Buridan’s Ass And The Fear Of Making Decisions!

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Recently, I came across an interesting story about Jean Buridan. For those of you who, just like myself, did not know about him, he is famous for his paradox on the free will concept.

Buridan, who was a philosophy professor at the University of Paris around the 14th century, explained to his students how a donkey that is both hungry and thirsty, if placed at an equal distance between a stack of hay and a pail of water dies both of hunger and thirst.

As the paradox is based on the fact that the donkey chooses whichever is closer, considering he is placed at an equal distance, it cannot make a rational decision.

This story made me think how many times I found myself, stuck in the middle, between two situations that I considered equally important and urgent at a certain point in time.

Now I realize how many times I lacked the forward looking perspective being too focused on a different ballgame, especially while I was at the beginning of my career, but not only. One example that I remember now is when I was busy completing an audit assignment approaching to deadline and in the same time preparing for the final ACCA paper.

I have to say that I was lucky with this one as, one evening, a senior figure of the organization I was working for, knowing that the examination period was close,  approached me and explained that I should always place my education as top priority.

Assignments, although very important, should not deter us from achieving our long-term goals.

I mentioned that I was lucky as, at that time, he guided me towards a decision that proved to be instrumental for my career and prevented me to be like the donkey from the tale. I never forgot this and inspired me to have the same approach while I was in similar situations with colleagues from my teams.

How many times we experience a feeling of overwhelming when in front of a long ‘to do list’ full of tasks that we consider equally important?  I believe the answer is too many times.

And while we may approach this one at a time and day after day, we need to have in mind that this is merely surviving and not evolving.

We find ourselves so many times in situations when we have to take decisions and we are petrified of losing what we have for the expense of not knowing what the future will bring us.

We really need to get divorce of such toxic and unproductive behaviors, we must elevate above them, accepting and understanding that failure has the role of teaching us a lesson. Getting on top of our fears is crucial for our evolution in becoming a better person, a great professional and an inspirational leader.

Paul Lungu

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