From the Archives – Changing Your Mind

UPDATED: May 5, 2009
PUBLISHED: May 5, 2009

The following is an excerpt from the January 1967 issue of SUCCESS written by Matt Dana.

Have you ever made a major purchase—and then had second thoughts?

Have you ever found it difficult to make a decision on the job or at home because there were “just too many facts to consider”?

Has a friend ever called you “stubborn” because you absolutely refused to change your mind about a certain issue?

If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then you’re in good company—for psychologists say that these attitudes are normal when they occur occasionally in a person’s life.

But when people consistently have great difficulty making a decision—and change their minds at the slightest provocation—then there is usually need for better psychological understanding and personal improvement. For your job, your success in marriage and as a parent, your very happiness in life may be more dependent on how and why you change your mind than you may realize.

The Quality of Decisiveness Take your job, for example. Ever wonder how the top executives at your company got where they are today? Many would probably say that possessing the “quality of decisiveness” was a major factor responsible for their success.

Take a tip from these executives to help you in your own work: Never assume that common sense and reasoning will pull you through 100 percent of the time when you have to make a decision.

Perrin Stryker, in The Men from the Boys, a book that describes varieties and problems of decision-making drawn from real-life business situations, writes: “I’m not saying you should throw reason and facts and logic out the window; you have to use these constantly, and try to be always as objective as you can. But you’ve got to do a lot more.

“You’re going to have to learn for yourself what good timing is, in making decisions, and how to be either prompt or deliberate, as the case seems to indicate. You’ll have to be flexible enough so that you can, if necessary, backtrack and change your decision; but you can’t do this so much that you appear to be vacillating.

“You’ ll have to take risk courageously, without evasion. Without courage, in fact, you might as well abandon the hope of learning how to be decisive.”

Women Are the Wiser? Women, it would seem, have always made good use of a similar “impulse” or “instinct” theory of decision-making. Ask a woman about her “feminine intuition,” and you’ll find out how impulse causes many Americans to make choices.

The noted psychologist William Moulton Marston, who maintains that impulses are sometimes better than reason, observes that “some of the worst mistakes in history have followed consciously reasoned decisions. If we’re right 51 percent of the time in our impulsive actions, we aren’t doing badly by any standard. The mistakes of inaction, not being able to come to a decision, are likely to be worse than the mistakes of genuine impulse.”

Many leading companies are recognizing that people buy on “impulse.” And sometimes purchasers wish they could change their minds later on. Wouldn’t it be nice, when you make a lifetime purchase, to have “an out” just in case?

C.W. Stuart, president of Nobility Inc., makers of fine china and silver says, “One of the many things we’ve learned is that a woman should have the right to change her mind.”

When selecting a silver or china pattern, a girl often wonders if her tastes will change in the next few years, or if she’ll be in a different part of the country with new style motifs.

Nobility made news recently when it announced a revolutionary sales policy: Buy now, change your mind anytime in 10 years. With every purchase, the buyer gets a guarantee that anytime within 10 years of her purchase date, she may return her pattern—silver or china—regardless of its condition, and secure a new pattern of her choice at one-half the current price.

The Psychological Secret What’s the secret behind this unique plan? The record shows that most young girls are satisfied with the pattern of their original choice. “But if you want to change your mind,” says Bill Stuart, “be Nobility’s guest!”

A different kind of pattern is brought to light by University of California psychologist Gary A. Steiner, who has found that “people less interested in a matter are more likely to change their minds.” The less interested take longer to make up their minds, too, the psychologist’s studies confirmed.

Cross-Pressures in Life An individual’s opinions, attitudes and beliefs are more subject to change when subject to cross-pressures; and such cross-pressures are particularly likely to affect people who change their environment in one way or another.

Psychologist Steiner cites the example of a student moving from home to college. “Often the new environment differs markedly from the old and then it can make a real difference, especially at the impressionable college age: The new student tends to take over the predominant and prestigious opinions, attitudes and beliefs of the upperclassmen, the faculty and the college community in general. By and large, a cross-pressured person tends to change toward the prevailing attitude of his most favored reference group.”

For Good Mental Health When is it best never to change your mind? When your action will result in more harm than good for the majority concerned. Once you have selected your choice and made your decision, stick to it if the happiness and well-being of others depend upon it. A mother who promises to take her children to the zoo on Saturday, and then changes her mind simply because the next-door neighbor persuades her to go shopping, is not exercising the best judgment.

However, maintaining the proper sense of individuality in decision-making is important to good mental health. Psychologist George F.J. Lehner of the University of California states, “Neither blind conformity to others nor rebellious isolation from others are signs of a healthy personality. Rather, we may say that what is desirable in terms of good mental health is that a person be… aware of others, responsive to them, but capable of making choices in accordance with his own individuality.”

Remember, Fickle Frances and Stubborn Sam aren’t the only ones who can benefit from this advice from the experts. Now that you know how and why you change your mind, put your new insight to work for you—and watch the payoff in better job performance, a more successful marriage and a happier family.

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