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He who hesitates is last (inertia)

The title of this chapter, generally attributed to Mae West, is a clever twist of the proverb ‘He who hesitates is lost’. It alludes to one of the more common cognitive biases, known as the inertia or status quo bias. This is a general and perfectly natural tendency, which we all exhibit to some extent. The inertia bias comes into play when we procrastinate rather than make difficult decisions. For some people it can be even worse, when it becomes a propensity to delay acting even when the decision is a simple, obvious and unimportant one.

The inertia or status quo trap arises from our natural instinct to protect our ego. After all, if we decide to do something, we have to take responsibility for it for good or ill. If only we know that our action failed, we will suffer feelings of regret. If our action was public, however, we will attract criticism, or at least feel that people are being silently critical of our action. The safe thing to do is to do nothing and settle for the status quo.

Almost everyone will be guilty of procrastination in some situations. For many of us this will be only a minor problem, something it would be nice to correct. For others of us it is a major problem. When it prevents us from making or acting on important financial decisions, it can have far-reaching consequences on the whole of our life.

Judith has ...

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