Is Patience or Decisiveness the Better Virtue?

How to Start Making More Optimal Decisions in your Personal and Professional Life

Hunter Hess


At some point, we’ve all experienced buyer’s remorse. We made a decision in the heat of the moment to purchase something, whether it was a candy bar at the cash register or a Black Friday doorbuster on one of the season’s must-have items, and after the purchase, we deeply regretted it. If you would have held off on the candy bar, you might would’ve been more satisfied with a healthier alternative for a snack. If you didn’t purchase the “must-have doorbuster,” you would have had more money to put towards something that you really wanted, instead of something that was a “good deal.”

We’ve also all been on the other end of the spectrum, where we let a good deal on something we really wanted go away, whether it was because of the timing, waiting for a “better deal,” or just not realizing the uniqueness of the opportunity. Regardless of the reason, we “missed out,” which resulted in us feeling dejected and unhappy with our decision. Thus, a “fear of missing out” (FOMO) has been instilled in many of us, and we become more decisive because of it.

So, when looking at those two situations, we realize that neither is optimal. In the first situation, more patience would’ve enabled us to make a more rational decision, and we wouldn’t have experienced buyer’s remorse. In the second situation, if we would’ve been more decisive, we would have ceased the opportunity and wouldn’t have “missed out” on getting something we really wanted. In both of those situations, the opposing virtue was needed in order to make the optimal decision; however, most of us do not experience both virtues, especially not at one time. Therefore, we cannot expect ourselves to always make the optimal decision, and neither patience nor decisiveness can be considered the “better” virtue in all aspects.

Of course, these example situations pale in comparison to many of the decisions we are faced with every day. We have to make decisions regularly that affect our lives, businesses, and jobs. And for many of us, we have to make decisions that will affect a lot of people. With these decisions, even the most decisive people typically try to consider the full spectrum of effects that their decision will have; moreover, those of us with extreme patience will also strive to make a prompt decision due to an immediate need. This is because these decisions aren’t just influenced by your level of patience or decisiveness, but also by a third element: rationality.

Just as economics assumes that consumers are rational, we need to assume that decision makers will practice rationality when a decision of gravity is encountered. Nearly all of us are susceptible to heat-of-the-moment missteps, and likewise we are susceptible to having a period of indecision if we begin to overanalyze a trivial decision. But in decisions of gravity, most of us will exercise some level of rationality before reaching a final conclusion.

An easy way to improve your decision-making abilities would be to treat trivial decisions in a similar fashion to decisions of gravity. To do this, you must first realize which virtue you are more inclined to practice – patience or decisiveness. Then, begin to consciously practice rationalism in your decisions, no matter how trivial or significant their effects will be. After doing this, you will be able to make smarter decisions in trivial circumstances, which will lead to making more optimal decisions during significant circumstances.

By consciously practicing rationality more frequently in your decision-making, your decisions will be more thoroughly considered, so you won’t regret the decisions you made, even if they can be looked upon as missteps. In other words, if a situation doesn’t “feel right,” it isn’t the right decision for you to make, even if it all seems great on paper. And you can’t determine if something “feels right” if you make the decision on an impulse.

For optimal decision-making, you don’t need more patience, nor do you need to become more decisive. Instead, become more rational. By doing this, you won’t have to make major changes in your life, but you will feel a lot better about yourself and your decision-making abilities, and others will begin to look to you as a trusted advisor who will consider all aspects of a decision, yet make a rational, common-sense choice at the end-of-the-day.