Do you struggle with making decisions? This was not an area where I was challenged until some disruptive changes started happening in my life. After that, I began to second guess myself far more than I had before. I started to doubt my own ability to make good choices. After all, some of those I had made certainly didn’t seem to be working out as planned. Indecision started settling over me and with that, a marked loss of confidence.
I recognized in very short order that there is a definite myth when it comes to indecision. It isn’t indecision at all. It’s a surrender of choice. When we fail to decide, we are in essence letting someone, or something else direct the results. And when that happens, rarely is it what we would have chosen ourselves. It was clear that I needed to take back the reigns and get on with it!
It is often said that we don’t truly appreciate something until we’ve lost it or at least faced the threat of losing it. That was true for me in this case. I had taken my ability to make decisions for granted. It used to be easy for me. That was the ease and confidence I needed to restore. I found the answer in the realization that decision making is not a talent. It is a skill. And like any skill, our confidence is gained in the doing. Just decide. And just know that with each decision there is a chance to evaluate and adjust.
Over time a pattern began to emerge that showed me where decisions were happening with greater ease and confidence and also getting better results. And as they say, success leaves clues. In this case, a simple four step process had emerged that worked every time.
Step 1 – DETERMINE the real question or need
This is essential. If we think we are making a decision about A – but the actual issue is B, something is going to get missed and the decision is going to be made with a false sense of need. By drilling down with insightful questions and getting to what the decision is really about, all of the distracting debris falls away.
Step 2 – Allow (and limit ourselves to) an appropriate amount of time and effort for DISCOVERY
Big seems little and little seems big. When perspective gets out of kilter we can tend to over-analyze everything. Be brutally honest with yourself about the impact of the decision and respond proportionally. The way to do that is to consider is how long you are going to live with the consequences of the choice. It can be easy to forget that most things, including our choices, are temporary anyway. By putting limits on discovering what our choices will be in terms of time, effort and other resources we contain the situation effectively.
I also found at times that a +3 rule was invaluable. Instead of allowing the choice to be restricted to two options, I would apply the +3 rule. If someone said choose A or B, I would challenge myself to come up with C, D and E. If there were 10 choices, I came up with 13. Sometimes the decision is tough because the right choice isn’t there. When we find ourselves agonizing over our options, it might be time to create a different choice. Just do it within a process and time frame that doesn’t allow it to drift away from you.
Step 3 – Make a choice – DECIDE
When it’s all said and done, the skill can only develop as we practice it. For us to have confidence in our choices we have to make them. It’s really that simple. If we understand the situation and have an adequate (and effective) array of choices, this step gets much easier.
Step 4 – The decision is only truly made when we take action. The fourth step then is to DO.
Non-action negates the decision. Implementation is the key to everything in life. We can fully understand our need, create truly innovative approaches for the solutions and make brilliant choices. But all of that will not accomplish anything if we don’t ultimately take the action.
The most critical insight for me was recognizing that how we handle the small things in life is the best predictor of how we’re managing the more significant things. If we aren’t making good choices within our day, ultimately that shows up as ineffective choices for our lives. Personal leadership and responsibility is the key.
Live (decide) today like you want tomorrow to be. Live (decide) well!