Being Decisive

Today I would like to share an excerpt from my book, “Achieving your best day yet! … A more fulfilling career… a more impactful life.” This book is available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle versions and can be found here: http://Achieving your best day yet! This excerpt is only one of 68 topics that can help drive your career or your life.

Making decisions seems to be a challenge that we all face. Let’s look at some of the negative impacts of indecisiveness and approaches to give us more confidence to “get off the fence.”


Making Decisions

“I’ve never been able to plan my life. I just lurch from indecision to indecision.” –  Alan Rickman

How many of us have the problem mentioned above by Alan Rickman?  Indecision… that point where you have one foot in each of two places… the very comfortable place on the top of the fence… that oasis in the gray when everyone wants you in either the black or white.  Why is it so hard to decide between the piece of cheesecake or the blueberry pie for dessert?  What if I am wrong?  Why can’t I decide?

Indecision is a huge problem, not only for us in the business world, but for those managing a household, raising kids, or trying to function in a fast-paced world.  And, the impact of indecision can be both personal and practical.  Let’s look at a few of these impacts:

  • Indecision robs us of our peace – When you cannot decide about something important, it is difficult to have peace until a decision is made.  Indecision tends to be a constant companion during these times of turmoil.
  • Indecision delays action – Indecision is just a matter of procrastinating… putting off until another day what needs to occur today.  And, in the process, that lack of action may be causing personal or practical hardships for you or those around you.
  • Indecision frustrates those around us – We all know the frustration of waiting in line for someone else to decide.  We often just want to say, “Just do something…anything, but get going!”  Causing others to wait almost always causes irritation that can lead to anger.
  • Indecision can be a decision that we did not want to make – Failing to decide can actually be a decision.  Delayed decisions often require someone else to step in and make the decision.  And, when this occurs, we frequently think that gives us a license to criticize the decision.
  • Indecision is an indicator of one lacking confidence – An inability to make decisions often has, at its root, a lack of self-confidence.  The individual doesn’t want to disappoint someone else, or take a risk, or be wrong.  Much of this stems from a basic fear of rejection.  A self-confident person can typically make decisions quickly after available facts are known.
  • Indecision can lead to a cycle of indecision – Because an indecisive person is usually lacking in confidence, any negative consequences (even small ones) perpetuates the inability of that person to decide the next time.  After a few of these, the individual can almost become paralyzed when a decision is needed.  This cycle becomes harder to break the longer indecision can continue.

So, sure, it is easy to name and number the negatives of indecision.  But, how can we get ourselves out of this cycle of indecision?  Is it possible to become a more decisive person? Well, of course, I think the answer is yes!  We can push ourselves, albeit in a step-by-step fashion, toward becoming more decisive.  Here are a few of those steps:

  1. Eliminate “perfectionist thinking” – Many individuals cannot decide because they believe that every decision must be perfect.  “Nothing can ever go wrong,” they think.  As a result, they delay deciding believing that unless they can be 100% certain the decision is correct.  This “perfectionist thinking” can prevent some individuals from making even the easiest decisions.  By accepting that there is room for error and that the benefit might outweigh the risks, this stranglehold might lessen.  Read on….
  2. Realize that no decision (or one that is delayed) is often the wrong decision – We have all heard that no decision is, in fact, a decision.  When posed with an opportunity to accept a new job, no decision will eventually disqualify you from even having a decision to make.  Opportunities and situations often dissipate if the decision is delayed long enough.  In fact, this is what many hope will occur.  A decision delayed is a potential mistake avoided.  This thinking is wrong.  Very few good things in life ever come because we fail to be decisive.  And, many wrong decisions are made for us when we delay or avoid them.
  3. Understand the risks of both a bad decision and a delayed decision – Everything we do has risks.  We simply cannot avoid them.  By realizing the risks of a decision (or, the pros versus the cons), we can often generate data that can take some of the subjectivity out of a decision.  So, when faced with a challenging decision, consider the risks of each, quantify them (if possible), and help yourself see how a proactive, intentional decision can often do more good than harm, even when the decision is imperfect.
  4. Consider whether more time or more information will allow for an easier decision – A technique I often use when faced with a challenging decision is this… Is there any information that, if I gather it, will make this decision easier?  If I wait to make this decision, will it become easier or harder?  We often delay deciding for no reason at all.  I frequently see individuals with 75% of the required information delay deciding because they want to get to 80%.  That extra 5% requires time, energy and effort that does not truly increase the likelihood of a positive decision. Sometimes, you just need to decide based on what you have.
  5. Confidently assume the role of decision-maker when needed – We often don’t make decisions because we secretly hope someone else will assume the responsibility.  The fact is some decisions cannot be made by anyone else!  When you realize that only you can make the decision, you just need to step up, assume the role, and make the call.
  6. Realize that most wrong decisions are either not so bad or they can be fixed – In reality, most decisions are not so critical that the impact of a wrong decision is might either overwhelming or irreversible.  Often, we wait to decide when we could have made a wrong decision and quickly fixed it before the decision was made. When the impact is minor or reversible, go forward with confidence and believe that things will be better either way.

Becoming a more confident decision-maker is really all about becoming a more confident person.  When you realize that there are times when you simply must “go for it”, you start a new cycle of decisiveness.  Once you gain experience making decisions, and, sometimes wrong ones, you learn that the cost of delays, in both personal and practical terms, is too much to be anything less than decisive.

So, consider today how you can become a more decisive person.  Determine that we all must take risks and a considered decision is almost always better than either a delayed one or one never made at all.  Don’t be like Jimmy Buffett who said, “Indecision may or may not be my problem.”

“No more candy until you finish your donut” and other observations from the Pandemic Summer of 2020

It seems it has been six years since March, not six months! My wife and I spend the summers at a lake cottage, so it is not a bad place to attempt social isolation. Nonetheless, we had a terrific time with a few close friends, we enjoyed all the activities lake life offers, and we came home ready to get back into the “normal” life we enjoy the rest of the year.

Lake life offers quite a bit of time to reflect on current times. As we are now past Labor Day and the official end of summer, I thought it would be a good time to share some of my observations and thoughts relating to current times both as they relate to society and to our stage in life. Anyway, read on and ask yourself if you have had the same thoughts.

Observations and conclusions from the Pandemic Summer of 2020:

  1. Be flexibleanything can happen – I can’t count the number of times over the last few months that plans have been made only to be cancelled at the last possible moment. This has been a difficult lesson for me and my wife. We are planners. Our family calendar is never far away and we are diligent in looking ahead regularly. However, I think we are learning to be more spontaneous and “just take each day as it comes.” These times can really help break us out of that rigid shell we often find ourselves in. I have often said to others, “It is good to be in that comfortable, predictable rut.” However, when we stay in the rut, we often miss out on amazing things. This summer, we became very good at “back-up plans” which often consisted of nothing more complex that playing board games with friends. In reality, these “back-up plans” often result in more fun and greater memories than those planned events that we missed. Use this time to develop a less hurried, less stressed life. Learn to shift with the winds and enjoy what comes.
  2. Attitude is a choiceeven when you’re having a crummy day – Sure, things aren’t how we would choose. In many ways, it’s been a lousy year. However, when you pause to take a step back, you can probably name a number of “positives” that never would have happened if not for the pandemic. For me, spending more time with our Grandkids has been a blessing. A few days ago, my six year-old grandson told me, “You are the best Zombie Apocalypse teammate ever!” Now, would that have happened in any ordinary year? And, though it has been more difficult doing “normal” things this summer, we did spend more time than usual with a few close friends. Those times are precious! Rather than looking at the “woe is me” side of things, make the choice to see the positive.
  3. Be the differencesomeone you interact with today is on the edge of a crisis – Many of our friends and family are stressed beyond belief during this time. Today might be the day that someone you know is emotionally crushed by the weight they carry. We each have the power to be the difference in someone’s life. Taking away even a small portion of that weight they carry might be the difference between victory or defeat for them. Find some way to lessen the load for someone else. You might also be surprised about how that simple act might lessen your load, as well.
  4. Stay connected don’t fall into the trap of complete isolation – Covid-19 has been, possibly, the greatest excuse maker of all time. Many companies have reduced their service, their hours, or their payroll under the guise of Covid-19 impacts. We recently took our jewelry into a national chain jeweler for routine inspection. They could not even touch it “because of Covid-19.” We asked why not given the representative was already wearing gloves and a mask and she responded, “It wouldn’t be fair that we can inspect your jewelry here in Missouri when we can’t do that in some areas, like New York.” What? Are you kidding me? What does that have to do with anything? We bought our jewelry from you, we are here to get routine inspection, there is no Covid-19 risk to you or anyone else, and you give a ridiculous excuse like that? Other individuals use Covid-19 as an excuse to be isolated from friends and family. Some take this to an extreme. When you isolate yourself physically, it is even more important to stay connected through the phone or other means. Now is the time to double-down on staying connected to others. Don’t let yourself use Covid-19 as an excuse to avoid doing what you know you need to do.
  5. Accomplish something every dayfind a way to keep moving forward – I have been really impressed by individuals that have accomplished amazing things over the past 6 months. For example, I heard of one individual that has become a very accomplished guitarist during this time. Others, have read dozens of books. Others, have learned new skills. Maybe becoming an expert is not something you want to invest in, but doing something, every day, is important for us to stay moving forward. I actually keep a weekly checklist of things I plan to accomplish, then meticulously check the boxes when things are completed. Some of these things are simple or mundane, like washing the cars. However, there is something gratifying about completing a task. Admiral William H. McRaven gave a speech at a commencement address in 2014 titled, “Make your bed” (see the entire speech here: Admiral McRaven talks about the importance of the simple task of just making your bed and how that task, when completed well, can make a difference in your day, your outlook, and your performance. Though you may feel you cannot do something great, at least do something…. and do it every day.
  6. Keep things in perspectivethese times define our character – Yes, the quote in the title of this post actually was heard around our place this summer. These have not been normal times. My grandson was being difficult one day at breakfast and his mom laid down the law…. no more candy until he finished his donut! When you look at life from the lens of only today, it is often clouded by the problems we face, the challenges in front of us, and the frustration we feel. However, by broadening that view, we can see the bigger picture. We can see that these difficulties will pass. Today’s frustrations will ease. Possibly, we won’t even remember a year from now our biggest challenges today. When we can focus on the facts, not our emotions, we can better react to our circumstances. Don’t let today’s frustrations impact the things you say and do that might negatively impact someone else.
  7. Find the humor laughter is great medicine, even in serious times – One day this summer, my wife and I decided to dig up and refresh a flower bed around our summer lake cottage. On about the 4th shovel turning over the dirt, a swarm of hornets boiled out of the hole. There must have been hundreds of these hornets flying and attacking. Immediately, I yelled, “Hornets!” My wife ran one direction and I ran the other. She ended up with about 5-6 hornet stings and I had around 10-12. And, they were very painful. The pain lasted the rest of the day and evening and into the next day. Sometime during the second night, the sting changed from pain to itching. The itching was intense and lasted a few more days until it was all over. It wasn’t fun at the time, but we laugh about it now. We have had fun re-enacting the event with our friends and how we frantically worked to get the hornets out of our pants and shirts. We need to see the humor in life. Sure, it is often easier to complain and moan about our circumstances, but laughter can keep us sane.
  8. Focus on todayeverything can change in a flash – I heard someone recently say that the worst purchase they ever made was to buy a 2020 planning calendar. Yes, we’ve all learned this year that plans can change in an instant. I would guess that over 95% of us had a major event, a trip, an annual event, or something similar cancelled this year. The pandemic has been a good lesson in the old proverb, “Don’t count on tomorrow; today is the only day we’ve been promised.” So, what’s a person to do with all the uncertainty around us during these times? A lesson for me has been to just focus on today. Focus more on the journey than the destination. Enjoy the blessings of the season. Cherish times with family members. Rest in the beauty of the day. In some ways, I think the pandemic has given a bit of freedom to deviate from the norm and experience things you never would have before. It has given us permission to slow our pace and limit the pressures that stress our lives. Use this time to just enjoy the day and times and events that await us today. Tomorrow will take care of itself.
  9. Extend gracewhy not be kind – There is too much anger in the world today. And, often, that anger spills out to those around us that don’t deserve it. During these times, we have a responsibility to protect those around us that may be experiencing life altering crises. So, when we have the opportunity, why not make the choice to show kindness? Why not extent a bit of grace that just might change the day for someone else? Why not give the person that cuts you off in traffic a pass? Why not give that sales clerk a smile instead of a snarl? Why not show extra patience with that individual on the phone that is simple doing his/her job? Let’s use this time to allow kindness to become our default behavior?
  10. Trust Godnow, more than ever, we should realize that we can’t control all our circumstances – I am a Believer in God and His Son Jesus Christ. So, it is natural for me to say that I trust God, even in difficult times. However, 2020 has been a year like no other. It has been a time when we see that, despite our best efforts, we can’t control the events occurring around us. We can’t solve every problem. We are at the mercy of things, people, events totally out of our hands. That is why it gives me great comfort to simply rest in the confidence that “God has this.” I don’t have to control the circumstances around me, even if I could, because the God who loves me is doing what is best for me. If you’ve never felt the peace that comes knowing that your present and future is in the hands of a mighty, just, and loving God, now is the perfect time to trust Him.

I haven’t give up on 2020 yet. There is still time to learn something new, to find a new friend, to accomplish something remarkable, and to make a difference. There is still time to enjoy the beauty of falling leaves, see the harvest, laugh at the first snowfall, and experience the magnificence of Christmas. There are still family gatherings to come, firsts and lasts, hands to hold, and memories to make. Resolve to make these coming last months of 2020 so amazing that they erase the difficulties we faced earlier in the year.

And remember, today could still be your best day yet! You just never know when something might happen that makes all the difference in the rest of your life. It just might happen today!