One Habit to Adopt That Will Change Everything in Your Life

In my earlier post, we talked about how to decide what the most important action to take is from several options. However, there’s one missing element that makes all the difference between action and paralysis.

It can mean the difference between success and failure.

It could mean the difference between marriage and loneliness.

It can seize opportunities or serve as an antidote to fear.

It builds confidence and self-esteem.

It creates empires and has destroyed entire civilizations.

It’s what writes our histories, both as a society and as an individual.

It’s the mark of a great leader and it’s behind every success.

Can you guess what it is?

lordoftheringsOne Habit to Rule Them All

For better or for worse, two major traits I inherited from my mother are spontaneity and impatience.

Before I learned to put these traits to good use, they got me into a whole lot of trouble. There were times when I did things that couldn’t (and still can’t) be explained by any man, woman, child, or alien species in the universe.

Now that I’ve got them under control, I’ve channeled them into a habit that’s the major cause of my success: decisiveness.

The ability to quickly and confidently make a decision and stick to it is, by far, the most underrated and under appreciated skill possessed by successful people everywhere.

Although action is particularly important to be successful, you can’t act without making a decision on what to do.

In Napoleon Hill’s ‘Think and Grow Rich,’ he mentions that when he analyzed 700 people who were successful in accumulating a million dollars or more, he found that every single one had the habit of being decisive.

Or, in the words of Napoleon himself, ‘every one of them had the habit of reaching decisions promptly and changing these decisions slowly, if and when they were changed.’ Furthermore, he said that people without financial success, without exception, have the habit of reaching decisions, if at all, very slowly, and of changing these decisions quickly and often.’ 

If you have a hard time making decisions, beware. You will not see success in any area of life without being able to be decisive.

Common Decision-Making Pitfalls

If you aren’t decisive, never fear! There are really only a few reasons that cause someone to be indecisive and I’ll show you ways to remedy each and every one of them.

Lack of Information

This is the easiest pitfall to fix. It’s also the easiest pitfall to fall into at a moments notice.

Either you don’t know how to make the decision (i.e. you don’t know what your priorities are), or you don’t have enough information to make an informed decision. For the former, visit last week’s post about deciding what’s most important to work on. For the latter, see Google.

It’s important to know when to stop consuming information and just make a decision already. The amount of information we have at our fingertips is completely mind blowing. You could spend a lifetime deciding which type of vegetable broth to swear your allegiance to.

You can easily become paralyzed by the amount of information available to you. It takes a certain amount of intuitiveness to know when you’ve taken it too far.

Often it’s when you start to feel overwhelmed and you think you’ll never be able to decide. Usually, that’s the signal that you need to cut bait and just decide already.

Placing Too Much Importance on the Opinions of Others

It’s ok to want to seek out the opinions of friends, family, or anyone you consider knowledgeable in the area you’re trying to make a decision in. It’s not ok to let anyone elses opinions affect your decision making process.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion. That’s where entitlement stops. You have a brain for a reason. Use it.

Take opinions into consideration, but make your decision based on your own judgement and your judgement on the validity (and relevance) of the opinions of others’.

Placing Too Little Importance on Your Own Opinion

If you think that your opinion is somehow of lesser value than the opinions of others’, think again. Your brain is just as capable of making a good decision as anyone elses.

It’s crippling to your life to doubt the soundness of your decisions. You must navigate this world with confidence of your ability to make good decisions and to handle tough situations. Not believing in your capacity for decision making is akin to not believing in your capacity for living.

Placing Any Importance on The Outcome

Unless you’re directing troops into battle, or making other life or death decisions, it’s unlikely you’ll ever encounter a decision so important that it required weeks of agonizing over before reaching a conclusion.

At some point, you have to trust that you made the best decision you could with the information you had and in the circumstances you were in. You can try to predict the outcome of each decision, but you never really know what may or may not happen.

If you put too much importance on the outcome of your decision, you’ll be frozen by fear. Additionally, you’ll feel like you made the wrong decision regardless because the future never looks exactly like we pictured it.

So have confidence that your decision was the right one for you at the time, and, whatever the outcome, you’ll be able to deal with it just as gracefully.

The Adulterous Decision Maker

Although most decisions aren’t 100% final, if you think you can make a decision and then flip-flop two days later, you might as well have not made the decision at all.

If anything, changing your decisions every other day like a hot potato is worse than not making a decision at all.

  • No one (including yourself) will believe you when you make a decision, so no action will come of it, leaving you to believe that decision making is futile. 
  • You won’t be able to dedicate your full attention and resources on your decision because half of your attention is still flirting with the other decision.
  • You never have the relief that comes with coming to terms with a decision.
  • You’ll severely damage your ability to commit to anything. Not only your own resolutions, but also commitments made to others.

Make a decision and stick to it. Only change your decision when a huge factor changes, or when continuing in your current direction would be idiotic given new facts.

Have the courage to make your own decisions and to make them often and with confidence. Once you see how easily you adapt to the outcomes, you’ll become more emboldened to make bigger, more consequential decisions.

Remaining undecided is not an option if you want to move forward in any area of your life.

Seize the moment! Make the decision to talk to that really hot person you’re interested in. Put in 2 weeks notice. Start the project you’ve been thinking about for months.

Tell me what you’ve decided to do today and then go do it. You’re ready!

photo credit

{ 31 comments… add one }
  • Shane April 8, 2013, 10:47 am

    THIS SPEAKS TO MY SOUL! I have been dealing with this lately quite a bit. Thanks for driving it home, as usual!

    • Liz April 9, 2013, 12:56 pm

      I love when I speak to your soul Shane! Me and your soul…we’re homies.

  • Tammy R April 8, 2013, 11:24 am

    I love this, Liz. We see so much about taking action (which is very, very important!), and I like the connection to decisiveness. Oh boy, I have spent too much of my time being wishy-washy – wondering what others would think, say, do if I did _______. My life is so much happier the less I concern myself with that and live the life I want. I was scared for nothing!

    • Liz April 9, 2013, 12:58 pm

      I know Tammy! It just kind of hit me: You can’t take action without deciding on what to do. And it needs to be a firm decision or your actions will be half-hearted or, even worse, pointless!

  • Laure April 8, 2013, 11:35 am

    Thanx Liz! You made my day bright, I actually don’t think I need that post, I feel I’ve always been really decisive, so that adds to my strength, knowing that it is a prerequisite for success! Hugs

    • Liz April 9, 2013, 1:01 pm

      Hey Laure! You seem like a very decisive person. I’m glad you can now consciously add this to your arsenal of weapons of mass success ;).

  • Darius B. April 8, 2013, 11:58 am

    When reading the introduction was wondering, which habit will be declared “the one” and first that popped into my head was habit of Learning.

    And yet, I fully agree that unless we are able to decide and commit everything else will just fall to pieces. There’s an interesting idea I’ve read regarding decision making: we have only a limited amount of “decision-juice” in us, so it’s a good idea not to waste it on mundane stuff like choosing where to grab lunch and instead focus on making the high impact decisions. (Sorry can’t remember who should be given credit for this idea)

    Personally, I guess I just don’t make enough big or small decisions throughout the day to run out, but would be interesting if someone actually dealt with this.

    On a side note, was smiling while reading this article because it reminded me of a great song with lyrics “Roll the dice, never look back, never think twice” (the song is “To Be Loved”)

    Great article Liz,


    • Liz April 9, 2013, 1:19 pm

      You know I was wondering if the introduction made the ‘secret’ habit too obvious, but I’m glad it doesn’t!

      That is super interesting! I can definitely relate to that. There were times in my life when I was making so many decisions, that I just couldn’t deal with anymore analysis. I’d just pick something even if I felt the decision was important and SHOULD require more inspection.

      ALSO, on a related note, when I used to work for P&G, we talked about how consumers make decisions. It’s actually proven that the more choices someone has, the more important the decision feels. So, for example, at a supermarket you can choose between 30 different kinds of toothpaste. It honestly doesn’t matter which kind of toothpaste you get unless you have a special condition.

      However, we spend a lot of time choosing those kinds of products because there are so many options. It begins to feel like an important thing. We pick things up and put them back and compare. Same thing with toilet paper or whatever else. You’re wiping your butt with it for gods sake!!!! It’s not that crucial!! Haha. I crack myself up.

  • Vincent Nguyen April 8, 2013, 1:43 pm

    Great buildup! I guess the one habit you still need to adopt is to watch Doctor Who. 🙂

    Having confidence in our decisions is a huge deal. I feel like I do a great job of that but at times, I wonder if it’s too much. Then I realize most people have no confidence whatsoever and I realize it’s better to have more than less.

    • Liz April 9, 2013, 1:01 pm

      Haha touche on Doctor Who! I’m still getting around to it!

      It’s better to be too decisive than too indecisive, you’re damn right about that.

  • Kathy Gabriel April 8, 2013, 1:54 pm

    Awesome word Liz; decisiveness … what a way to move forward!
    Also loved ‘Stop making plans and start creating Stories’ … about spontaneity and decisiveness, in a ‘ just do it’ sort of way!
    I might all be a matter of just saying “yes” to life, what ever shows up. Sure beats procrastination and nail biting!
    It’s also not guess-work … that’s for sure! Life is listening.

    • Liz April 9, 2013, 1:03 pm

      You’re so right Kathy! Great point. ‘It might all be a matter of just saying ‘yes’ to life.’ And sooner rather than later! Great connection between the ‘Stop Making Plans and Start Creating Stories’ post and this one. I didn’t even think about that, but they are definitely closely related.

      Also love the quote ‘Life is listening.’ You’ve got a lot of really great nuggets here!!

  • Trevor April 8, 2013, 8:06 pm

    What a great post Liz! I confess, decisiveness has never been my hallmark. But as I’ve become more and more decisive, I’ve definitely noticed the huge impact it makes.

    You’re right, decisiveness is a trait the MUST be developed if you want to have any chance whatsoever at succeeding in those things most important to you. Fortunately, it CAN be developed. With time and effort, you can train yourself to become decisive and bold. I have.


    • Liz April 9, 2013, 1:07 pm

      Oh Trevor! Great point. I should have pointed out that it’s a trait that can be developed, and you get stronger and stronger at it.

      At first, if you’re not use to making decisions, you can completely miss the point by just being controlling and domineering. If someone asks you where you want to eat, saying ‘WE’RE EATING AT TACO BELL AND THAT’S THE END OF DISCUSSION,’ is not really appropriate. But soon you learn to be decisive and assertive without being belligerent!

  • Jenny April 8, 2013, 8:11 pm

    Thanks Liz… I am booking my round the world ticket today! BOOM! No more umming and ahhhing – it WILL be awesome 🙂

    • Liz April 9, 2013, 1:08 pm

      Rock on Jenny!!!! That’s so cool. I can’t wait to book my own ’round the world ticket!

  • Mark April 9, 2013, 12:11 am

    Hi Liz,

    You are spot on in highlighting this point being a key ingredient in succeeding. I made a living for decision making under uncertainty and I can say the single most import thing to do is actually make the decision. Paralysis by analysis is a road block and the deeper the analysis often the more uncertain things become!

    • Liz April 9, 2013, 1:12 pm

      You made a living by making decisions?! Do tell Mark! Sounds fascinating.

      And it’s so true that the more you analyze after you start feeling paralyzed, the more foggy the decision becomes. I’ve noticed that time and time again, which is why when I start to feel overwhelmed by data and information, I roll the dice.

  • Stephanie April 9, 2013, 8:06 am

    This is a big weakness of mine. I have a bad decision hang over. Made some bad choices in the past and paid a big price and now I often feel paralysis when I have to make a choice. A good reminder for me to try and tackle this issue.

    • Liz April 9, 2013, 1:14 pm

      Haha decision hangover. That’s funny.
      I know how it feels to make a bad decision, but it only means that you’ll get better at making right decisions.

      Perhaps I should have written about some techniques to make decision making easier. What do you think?

  • Kate Kindle April 9, 2013, 8:05 pm

    Making decisions, and living them boldly-yes, the true mark of of a
    leader and one route to success. Sometimes I’m very sure of myself and go right ahead, others I go right ahead, but I’m not really sure of myself. But, it helps to hear it from you, Liz-there ARE times when I procrastinate and hang back out of fear. I’m making a daily commitment to go forward. It’s wonderful, really, enthusiasm builds as we do that.

    • Liz April 11, 2013, 12:07 pm

      Enthusiasm and momentum builds! It’s a great feeling. And one that can make you feel so powerful and in charge. Thanks for stopping by Kate!

  • Smythe April 9, 2013, 9:39 pm

    Hi Liz,
    Good one. I struggle with this a lot. Glad to say I made some major decisions this week and have felt some relief. I really like the line, “Not believing in your capacity for decision making is akin to not believing in your capacity for living”. Yes, well said.


    • Liz April 11, 2013, 12:09 pm

      Thank you Smythe! I keep toying with the idea of making a page of good quotes from my blog. Maybe that’s a little arrogant, but heck, sometimes people don’t need a whole post, they need a sentence to boost them through the day.

      I love that relief of making a decision and just being done with it. I’m addicted to it actually! 😉

  • Nick Goodall April 21, 2013, 9:30 am

    I wasn’t sure what to expect when I read the title, but as soon as I got there – I could see why. It is indeed such a key trait, and although you touched upon the importances of deciding where you’re going, I find it just as important in deciding to take the action. That of course may be backed up with passion, discipline, motivation, will and whatever else, but at the end of the day – you’ve got to decide whether to take action or not.

    It really is a game changer this trait, I’m glad that I’ve taken some time to improve my decision-making ability.

    • Liz May 3, 2013, 1:14 pm

      Hey Nick! That’s so true! Deciding what action to take and deciding to actually do it can be two completely different animals. Great point. Seriously.

      Thanks for dropping by.

  • Kate Kindle August 28, 2013, 7:19 am

    I like this one, Liz. Yes, ‘decide and do’. And worrying about what others think about what we do is to make these people more important and capable than they really are. Prize your own feelings, go with your gut-that’s what it’s there for-and follow what you believe! Also, take it all lightly. Like you said, Liz, short of sending troops into battle, nothing is so overwhelmingly important. And in my life, when the really tough decisions came, I made them in an instant-cause everything was crystal clear. Of course, I might add one more thing-that is, if at all possible, to keep good people close to you. Honest, facilitative people who will cooperate rather than obstruct your efforts at success. After all, a real friend won’t hold your hand through difficulty for longer than necessary-cause they’re too busy finding you an exit from your problem!!!! Keep real friends around you!

  • LaLa Land December 24, 2013, 1:17 am

    This is by far the BEST FREE INFO I’ve EVER read in my life! Thank you. You are an incredible, unselfish GENIUS!

  • Mike Goncalves March 2, 2014, 2:06 pm

    Awesome post Liz! Such a great book too, Think and Grow Rich. Your words make me think of a phrase, a quote I look at daily that states, “Every Accomplishment Starts With The Decision To Try”. Cheers!


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