One solution to this is to bundle our decisions with “tripwires,” signals that would snap us awake at exactly the right moment, compelling us to reconsider a decision or to make a new one.
Chances are you know someone who has been stuck on autopilot too long. Sometimes autopilot causes people to neglect opportunities; maybe you have a friend who has talked about writing a novel for years but never seems to make any progress. Other times, autopilot leads people to persist at efforts that seem doomed, like a couple whose relationship makes them both miserable, or a relative with a naive dream of making a living as a landscape painter, or an executive who refuses to recognize that her pet project has failed. At some point, the virtue of being persistent turns into the vice of denying reality. When that transformation happens, how can you snap someone out of it?
One option is to set a deadline, the most familiar form of a tripwire.
Some deadlines are natural, such as the deadline for filing stories at a daily newspaper—the printing press has to roll at a certain time, whether the story is ready or not. But it’s easy to forget that most of the deadlines we encounter in life are simply made up. They are artificially created tripwires to force an action or a decision.
Deadlines focus our mental spotlight on a choice. They grab us by the collar and say, If you’re gonna do this, you have to do it now.
Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work