Decision Arcs

I’m an underbuyer, which means I have a really hard time spending money on anything, including necessities like toilet paper. In general, I think this tendency serves me well, but sometimes it gets in the way of me spending money to solve a problem.

A couple months ago, my friend Sonja said something really interesting about a purchasing decision I was trying to make. I was hemming and hawing, going back and forth, worrying and thinking through every possible option. Eventually, she asked me: “Where in the arc of this decision are you?” and it suddenly became very clear. I immediately pictured a rainbow-shaped arc, and I was well past the hump and approaching the bottom on the other side. I had essentially made my decision already, but I just hadn’t quite finalized it. 

On the other hand, I could easily picture how other decisions (things I never bought!) were on the ascending part of the rainbow but couldn’t quite seem to get over the hump. There was enough of a financial barrier, or an emotional one, to keep me on this side of the arc.

She didn’t explain what this visual metaphor meant to her, but for me it’s now a staple in my decision-making process. Last night, I was hemming and hawing over whether or not to purchase the most expensive (but hopefully the highest quality) tights I’ve ever had. I kept going back and forth, but when I pictured the arc, I knew I was over the hump. I’d looked them up a bunch of times, I’d converted the USD into Canadian, I’d looked at the sizing guide to figure out what I needed. I had made the decision, I just needed to slide down the last bit of the rainbow on the other side. 

I like this visual, because it doesn’t help me trick myself so much as show me where I’m already at. All the other reasons and worries can creep in, but if I picture the arc, I know where things stand.

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