Decisions, decisions…we each make decisions every day. Some are simple decisions, such as what to eat or wear on a given day. Other decisions are a bit more complex, such as, Can I beat the traffic light, or should I stop?
Since we spend most of our waking moments making decisions, it would seem that we’d be easily able to make a dynamic decision on the spot. Unfortunately that is not always the case.
Why is it so difficult to make dynamic decisions?
In essence, you are not making one decision. You are choosing a set of consequences – a series of decisions. It’s like playing chess; if you move the queen to this spot, other actions are triggered as a result of your choice.
Often times there are visible, obvious obstacles or “roadblocks” that hinder us from making a decision. For example, we might feel as though we don’t have enough information to make a fair and balanced decision, so we put off making a decision until we can gather more information about the decision in question.
Other times these obstacles are ones that we create in our minds and these types of obstacles tend to be based on emotions rather than facts. We may have an emotional attachment to a person, or even a coveted object or position and we fear the repercussions that a specific decision may have on that loved one or object. Other times we may fear that we will “mess it up” or “make it worse,” so we sit on our hands vacillating back and forth between two or more possibilities rather than taking action because we don’t want to fail. After all, is it really failure if we didn’t really try? Sometimes these fears are founded, but many times these fears are not grounded in reality.
The Consequences of Indecisiveness
By allowing these roadblocks to continue, over time the decision often ends up being “taken out of our hands,” it’s made for us. Many individuals prefer it this way, they often feel as though they are absolved of responsibility and the resulting guilt if the decision is “made” for them by circumstances rather than under their own direction.
Allowing others, or “circumstances” to make decisions for you can be a very dangerous proposition. While you may temporarily breathe a sigh of relief that you don’t have to “bother” with the issue, when a decision is made for you, you are no longer in control and can no longer exert any influence on how the decision is reached or implemented. This result is that we often end up in a position that is not to our advantage.
In general, it’s best to take one’s fate into one’s own hands and make the best decision that we can based on the information that we have access to at the time rather than leaving oneself to the mercy of strangers, friends, employers, or even the whims of fortune.
How then, can we overcome these roadblocks and obstacles to effective decision making? The first step that we must take is that must learn to overcome our fears about making a decision and possibly making a mistake. Whenever we have difficulty making a decision, we need to be able to look at the situation honestly and ask ourselves, What, really is holding me back? If the obstacle is a legitimate concern, say, we need the most recent sales figures to decide whether to proceed with an expansion, then we need to expend every effort in obtaining the information that will remove the obstacle to a decision. Most obstacles, however, are emotionally based on fear, rather than reality.
How Can We Overcome the Fear of Making Mistakes?
The best way to overcome a fear, is to confront it head on. We need to examine our fears and shine the bright light of reason into the dark corner where fear resides. We need to honestly examine why we are afraid of a particular decision and then accept the fact that no one is perfect and take action anyway.
Most of the time, our worst fears are never realised. Even if we have made a mistake and the worst does come to pass, we have at least taken action. We need to give ourselves permission to be human and realise that even if make a mistake with a particular decision, risk is an inherent component of innovation, creativity and reward. Without it our lives are stagnate, boring and eventually we become obsolete.
Giving ourselves permission to be human, admit our fears and flaws and to then take action, even if we might fail, is imperative if we are to live life fully. This is true in our personal and professional lives, it is true for individuals and even businesses. Without facing our fears, and taking a risk, taking a chance, that we might succeed, even if we still might fail, is imperative for our survival. If you never take a risk, if you never make a decision, then one thing is guaranteed, you will fail. But if you take a chance and try, you just might succeed.
Making a decision then is taking a risk that you will be right and it beats the guaranteed alternative that you will always fail if you don’t try, if you don’t make a decision. This is why the most successful business owners, managers and companies strive to create a culture where it’s “okay to fail, but make the mistake and move on.”
Once you’ve faced your fears and other roadblocks and made a decision, it’s time to move forward, even if a particular decision was a mistake. Rather than “beating a dead horse,” and berating yourself, or perhaps an employee that has made a mistake, use that mistake as a learning opportunity. Figure out what you did right and wrong and then seek ways to improve performance.
Giving yourself and your employees’ permission to be human, to make mistakes, and move on, empowers both of you to have opportunities to learn and improve if you are wrong, but to also reap the greatest success when you are right.
Ricky Nowak is a high energy and dynamic Certified Corporate Trainer, Workplace Assessor and Behind Closed Doors Facilitator whose 25 years of corporate experience makes training sessions come alive with real learning. She is passionate about developing authentic business leaders and inspires the participants to contribute comfortably as she connects and communicates naturally with them.