Dan Hough

On making big decisions before or during a long trip (don't)

Published 03 May 2013 in London, UK

I go in out of a state of mind where I know my dream lifestyle and job, and know what I need to do to get there. In the past it’s often meant making big, life-altering decisions which involve a lot of risk. Sooner or later I’ll have to make another one of these decisions if I want to get where I want to be. The problem is that these decisions are much, much easier to make when you can’t act on them immediately.

Why is this a problem, though? Well, it’s very similar to the problem with announcing your plans which Derek Sivers spoke about.

In 1933, W. Mahler found that if a person announced the solution to a problem, and was acknowledged by others, it was now in the brain as a “social reality”, even if the solution hadn’t actually been achieved.

Once you’ve told people of your intentions, it gives you a “premature sense of completeness.”

If, at the beginning of a 2-week jaunt at your favourite skiing destination, you make a life-altering decision, you get the same “premature sense of completeness” because during that time you can’t actually do anything about it. You spend the first day thinking “How am I going to do this?” and the next day feeling that you’ve made a huge achievement, and then maybe you’ll settle into your holiday.

And yet, nothing has actually been done yet.

I tend to follow a guideline of “striking while the iron is hot” - which simply means to take opportunities when they come up. In this context, your motivation to do something is high - so you should do it then. But sadly, you can’t always do that during a long trip. You need to put down the iron for now to prevent it wearing out.

I’m not saying don’t think about the big decisions you want or need to make. You should think about them - but take them with a pinch of salt and don’t let yourself get carried away. Don’t be fooled by your brain thinking that you’ve actually done something big.

Write down your decision, maybe email it to yourself or put it in Evernote, and then re-assess when you get home. Think: “do I really want to do this, now that I’m back to my normal life?”

If the answer is still yes, then get thinking again, heat up that proverbial iron and strike while it’s hot.

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