Updated: Aug 18, 2020
Decisions are choices.
Like all parents, I spend time helping my son to learn how to make decisions: How to choose between the two or more options in front of him. It's an important skill and one I've learned the hard way. I would rather my son not learn the hard way, so I started small. Black pants or brown pants? Red shirt or blue shirt? Lasagne or spaghetti? But as time has progressed, the choices have become more involved. Homework now, after dinner, or first thing tomorrow morning? Use your savings to buy one Lego now, or save for another month and get two?
All decisions have consequences. Decisions are always taken with the information we have available to us at the time the decision is made. We can't know everything, so we do our best to choose the option that we believe will deliver the most desirable outcome. And then we get on with working with the circumstances of our decisions.
But as much as decisions have consequences, so does indecision. Indecision is itself a decision. By deciding not to decide, you made a decision. You decide not to move forward, you decide not to do whatever you can to influence your immediate or long-term future. You decide on status quo, even though there is no such thing. By deciding not to decide, you actually choose not to take control and drive your destiny in the direction of your choosing. You choose instead to be swept along with tide, to be dragged along by circumstances, to 'go with the flow'.
By deciding not to decide, you're leaving your life to chance. And that's a big decision.
Life will move along whether you make a decision or not. But when you make a decision, a conscious choice, you chances of creating your circumstances, rather than being held hostage by them, are vastly increased. When you take one decision, make one choice, you'll be faced with others. But because you made a conscious choice in the first instance, you'll learn and grow and be far better equipped to make the next decision. Indecision robs you of that learning, so when your circumstances change and you're faced with another choice to make, you'll be ill-equipped to make it.
Fear, doubt, and insecurity play a big part in indecision. But it's safe to say we can't ever cross all the Ts and dot all the Is. We gather as much information as possible - without taking too long about it - and make the decision. Yes, some decisions seem bigger than others but really, that's only the meaning we attach to them. When we anticipate the outcomes to have a big impact on our lives - positive or otherwise - we call the decision a 'big' one. When the impact is perceived to be small, that's a 'small' decision. And that's what we fear: Not making the decision itself, but the potential consequences of making it. But know that the consequences of decisions are never as challenging to manage as those which arise by not making a decision. Do we always make the right decision? No. But when we make a decision that doesn't deliver what we expect, we learn. And that informs our actions and future decisions. When we don't make a decision, we learn nothing and hobble ourselves in business and in life.
No matter how afraid you are, no matter how ill-equipped you feel to make a decision, make one. Choose the option that makes the most sense to you at the time you choose it. When things go as planned, celebrate. When they don't, learn. But always take the decision. And once you do, throw yourself completely into taking action on it. Get to work, take the steps needed in order to drive the outcomes.
It's a mindset. And in work or in life, decisiveness will ultimately create your circumstances. And you want to be the one to influence yours.