Margaret Marcuson: Slow thinking or fast thinking?

An Economist business column titled “When to trust your gut” (August 20, 2022) asks when deliberative thinking is best and when instinct has its place. The writer cites research that intuition becomes better with experience. “The more expert you become, the better your instincts tend to be.”

The writer goes on to say, “The real reason to embrace fast thinking is that it is, well, fast.” Church leaders had to make plenty of fast decisions in spring 2020 to make worship and other aspects of church life go on despite the shutdown.

The columnist’s conclusion: “Slow thinking is needed to get the big calls right. But fast thinking is the way to stop deliberation turning to dither.” 

Churches can make big decisions without enough reflection. But a lot of dithering goes on in church board meetings. One pastor told me in 2020 that his church had been talking about online worship for 10 years, since well before he got there, and they figured it out in 10 days.

Deadlines help spur action. Setting a deadline, especially when you make a commitment to someone else, helps keep momentum going. With any decision, always answer these questions: “Who is going to do what? And by when?” It’s a great way to close any meeting.

You can set deadlines for yourself, too, to keep yourself from dithering, especially about decisions that raise your anxiety. You can ask someone to be a partner to talk through the decision and to keep you accountable. I’ve used paid coaches and volunteer friends to help me think clearly and then to keep track of what I said I was going to do and by when.

What are you going to do? And by when?


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