John Lilburne's journal about an decisions and commitments, based on a book by Alan Barker.



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2329 L Sun 13 Jan 2002

Today I read most of a book by Alan Barker "How to be a better decision maker", which was published in 1996.

He begins by asking "What is a decision?". Briefly the answer is commiting to a course of action. At the end he writes:

... We tend to think of decisions as final. The word itself derives from a Latin stem meaning 'to cut' (like incision or precision). Our mental model of a decision is of a single event in time, after which we cut off all further consideration of the matter. ... (page 135).

Instead he presents every decision as provisional:

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of committing to a decision is that decisions are never final.

A decision is the best choice of action we can make at the time. It will almost certainly be adjusted, overturned or superseded - maybe in the very near future. How can we honestly commit to something so temporary? (page 16).

I am presenting him as going around in circles with definitions. To try and be fairer, he presents some decisions as having:

a number of key commitment points, with the costs of changing your mind rising as you pass each. Such decisions start soft and slowly 'set', like cement; it can be difficult to identify the precise point of no return. (page 16).

In a sense the Catholic Church is a model of commitment. A valid marriage is until the death of a partner. Baptism is not be repeated. People make lifelong commitments to celibacy. Decisions about liturgy are made and solemnly published. It worries me when the practice falls short of this.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, posted 14 January 2002.