Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

24 June 2013

Hmmm. Decisions, decisions. Is there anything more attractive than a decisive person? Someone who can make decisions without the whiney disclaimer of, “Ooooh you choose, I can’t make decisions, I’m so indecisive.” Where once I thought that the secret of success, fulfilment and happiness was a complex mash-up of intellect, money, health and love, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that good things in life come not to those who wait, but to those who decide.

Oddly, I think we’re getting worse at making decisions or perhaps the undecided are getting more vocal about their shortcomings. Even the simplest daily actions – where to go for coffee, lunch or a drink – are met with a predictable chorus of, “I just don’t know, you choose.” Menus are perused with a similar blank terror that ends with a “What are you having? Oh yes, that sounds good, I’ll have the same.” We’re all becoming sheep, hiding behind each other until someone plucks up the courage to stick their hand in the air and boldly decree what they want.

It would be nice to think that this epidemic of indecision is born from politeness but sadly I think it derives from apathy and exhaustion at the overwhelming volume of choice that we live with.

Recently, I became the last person in the world to discover Amazon. You might think I’ve been living in a cave all this time. I hadn’t realised you can actually buy anything – anything at all – on Amazon, and it shows up brand new almost before the money has left your bank account. After amassing an indecent amount of DVDs in minutes, which miraculously showed up on my desk the following day, I returned to the site and wondered what else I might need. And, fingers hovering over keys, cursor blinking in the search box, that familiar feeling dawned on me. It’s the same sensation I feel when faced with Spotify and satellite television with 100 channels: I don’t know what I want because I can have anything. It wasn’t so much a thundering existential crisis, more a realisation that unlimited choice is not helpful.

My wandering mind then wondered if perhaps we have an inbuilt decision bank: for every decision you make or pay in, your bank matches it and your courage to “spend” decisions increases; for every decision you bow out of, the bank removes one and you become thrifty and hesitant and indecisive. It’s a process that might start in the search box of Amazon but soon it’s infected your entire being.

When I was in Sarajevo last year, one lady described the joy of the Socialist supermarket where one chocolate bar was available compared with the frustration she feels today with having to choose between 30. Communism or Socialism is, of course, a heavy-handed remedy for our indecision epidemic. Being aware of how annoying indecisiveness is, being a bit bolder and realising that most decisions won’t end in death is a good place to start.

Hugo Macdonald is design editor for Monocle.

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