Burning Bridges (And Ships)

Burning Bridges (And Ships)

Keeping your options open may be holding you back.

We know, enough with the New York Times, we’re not Gawker. But when we see something useful we like to mention it. Formerly of the Op-Ed pager, writer John Tierney has made a great contribution to the Times by providing social context to science and science-y articles. In short, having too many options is a bad thing. MIT’s Dr. Dan Ariely wrote a book called Predictable Irrationality about why people make bad decisions. His study involved a test that paid students cash for clicking on doors in a computer game. Essentially, they made worse choices when they thought their options were dwindling.

Maybe the whole problem is that the existence or appearance of options makes people do things with less than 100% commitment. Tierney referenced a Chinese general who burned his army’s ships after hitting their beachhead (and you thought Hernan Cortes was crazy). This way they could only go forward and presumably to victory.

So the bottom line is that too many options can sometimes be a detriment. And a bit of unpredictable rationality could have some good results. So what’s the love and relationship implication here? It’s knowing when to walk away from a bad gig. It’s deleting an old phone number or not returning a text message. Closing the right door almost always opens another one (insert Tierney’s Gone With The Wind reference here). Just remember to that it’s probably okay to keep a couple ‘in case of emergency’ numbers, just in case a drought is going way too long. And furthermore, it appears that the option not taken doesn’t really affect us that much in the long run. If all else fails, eenie meenie minie moe is a perfectly acceptable way for an adult to make a decision.

Read more about the danger of options at the NY Times