The Terror of Indecision How to Be More Decisive
I’m always looking for ways to make better decisions for myself, my family, and those I lead. As a man who values thoughtfulness and reflection, one key step of decision-making I must commit myself to is simply:
Make a decision.
Preeminent medieval philosopher and astronomer, Musa ibn Maymun, said this about indecision, “The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision.” Here are my thoughts about avoiding the terror of indecision and becoming more decisive.
It’s amusing how some people cannot make even the most basic choices, like what to eat at a restaurant. It may take them ten or twenty minutes to make a selection. Steak or fish? Filet or T-Bone? Mashed potatoes or broccoli? Okay, broccoli. Wait, was it steak? Okay then, mashed potatoes. Often the way a person makes menu selections is indicative of how they make decisions in life. Do they read every single word? Do they agonize over every possible option?
Look at it from this perspective. If a person eats at a restaurant twice weekly and spends ten minutes on average browsing dinner options, over a period of thirty years they will have spent 500 hours looking at a menu. That’s three months of 40-hour work weeks. (I hope I did not totally ruin your next dinner out.)
Decidophobia. (It’s a word.)
I know I maybe pushing it a bit, but I want to illustrate a point. When our decision-making is reckless, our lives are inefficient and often of little effect. Our decisions determine our destiny. They set our momentum going forward. Indecision keeps us standing still.
Decidophobia. It is an actual word. It is the fear of making decisions. I can relate to the fear. Sometimes I just won’t decide, and I am paralyzed. Like Musa ibn Maymun said, being indecisive is terror. When we refuse to decide, we become taunted by our own indecision. It consumes our emotions, our thoughts, and our time. We are frozen. Many times, everything else in our lives starts revolving around that one decision.
My friend, successful leaders learn to make quality decisions quickly and move on. We give these kind of people a name: decisive. And that’s what I wish for you and I to become.
How much time do you need to decide?
You may insist that some decisions require more time. And that is a valid point. Here is how I understand it. Our tendency is to aim to make perfect decisions—some people have this tendency stronger than others. I allow myself more time to make decisions in respect to the potential impact they have on my life long-term.
For example, if I make the “wrong” choice from a menu at a restaurant, will it ruin my future? No. So, this decision can be made quickly, unless I am just enjoying a leisurely day and looking to try something new. However, if I am deliberating making someone my new business partner—well, that can affect my life long-term. So absolutely, I am going to take my time. But even then, there must come a point when, ready or not, a decision is due. Am I in, or am I out?
I have learned this the hard way. At times, I’ve gotten excited about something and made a quick decision. But in the long run, it had a great impact on my life, and I would have been wiser to give myself more time to think it through. So without question, slow down to consider important decisions, but don’t draw it out so long that you suffocate momentum for yourself and others.
Here is a general guide—most decisions during our day are not of great consequence, therefore they can be made quickly. So, make a decision and move forward.
Be strategic while being decisive.
Some people take things to the other extreme. They make knee-jerk decisions and push people forward. Then everyone ends up in a ditch. Being decisive is not the same as being reckless. You must be strategic in life and leadership. Make sure you are heading in the right direction and your decisions are paving the way.
For example, toward the end of this year, the organization I lead will be opening a new clinic. This is in line with a long-term strategy that was made carefully with much thought and prayer. Now that we have our plan and strategy in place, the tens of decisions that will come our way must be made boldly and many times swiftly in order to make things happen.
Why should you work on being decisive? Here are two reasons. People don’t whole-heartedly follow indecisive people. We prefer leaders who will decide even at the risk of being wrong sometimes, to the leader who just cannot make a decision about anything.
Being decisive leads to action. Successful people take the risk to act—not to think and think, then think about it all over again. Take action. Move. The best boxers are the ones who keep moving and seeking opportunities to jab. If they just stand there contemplating the best approach to punch, they get pummeled. It’s the same with life and leadership. Keep moving, keep jabbing.
Perfectionism leads to indecision.
If you are aiming for perfection in every decision, you often won’t make a decision at all.
Particularly in leadership, learn what you can, then trust your instincts. I use this ratio for decision-making, which strategically combines knowledge and intuition. Know 70%, and make an intuitive decision with the rest. To become a decisive person, you must be okay with occasional failure or imperfect results.
You can improve.
The good news is you can get better. This is coming from a person who is naturally a thinker and wants to make every decision just right. Thus I have a tendency not to decide. But over the years, I have improved.
If you want to do better in this area, I have a suggestion. Start practicing with something that is not life altering. You guessed it: the restaurant menu. I challenge you for the next month, any time you go out to eat, give yourself ten seconds to make a selection. You can do it.
To sum it up, in the few consequential things you encounter in life and leadership, take your time to ponder and decide. In your daily decision-making opportunities, be swift, be bold, and trust yourself.
Make a decision and move forward!
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