Decision-making that feels like eels


You're trying to make a rational decision. But it feels like eels in your head. The decision seems like a pretty simple one, but before long it's slipping and sliding and tangling with a bunch of other eels.

Know the feeling?

It happens all the time in web projects and writing projects. But let me give you a silly example from household repairs.

I needed a flued gas heater, but none existed that would fit in my apartment. So I got an unflued heater and (brave little woman that I am) endured the noxious fumes. Then a new flued heater was invented, so I agonised briefly about spending an additional $4000, then ordered one. The only possible location (I thought) meant that my table was too large (I thought) 'cos people's backs would get roasted (I thought). I searched for a shorter table and finally found one. In the nick of time I realised (doh!) that my table was not too long: my chairs were too wide. Problem solved by replacing 2 designer chairs with 2 funny little old wooden ones.

This was far too much energy spent on a very small problem. And I remembered too many similar occasions. The TV that failed... The DVD player with hiccups... The redundant sideboard I almost bought. The endless domain names I've got.

Felt like eels every time. Symptom: earnest anxiety over something essentially straightforward. Connections that were imaginary. Problems that weren't problems at all.

My lesson for me: when it feels like eels, I'm trying to make an unnecessary decision. Therefore I'm about to make a bad decision. Leave it alone. Get over it. Think about something else, like Apollo 13 or lunch.

Have you been there, down among the eels? It's a yukky feeling.

Don't shave that yak: the inimitable Seth Godin has another way of describing a similar experience.

Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine


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