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The Dreaded Double Down

Last week I posted the blog Why Are We Doing This?, which touched on activities that distract us from achieving our goals and drain our resources in the process.

One example of this activity is the obsolete legacy program. We often hold on to things beyond their utility and sometimes that loyalty to inanimate objects, ideas and even relationships with people can negatively influence our decision-making. Frankly, it’s hard to let go.

In the context of this post, the term “doubling down” refers to holding on to or investing resources in things even though you have ample reason to move on without them. It is one of the seven deadly sins of decision-making and we all do it.

Why do we throw good money after bad? There are many reasons for this behavior. First, we bear the accountability and ownership of our previous decisions. Those decisions feel like a direct reflection on us as individuals. Second, we tend to become emotionally attached to both people and things. Letting go often means feeling a sense of loss. Third, human beings loathe change. Letting go of something disturbs the status quo and that is a frightening proposition.

Fear is a mighty motivator. Doubling down is related to three of Dr. Albrecht’s fear categories: Loss of Autonomy, Separation, and Ego-Death. Sometimes we hold onto something due to the ramifications of an earlier decision. Having to move on from a prior decision means we had less control of our circumstances than we might have originally believed. Additionally, we might be replaced as decision-maker due to revelation of a “poor” decision. Both of these points are examples of loss of autonomy. We like to believe that we are in control.

Separation can cause great anxiety. We hate to feel abandoned and rejected. We are also inclined to avoid loss more than we value gain. The fear of separation is why banishment and excommunication were historically such powerful punishments.

Finally, ego-death can feel catastrophic. The pain of humiliation is awful and the primary weapon of bullies. They play on our fear of ego-death. We human beings protect our outer-image with our lives because we need connection and group approval. Perhaps every example of doubling down has at least a little fear of ego-death imbedded in it.

The antidote to doubling down is understanding the concept of the sunk cost. An economist would define a sunk cost as a cost that cannot be recovered. Once spent, the resource is gone. So, decisions should be made based on the best choice moving forward. It’s difficult to leave the sunk cost out of the decision equation because it has emotional baggage attached… but, it is the smart approach.

What are you holding on to? Better yet, what do you need to let go of to move forward?


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by the Seven Deadly Sins of Decision Making & Influence

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