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?
One 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!