Friday, February 29, 2008

The Advantages Of Closing A Few Doors

Not only will it make you happier, but it helps bring success too!
Although choice is generally seen as a positive thing, the New York Times examines how and why closing a few doors can help you take major steps toward moving forward with projects and getting things done. The article begins with a look at a third century B.C. Chinese general named Xiang Yu, who burned his troops' ships and destroyed much of their means of survival on arriving in enemy territory.
He explained this was to focus them on moving forward — a motivational speech that was not appreciated by many of the soldiers watching their retreat option go up in flames. But General Xiang Yu would be vindicated, both on the battlefield and in the annals of social science research.

According to researchers at MIT, "closing a door on an option is experienced as a loss, and people are willing to pay a price to avoid the emotion of loss"—even when that means keeping that door open is ultimately to your detriment. By allowing doors to close, your focus can more keenly home in on the tasks at hand and improve your focus and drive toward achieving those tasks. If you're a consummate ball-juggler, the article is a must-read.

Read the whole article in The New York Times.

What does this say about the rationality much of economics assumes people to possess? It seems people have strong tendencies to keep doors open even when the costs outweigh the benefits. Is this an example of systematic irrationality? Not that I'd ever do such a thing...

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