishwasher) due to when you started the dishwasher it hogged the hot water.

  4. I generally agree, although there are obviously situations where you need to be more deliberative than others. I’m usually pretty decisive – i get a bug up my ass about something and just do it. DW is the same way so we have no checks and balances.

  5. This – LfB +1 — For decisiveness to be a force for good and not evil, it needs to be balanced with the wisdom and experience to identify a good opportunity, the analytical ability to assess the pros and cons accurately, and the humility to recognize that you might be wrong and assess the downside/come up with a backup plan.

    Plus – Related to this “… the stories of the Korean(?) pilots who were so sure they were right that they piloted their aircraft into fatal crashes, while the copilots failed to speak up.” Many environments (work, school, volunteer and home) discourage people from speaking up if they see flaws in the decision.

  6. I’m going to go a little bit against the flow here. Without trying to be political now, but having to because he’s a prime example, we have a very decisive president. In his mind, he cannot remember a mistake. (As a bank lawyer working in NYC during his difficult times, I decisively disagree). He is about to be decisive on the Climate Accords.

    I think decisiveness has to be based on established fact and research. Not shooting from the hip. That characteristic in some lawyers frightens the heck out of me.

    Obviously, there are times we have to be decisive and not look back. You know, where should the ambulance take your kid types of things. Should we marry? Probably not good to be impulsive here. Can a foreign bank make a loan to a US resident? Better to figure out. LfB’s Porsche? Oh man. That’s so easy! Since it doesn’t have 4 doors, Yes! Yes! and to clarify, Yes!

    Decisiveness can sometimes be confused with the Big Dick Phenomenon. I don’t particularly care for it.

  7. I’ll definitely spend time looking up information, weighing options but make a decision in a reasonable amount of time or drop the idea. There are never a list of things waiting on a decision. I hate analysis paralysis and the situation LfB described in her DH’s workplace is a hazard of my workplace as well.
    DH will make a decision but if it is not that important he will take ages to act. His latest to do is facilitate the change from our electric range to gas. This has been in the works for years. Getting a new landscape guy to fix up our yard, installing sprinklers
    took him a good four years.
    This summer finally our yard looks good.

  8. I’m very decisive and DH is not – he agonizes over silly things. We balance each other and I think both types of people are valuable. I am a “let’s make this decision so we can get it checked off the list type” and he’s a “let’s make sure we’ve looked at every possible angle to make sure we’re making the most optimal decision type”.

  9. One thing that has surprised me is that many (most?) senior managers are very decisive and not at all deliberative. I would have though they’d all be thinking 10 steps ahead but they don’t in most cases. Totebaggers seem very deliberative by nature and I get the impression few are in senior management positions. Is there a connection?

  10. I think there is a difference between shooting from the hip & being decisive. One is being impulsive and one is not spending a lot of time hemming & hawing.

    But maybe I say that because I am pretty decisive. I like to know the pros & cons, I want data/analysis, but I don’t want endless debate with myself or anyone else.

    For example, when buying an appliance, I will definitely look at recommendations and reviews, including Consumer Reports and other sites like that. I will research prices. I will look at pros/cons between the options. But at some point, I just want to pick something and be done quickly. Same with other medium- and big-ticket things.

    And the smaller the decision, the quicker I want to be done with it. At the grocery store, I might do a quick scan of the labels/prices, but I am not going to be standing in the aisle dithering for a long time over the choices.

    I’m definitely more toward the “satisficer” type.

  11. PTM – I do agree with you that impulsivity in big business decisions is NOT a good thing.

  12. Yes, I think the difference between impulsive and decisive is an important distinction. Impulsive is acting without thinking through the consequences. Decisive is comfort with the consequences.

    It also relates to one of my human behavior interests – decision fatigue. I do wonder if people who are decisive have more decision fatigue (because they make more decisions) or less (because they spend more time on it).

  13. Rhett – I work in a large company. My observations are the same as yours – most of those who get promoted and are at senior leadership positions are very decisive and appear to know what they are doing. When I have had the chance to sit down and walk them through the nitty-gritty however, I have discovered that they do not want to listen to caveats or qualify their statements in anyway. It has to be black or white.

  14. I have seen several people dither a lot during a window of opportunity. Many times there is an optimal time to act and if you let that window pass action steps become harder to perform. Then it becomes a daunting task for a lot of people and they pass on what was a good idea.

  15. I think the senior leadership decisive types are also very adept at telling their bosses what they want to hear. You seem capable when you can make decisions quickly even if they aren’t well thought out.

  16. “I think there is a difference between shooting from the hip & being decisive.”

    ITA. But I also think it is a matter of perception. I used that term precisely because I was accused of that earlier in my career. In reality, I have never shot from the hip; I do the research, I think things through, I evaluate, I analyze, and I was royally PO’d that someone assumed that I was basically making stuff up. But I also process pretty quickly, and when something is in my wheelhouse, I don’t always need to iterate all of the steps — my brain jumps to the critical issue that is different/hard, and I focus my effort on that. So when I am talking to people who are more linear, step-by-step people, my normal thinking/communication style can come across as shooting from the hip.

    Think of it this way: you are negotiating a settlement with a government agency. Your client doesn’t like 10 terms in the agreement. You have negotiated a bunch of these before, and so from your experience, you know that 4 are a complete no-go, three are maybes, and 3 should be slam-dunks. Assuming your client is basically familiar with the process, how do you present it? My natural inclination would be to say that directly: you’re not going to get these, so we should push back but be prepared to give; you might get these, so let’s try it this way; and you should be able to get these others, no problem. And then answer questions/give examples if the client has questions/concerns about a specific term. OTOH, I work with people who would prefer me to start with: Term 1: well, when I was negotiating this agreement 10 years ago, the government insisted on X, but we countered with Y, and they came back with Z, and we ultimately got them to A as long as we gave B, so I think you should be able to get that. Term 2: on this other settlement two years ago, we pushed and pushed and pushed on C but never got it; we tried ABC and DEF, but they insisted GHI, so after all that, I’d recommend making a token effort but being prepared to drop it; etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum.

    Option 2 is fine if (a) you have a client who is unfamiliar with the process or your experience, or (b) you need to increase your billable hours. Otherwise, it drives me batshit crazy.

  17. Personally, I think (drumroll please) it depends.

    You were decisive in your townhouse purchase, and it worked out. But I know several people who were decisive when buying a house, and later really regretted their lack of research and analysis. For every person who buys a house quickly and decisively and is happy, there is another who is not happy with their choice.

    There are some decisions, like which brand of antiperspirant to buy, which should be decisive. Others, like which college to go to, deserve some amount of thought and consideration.

  18. I am very decisive. About things that I know I know and things that aren’t important (furniture, buying a car, etc). But I am also very quick to call on the experts when needed. My husband is way less decisive and also is more willing to try things out. It is probably good to have a check on each other.

  19. I have a friend who was an engineer who got promoted to management at a large company She hated, hated, hate it. When I asked her what it was like being a manager, she said “I spend all day sitting in meetings, making snap decisions about things I know nothing about”.
    She retired the very next year.

  20. The senior people that I know are smart and listen to information before they make a decision. This includes C suite executives that I was lucky to meet when I was still working on financing very large deals. They’re decisive, but I can’t remember anyone shooting from the hip. There are times when they have to make instant decisions (9/11), but they generally have some time when it’s an important decision.

    Even President Trump is rumored to listen to his top advisers and family when making big decisions such as the Paris climate thing.

    I like to do research when there is time to find the best deal or the best model. I don’t like to get screwed on price or quality. I know what I want, but I do admit to sometimes wasting time to he a better deal.

  21. My boss’ former boss was very decisive while my direct boss is not. The key (related to Teacher DH comment) was that boss’ boss expected that the underling had already deliberated over the the options, waded through the detail, and was bringing the “best” alternative forward in a summarized form. She did want all key points noted and risks highlighted for her, but not in nitty-gritty detail. In very few instances where there was no “good” alternative, we did get into some nitty-gritty, but I would say that is the 1 percent of decision making at that senior level.

    What preparing information and presentations for her taught me was you need (1) a good idea of what information you need to make the decision at hand and ask for it if it isn’t provided, (2) to build trust with those who are supplying you the information so you know if their concerns are valid or just to CYA, and (3) when you are unhappy with the message, make sure the messenger doesn’t feel shot to keep up their willingness to cull through the information for you.

  22. Plus – Related to this “… the stories of the Korean(?) pilots who were so sure they were right that they piloted their aircraft into fatal crashes, while the copilots failed to speak up.” Many environments (work, school, volunteer and home) discourage people from speaking up if they see flaws in the decision.

    Yes this. My understanding of this was that it was a culture where questioning authority was severely frowned upon. Under no circumstances should the copilot question the pilot.

  23. I agree most with AustinMom about what I have seen in working with senior management. Senior management’s job isn’t generally to dither over lots of details. It is middle-management’s job to gather all the information, weigh the pros & cons, and bring a curated set of options or reccomendations with the risks/opportunities of each. Senior managers also don’t have a lot of time to dither over small or medium sized decisions because they have so many decisions to make every single day.

    That said, being impulsive about big decisions isn’t a great quality for senior managers. And many have that experience that LfB is talking about too that can in some instances make them seem more impulsive than decisive even if that is not the case. There is also the factor that all the “easy” decisions have already been made by middle management, so when things get to senior management, the choices are often less than ideal to begin with. Which imperfect choice to make, vs anything that is inherently a “good” choice.

  24. Interesting topic, Meme. I think DH and I are similar in this area — quite decisive, after a bit of contemplation. We both take some time (I would say minimal) to understand the options/facts/compare prices, and then we make a decision and move forward w/o undue delay.

    I think because we make decisions the same way, we have ultimate faith in the other’s decision making, and because of that, we don’t feel the need to both be involved in all decisions that come w/ running the family. Each of us is happy to have someone else weigh the options, make the decision, and simply report back. I expect that would be tougher in a couple comprised of different decision-making processes. ?

  25. (over?)reading between the lines, Mémé, I wonder if you are frustrated by a lack of decisiveness in your loved ones, just as you’re occasionally frustrated by their depression?

    I’m much more decisive than DH, and I suffer less buyer’s remorse, as well. Drives me slightly crazy that he takes for.ev.er to make a decision, and then typically regrets it anyway.

  26. My current department chair is extremely indecisive, procrastinates until issues become critical, doesn’t communicate, and plays people against each other. What a lovely combination of qualities for a supposed leader. But the job is so horrible, thankless, and uncompensated that no one else is willing to do it.

  27. “My current department chair is extremely indecisive, procrastinates until issues become critical, doesn’t communicate, and plays people against each other. What a lovely combination of qualities for a supposed leader. But the job is so horrible, thankless, and uncompensated that no one else is willing to do it.”

    So, you get what you pay for? :-)

  28. I like the mention of decisiveness, initiative and authority and will incorporate that in my own life and parenting. Mémé’s original quote isn’t quite as earthy as my farmer grandfather’s “Piss or get off the pot.” The grass seed farmer at church was attempting to rent land from some landowners in California early this February. He commented that either they would agree to his proposed terms that week or he would rent the land, because work needed to commence if he was going to grow grass seed. Farm work requires seasonal decisiveness.

    One aspect of decisiveness is whether anything is to be gained by waiting. I dated Mr WCE for 3 years before marrying him even though I was pretty sure after dating him for six months that he was the guy for me. I had promised myself that I would date at least two years before marriage, given the surprises I had seen in other relationships. I would have preferred shopping for more than 4 months before buying our house but Mr WCE was far more willing to compromise than I was and thought a home purchase was a less fixed decision. I weighed factors- local school, property taxes- that he didn’t consider important. His brother bought a house without knowing what school his kids were zoned for, evidence that he is NOT a Totebagger. :)

    In our house remodel (master bath, kitchen, flooring throughout house, family room over garage) we are pretty decisive in part because the choices (which shade of brown carpet? which cabinets? which counters? what shade/size of tile for the kitchen backsplash? what sinks/facucets?) don’t particularly matter to either of us and because meeting together at a store without kids is a schedule challenge so we don’t want to waste our time. I would utterly fail as an interior designer. Our minivan purchasing process (shopped on Wednesday, online quote from Costco, Thanksgiving, purchased on Friday) was similar but the decision to buy a minivan eventually had been made for years.

    Probably the biggest risk/decision I took was moving to Oregon instead of staying in Iowa or taking a job in New Jersey. Lots of other aspects of life flowed from that decision.

    Senior management seems like a tough role because you are making the choice to live with a particular set of good and bad consequences from any major decision. I liked the senior managers in the chemical industry (long term view, conservative, well-thought-thru decisions) and don’t much care for senior managers in the tech industry (too willing to accept large risks for small reward and predictable failure is common, decision making driven by short-term stock trends in part because manager tenure depends heavily on stock price) But I like the freedom and creativity that I get as an engineer when no one’s life depends on my process capability.

  29. Laura said “So, you get what you pay for? :-)”
    Yep, you hit the nail on the head

  30. But the job is so horrible, thankless, and uncompensated that no one else is willing to do it.

    Is the job really like this or is the badly fitted person for the job making it seem like this ?

  31. Louise, several years ago he actually said he would step down. So we went through 3 months of trying to find a replacement. And not a single one of us was willing, including me (I was newly tenured and did not feel up to the politics, but more importantly, chairs are required to be on campus everyday, and a big perk of my job is being able to work from home). The problem is pretty basic – they don’t give enough of a course reduction to make it workable unless you are willing to do a really crappy, don’t care job.

  32. Laura – you always post what I would post were I more eloquent. I’m with LfB!

  33. @MM – My dad would back you up on the Chair role being a thankless hot potato. I think they changed it at his college so that it rotates every 2 or 3 years, and the person it rotates to has no choice. He always threw a party when his rotation was up. The politics are brutal both within the department and outside. And there are lots of decisions that are going to piss nearly everyone off (like scheduling/making class assignments). And like you said – the reduction in courseload doesn’t make up for it.

  34. I’m an ‘it depends.’ Some things I’ll want to research and think through and then let simmer on the back burner of my mind for a while, other things I’m more ready to move quickly to “good enough, let’s do it” (or “meh, not at this time” or “doesn’t seem worth it, let’s not”).

    There really is something to sleeping on a decision, imnsho.

  35. “Piss or get off the pot.”

    I’ve often heard a similar saying referencing a different bodily function.

    Her grandfather”s version would seem to apply mainly to females.

  36. I’m like 98th percentile decisive – it’s necessary in my job. I’m definitely not 98th percentile right, but …

    Kids are inherently indecisive, I think. And that is a parenting crazy maker for me. Which kind of cereal today? What are you wearing today? Which stuffed animal is going in the car?

    When we did our big remodel, I picked things out quickly (and fortunately DH had few strong opinions). I feel like the regrets I have about home-related decisions (tile color, couch, curtains) an unrelated to the amount of time worrying about the choice. Sure, I regret the tile in the downstairs bathroom – but if I had thought longer and harder about it, I am not sure I would have known enough to make the right decision.

    That is a whole separate issue from the get-shit-done-ness. I’m definitely not 98th percentile for that. We have needed lawn work organized (call people, get estimate, arrange time to do work) for months, and I just can’t bring myself to do it. It’s not indecisiveness, just lazy? Anyway, efficiency and decisiveness can be confused but are not the same at all.

  37. The discussion of the various fish or cut bait and bodily function sayings reminds me of this scene in Pamela. Of course the reader is expected to be grateful that Mr. B- did continue to dilly-dally instead of assaulting Pamela’s virtue. (If he had, would the book have been shorter? Or would it just have turned into Moll Flanders?)

    I always thought it was a funny line, anyway. The vile procuress just fed up with her hapless client. You read this stuff, you need to get some kind of entertainment out of it.

  38. I am pretty decisive about stuff and DH…it depends. If it’s something he needs and has to be done quickly…decisive. If he doesn’t care about it (pool vacuums, for example), a decision can wait months (or longer) before it is made. Luckily we have similar taste in our home renovations, so all the decisions for that went pretty quickly.

    WCE, we never could have waited 4 months to buy our first place…we were looking for 2 months and made offers on 5 different places during that time! (and lost them all)

  39. The market was slow here- 8%+ mortgage rates and most people buying based on the monthly payment meant a slow market in 2000. To me, moving from an apartment to a house was a “want’ and not a “need” at that point. Waiting just meant more money for a downpayment.

  40. Rocky, you posed your question the other day as something like “why do people think they are exceptions to the rules”. I’m starting to wonder if my body is an exception to the rules. The miscarriage I had was due to physical trauma. Otherwise, every pregnancy I’ve had has been great. By the end, I can’t quite lie on my tummy any more, but that’s about all. But the rest of my adult life, that system has been horrid–frequent infections til I learned to take a fresh suit along for every event I swam in a meet, cramps so bad the nurse sent me home from HS, bad paps and dysplasia, ovarian cyclists, sometimes the kind that have to be removed, sometimes the “functional” kind that make me want to cry…..Seriously, give me an embryo any day!

  41. “We have needed lawn work organized (call people, get estimate, arrange time to do work) for months, and I just can’t bring myself to do it. It’s not indecisiveness, just lazy? “

    I suspect some of my “indecisiveness” is laziness or just that the things that don’t get done are not a high priority for me.

    In some ways my kids seem more decisive than I ever was at their age, and perhaps part of that can be attributed to the big difference in their upbringing compared to mine. They know that they have always had the financial and emotional support to recover from wrong choices but I never really had that so I was probably more cautious.

    Work-wise I learned early on the importance of being decisive when I was working at oil drilling sites. I had to quickly and thoroughly evaluate evidence, provide pros and cons, and make recommendations or decisions on operations like halting drilling or running time-consuming tests, all expensive procedures that would later be judged by others with the benefit of hindsight. Many times these decisions had to be made in the middle of the night since drilling was a 24-hour operation. I developed the ability to make “quick” decisions that I could always defend, even if hindsight showed another course of action would have been better.

  42. Anyway, efficiency and decisiveness can be confused but are not the same at all.

    Absolutely. A lot of times someone hasn’t made a decision simply because they haven’t thought about whatever it is, not because they are weighing the pros and cons and can’t make up their mind.

  43. IMO, there’s a difference between decisiveness and quick decision making, although there is some overlap. Some of our best decisions have been made decisively, but after a long period of preparation.

    E.g., we took a long time getting to the point of pulling the trigger on our kitchen remodel. We mulled over our options, did a lot of research, and talked to several contractors while we were waiting for an economic slowdown. When a slowing economy presented us a window of opportunity, we selected our contractor and signed the contracts. At that point we probably took longer than most of their customers in finalizing the layout and selecting options. But once construction started, we forced ourselves to be more decisive to keep the project moving, and we were confident that all the research we’d done put us in the position to make good, quick decisions.

    Our most recent car purchase was similar. It wasn’t urgent, so we took our time to research our options, test drive, etc, and decide which car we wanted, then I monitored its price and availability. When a local dealer advertised a car that had what we wanted at a very good price on a Friday, we went to the dealership on Sunday and bought the car.

  44. Finn, in some ways we’re like you- we waited until the foundation issues were well understood before planning other parts of the remodel. In some ways we’re different- we aren’t waiting for an economic slowdown because we want the family room now, not years from now. Understanding when waiting has a cost vs. when it has a benefit or is neutral is an important part of decisionmaking.

  45. DH is much like Kate and is very decisive on the things he knows he knows and the things that aren’t important. But he is pretty deliberate about words and thinking through things. He is a lawyer and always says, “words matter”. He read an article a long time ago in some science magazine about how bargain hunters have lower happiness levels because they are always worried about not finding the best deal. This aligns perfectly with his hatred of shopping and being decisive on things that aren’t important. So I have to do the research on appliances or anything big that we both need to choose together and then give him 2 to 3 choices. If I send him to go get something, like ice skates for the skating unit at school, he’ll buy a $125 pair of hockey skates instead of going to the used exercise place and getting ones for $20. I can’t get mad because I asked him to get skates knowing he doesn’t comparison shop.

    I’m pretty decisive today, but I’m not as serious or polished looking as my husband. In other words, my filter is pretty much gone, and I’ll say what I think needs to be said. I am aware of other people’s feeling, but I go crazy when people can’t move forward even when they know what needs to get done.

  46. Interesting nuances in the comments. I was out all day, just got home.

    I think of decisiveness in two ways. One is the quick decision described above, minimizing invested time and energy over perfect fit or best price in most things. Something is needed, the opportunity presents itself, the consequences of suboptimal choice are not devastating. Lark, did you mean to say that decision fatigue can be less for the quick decider because so little time is spent on the process, even if more decisions per unit of time are made? The other is being able to agree in one’s mind that a timely decision is about to be made, even if there is further research to be done on specifics or it is necessary to wait a bit.

    In the case of the house, we were married for 18 mos before we moved out of my rental apt (he kept his condo for his piano studio). We knew we needed a home big enough for a grand piano and we liked the side of town in which we lived and where we could afford something. My corporate layoff started Sept 30, my new job started Jan 1, my mom was already up in Boston with all that constant attention, prices were falling, so the weekend after Labor Day I went out to find a home in the faint hope I’d find something and complete the move before Thanksgiving. That is the second sort of decisiveness, it’s time to take this step – let’s get moving. My contribution was the action. Buying a place was dependent on finding something suitable, and when we saw one that sufficed, DH who had already owned several homes was the one to push me into the quick decision – the first sort of decisiveness.

    In my life I have made plenty of decisions without understanding all of the consequences, both in the workplace and in my personal life. Some were costly in terms of money, and some just didn’t work out. But often stringing out the process would not have led to a better outcome. I dated each one of my husbands for five years before tying the respective knots. Sleeping on something is always a good idea, I agree, but three years ago I replied to the Greenland trip message from my tour company within one hour and got the last two places. I can always sleep on the decision to pay the deposit, or just forfeit the deposit after a bit if I change my mind.

    RMS is correct in that I am in a family of people who have trouble taking action or expressing a preference, even if they have already made an internal decision or have strong likes and dislikes. That doesn’t change the fact that I find decisiveness, in both senses as distinguished above, a useful life trait that on balance has served me well.

  47. When a local dealer advertised a car that had what we wanted at a very good price on a Friday, we went to the dealership on Sunday and bought the car.

    Car dealers are open on Sundays there? I’ve never lived in a state where they are open on Sundays.

  48. I’m surprised that some car dealers aren’t open on Sundays. The dealerships seem much more crowded on the weekends than on week days.

  49. Lark, did you mean to say that decision fatigue can be less for the quick decider because so little time is spent on the process, even if more decisions per unit of time are made?

    I wonder if it is so, but I don’t know myself. I really struggle with decision fatigue, since I spend a lot of my day making decision. This is why I have to do things like plan out meals ahead of time – I have zero capacity left in me to make decisions once 5pm rolls around.

  50. I’ve also never lived anywhere where car dealerships are open on Sundays, which is a pain.

  51. A corollary to initial quick decision is the ability to cut one’s losses quickly as well without excessive regret.

  52. Louise – that bar exam article is all over my Facebook feed (I took the Cali bar years ago and have a lot of lawyer friends there). The consensus is that (1) Cali’s passage rate is artificially low because of their lax requirements to sit for the exam and (2) this generation of lawyers has the attention span of a gnat and has a hard time studying for a 3 day test.

  53. Not only are car dealerships open on Sunday, you can buy booze 24/7 in the supermarkets and drug stores.

  54. There may be a little New England missionary in the state’s cultural DNA, but it’s clearly not dominant.

  55. Off topic, a possible idea for summer enrichment for Totebag kids, all from the comfort of your own kitchen: I got an email from Cooksmarts saying they’re running their “Nourish” class at a go-at-your-own-pace this summer, and they’re touting it as a cool mom/kid (or just kid) activity for school break. I haven’t taken the class but it sounds like a basic cooking skills class that you do online. I have found the Cooksmarts how-to videos to be great, and I would guess this class is pretty decent for imparting basic cooking/knife skills.

    Anyway, thought I’d mention it in case it appeals to anyone here. I can’t find the email anymore for the link, but you can Google “Cooksmarts” and poke around for the Nourish class (note there’s one session with set times and then this separate go-at-your-own-pace session, which is cheaper).

  56. Kate – regarding the bar exam, I think it will be easier for current elementary kids. There has been a much more intense writing and analyzing from the text focus. My younger kid has seen the full impact of curriculum changes.
    My older kid is surprised by how different and ramped up my younger kid’s schoolwork is.

  57. Many businesses here are open from 12 pm to 6 pm on Sunday. It just depends on the business. The nail salons for instance work the weekends and take off on Monday. The car dealers are open 12 pm to 6 pm. Liquor stores closed on Sunday but wine and beer are available in grocery stores. Other businesses provide emergency numbers for reaching someone on a holiday.

  58. A few car dealers are open around here Sundays, but many remain closed. I’m grateful for the places that still remain open on Saturday for service. When we were both working full time, that was an issue because most places don’t let you drop a car off until 7:30.

  59. In my experience a lot of non-profits end their fiscal year June 30. Is that common in the for-profit world as well?

  60. “In my experience a lot of non-profits end their fiscal year June 30. Is that common in the for-profit world as well?”

    There are a few, but I would say IME both in my own companies and in researching competitors/vendors/etc, most are calendar year. One exception is retail which tends to have a Jan 30 fiscal year end (or some other non-December month). Makes sense – it is very difficult to handle year-end, including the full physical inventory counts at all the stores and warehouses, in the middle of the holiday shopping season.

  61. I find the evolution of blue laws really interesting. I remember moving to Connecticut and being astounded that you couldn’t buy beer or liquor after 8pm. It’s so early! There were definitely times that we drove over to a border state to buy beer. (I think I remember that they loosened this, but I am not sure.)

  62. North Carolina in the 80s was weird too, with “private clubs” that served liquor, but there were rules about bars and restaurants that were complicated. You had to BYOB to certain restaurants. I think that was changing even then.

    Colorado only recently changed the laws so you can buy liquor on Sundays. The next big battle is over whether to let grocery stores and Target and so on sell liquor and not just 3.2 beer. There is some stupid kerfuffle in the legislature over it, and it’s tabled for now.

  63. Oh 3.2 beer! That takes me back to college in Minnesota where the bars closed at 1am even on Saturday (law since changed) and after that, you could only buy 3.2 beer (usually stale from a convenience store). I think 3.2 beer only on Sundays too (although bars were open on Sundays).

  64. I find the evolution of blue laws really interesting

    I do as well especially when traveling. Each state is so different. You’ll walk into a CVS and find a wine section. Other places sell bear and wine at the supermarket but they have to have a separate entrance so you buy your food and then go out and come back in the other entrance and buy your booze. Then there are states like PA where IIRC you can only buy beer at a state liquor store or at a bar. Or NH where the state liquor store only sells liquor and wine and you buy your beer at gas stations.

  65. Stores, car dealerships, etc. are open on Sundays in WA State. Growing up in Vt, stores were closed Sunday mornings. I think they didn’t open until 1 pm or so. This changed in the late 80’s.

  66. I went to college in PA in the 80’s. As I recall, it was easier to get hard liquor as an under-age minor because the State liquor stores were pretty lax in checking ID. It was harder to get beer because the beer was sold in privately-owned stores that were subject to inspections from the State – so they were more vigilant about checking ID.

    I wonder if the amount of drinking has changed or become less open since I was a college student. When I was in college, 18 was still the drinking age in a number of states. This has obviously changed. Also at my college, alcohol was openly permitted at parties as long as there was also food. By the late 80’s/early 90’s, I think colleges became less permissive about openly allowing alcohol due to the change in the drinking age as well as the lawsuits (e.g. I know Villanova had to pay out a hefty settlement to the family of a student who died as a result of alcohol (I think it was drunk driving but I can’t remember the details). I’m sure the Villanova payout had an effect on the policies of my college and other nearby schools.

  67. Car dealerships are closed in MN on Sundays. Alcohol is sold only in liquor stores and not in grocery stores or gas stations. A law was passed this spring allowing liquor stores to be open on Sundays starting July 1.

  68. When handing out wine samples at grocery stores, previously the wine hander outer would cheerfully give you the tiny cup. Now they have put up signs that ID will be checked. Some people check but most do not. Anyway the people requesting samples are well past 21.

  69. MA blue laws are fewer and fewer, although one holdover is that liquor stores and liquor sales in supermarkets/convenience stores are banned on Memorial Day, Christmas Day (and legal observance of Christmas if on Monday, and Thanksgiving Day). When I was in college, you could not buy a drink in a restaurant or bar between noon and 3pm on Good Friday. Liquor sales used to be banned on election day. As for other retail sales including automobiles, Sunday blue laws have been generally repealed, but there are labor laws governing Sunday and Holiday work – it is quite confusing to a non specialist like me – essentially, you can’t force employees to work on Sunday or a legal holiday (no other Sabbath has this protection), but there is no requirement to hire them or keep them on the job either if they won’t. And that arose out of a hospitality business having permission to open on Christmas Day, and firing an employee who refused to work ostensibly on religious grounds.

  70. Blue laws, ugh. Ours are by county — all my local liquor stores are closed on Sunday, but if I drive a few miles over the county line, it’s open. But no liquor in grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, etc., because gasp the children whatever. And even though we can import wine (thanks, Supreme Court!), it has to go through specific licensed distributors, because politics-strings-political-pandering-whatever, so I still can’t get most of the stuff I like unless I can convince my friendly liquor store owner to order it for me.

    We also have massive Liquor Board control over which restaurants get liquor licenses, and it’s a Rube Goldbergian machine-slash-scam. E.g., we have one restaurant nearby that has been open more than a decade and can’t get a liquor license because the Board was concerned about the fact that there is a package liquor store and another bar/pub with a liquor license in the same block. And yet a few storefronts down another restaurant opened a year or two ago, and they magically had a liquor license — I think I heard that the owner had kept the liquor license from another restaurant he used to own, but that was in another county like 20 years ago, so I really have no clue how the system actually works, other than the age-old “it’s who you know.”

    But I really don’t get car dealers — they are all closed on Sundays in our area, I believe because of state law, and boy is it annoying; I ended up driving across state lines and taking some Friday mornings off to check out options. And I don’t get the “why” — I mean, I get the liquor thing as the whole Puritan/religious thing, but why selectively choose car dealers as compared to, say, big-box stores or furniture stores or the like, all of which appear to be open for business on Sunday?

  71. but why selectively choose car dealer

    Collective action problem? Dealers wanted to be closed Sunday so they legislated it because they knew if it wasn’t a law they would have to open on Sunday for competitive reasons.

  72. I can buy cars and liquor seven days a week. Not sure about the timing restrictions on pot. However, the store can’t give me a bag to put the liquor in. It all depends on what variety or Puritanism is in charge of everyone else.

  73. @Rhett: Must be. I’d think they’d want to be open when their customers are available, but then again, I guess it’s not like people would be more likely to buy a car if they were open Sunday — it’s a big purchase, so you just do what I did and shift days. But at the same time, we are a small state, so I would think it would be really, really easy to cross state lines like I also did — I mean, it took me a grand total of an hour to get to the VA burbs, and it takes me 30 mins to get to some of the dealers around here.

  74. I’ve only ever bought cars in MA so I didn’t know other states’ dealers weren’t open on Sunday! I think we have done the paperwork for almost all of our cars on Sunday, too.

  75. Years ago, in Michigan, car dealerships were closed on Saturday and Sunday. And if I remember correctly they weren’t open on weekday evenings either.

  76. “Collective action problem? Dealers wanted to be closed Sunday so they legislated it because they knew if it wasn’t a law they would have to open on Sunday for competitive reasons.”

    This was the reasoning that I always heard.

    “However, the store can’t give me a bag to put the liquor in.”

    Our laws, at least in the city, are more along these lines as well. They went from a plastic bag ban which resulted in stores selling “reusable” plastic bags that were thick and probably worse for the environment anyway to a 7-cent city tax for all disposable bags. The stores all brought back the old cheap bags once this went into effect. And then there is the 5-cent tax on bottled water. I am much more okay with the “sin” tax than an outright ban.

    I agree with you Rhett that it is interesting when travelling. Also kind of a PITA as I have run to the store only to find out that disposable bags are banned or that you can only get wine at the state-owned store down the street. I have a bunch of grocery bags from various places as a result!

    I honestly have no idea if car dealerships are open on Sunday. I suppose they are probably closed, but I have only bought a car one time in my 17 years in this state. It’s not top of mind.

  77. “But at the same time, we are a small state, so I would think it would be really, really easy to cross state lines like I also did”

    Being in a small state doesn’t necessarily mean it’s really, really easy to cross state lines.

  78. “Liquor sales used to be banned on election day.”

    I can’t see that flying here.

    As a kid, our family tradition was that on Election Day, my parents would vote quite early, then come home and pack up the family for a day at the beach. The crowds at the beach suggested that a lot of folks did the same, and back then beer was a part of the day at the beach for many families.

    Judging by our voting rates, I think that tradition continues for many families, but often without the voting part.

  79. “When I was in college, 18 was still the drinking age”

    Same for me. Then several years later, the drinking age was raised to 21, and a bunch of college kids went from being of legal age to being underage.

  80. “most places don’t let you drop a car off until 7:30.”

    Most of the auto shops I’ve used have had early bird dropoff. Another regional difference? Perhaps the auto shops you frequent don’t have anywhere to leave the car before they open.

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