What Happens the Moment *Before* You Make a Decision? - Jacquette M. Timmons

Any chance you saw the movie, “Sliding Doors,” a fictional British-American film from 1998 starring Gwyneth Paltrow? It uses comedy to spotlight the choices we make and the role of serendipity, and to dull the harsh reality of life’s disappointments. All along planting the seed of the one question that can plague us all at one time or another: How do I know if I am making the right decision?

The scene that gives the movie its title – the sliding doors of London’s Tube – for some odd reason tends to pop to mind whenever I am in a contemplative mood, thinking about a serious decision that needs to be made. At the conclusion of the movie, it becomes apparent both visually and metaphorically that the closing tube doors are akin to the difference between the past and the present. Likewise, you see onscreen what you and I live out each day for decisions large and small — one choice can lead to a set of consequences that typically are quite different than if you had chosen an alternative.

“Sliding Doors” is sort of a movie within a movie showing two parallel story lines: one depicts Gwyneth’s character’s life if she catches the train and the other if she misses the train. “Debbie-downer” warning: In the movie, both story lines unfortunately have a tragic ending. And as much as I find both endings sad that isn’t what I find most intriguing about the movie’s subtle message about the choices we make, whether proactively or reactively.

Usually, when you and I talk about our decisions, we focus first on the outcome; rating it on a scale from poor-good-great-excellent. Investing the time to dissect our decision-making process typically only happens when the result isn’t what we wanted. Lately, this tendency has me…

…mesmerized by the moment before a decision is made.

You know, that almost imperceptible, pregnant pause before you say “yes,” “maybe” or “no” – literally or by way of your next action. It makes me wonder how might the quality of our choices change if you and I paid more conscious attention to this moment.

When you are in a reflective mood thinking about the decisions you make, what do you tend to focus on: the decision itself; the result of your decision; or the process that led to your decision? If we agree to view the decision as the moment, do you ever think about the moment before the moment? If so, has that short pause ever caused you to change your mind at the “last minute”? Leave a comment and let me know!

 

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