My mother had an interesting way to deal with dilemmas for which she had no solution – she would just toss a coin. She had only one rule for the “game” – that once she had decided to toss the coin, she would accept the “coin’s decision” and not think further about it.
This enabled her to get over many instances of decision fatigue – you have a dilemma only when you have two comparable choices, and won’t do too much worse by picking either.
So there’s this dilemma that’s hit me since this morning and facing trouble in making the decision (one of the choices has unquantifiable benefits so an objective cost-benefit analysis is not possible), I thought I should go back to my mother’s old method. And conveniently I see a coin lying on the table a metre away from me.
Thinking about it, tossing it and accepting its decision is acceptable only if I’m equally inclined to the two possibilities (assuming it’s a fair coin). Let’s say that I want to pick choice A three out of four times (“mixed strategies” can be rational in game theory), then I should toss the coin twice and pick A if either of the tosses returns a head. And so forth.
Considering how much decision fatigue I face (there have been times when I’ve actually turned around a dozen times after having taken only one step in each direction, not able to make up my mind), I should perhaps adopt this method. This makes me think that decision fatigue is also hereditary – and it was because she faced so much decision fatigue that my mother had to invent the coin toss method.
The title of this post is a tribute to an old colleague who would unfailingly say “toin coss” every time he intended to say “coin toss”, and tossing coins was an analogy he would make fairly often.