“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood…”
- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
Being decisive means able to make a decision, and it comes from the Latin root for “determined.” Making a decision is important because it is the catalyst for action. Often what gets in the way of our making a decision is the feeling we need more information or even just plain procrastination. Sometimes, it is a fear of failure. Other times, it is that we have two (or more) equally plausible options, all with some benefit — and making a decision for one means shutting off the possibility in others (at least, for now).
Making decisions in ambiguity means that you have to make the best decision given what you know at that time. And, there are different ways to make a decision — with your head, your heart, or your gut. One of the greatest lessons in life is learning when to use each in making a decision — for example, not making a “heart decision” with your head.
In his song “Hold it up to the Light,” David Wilcox describes being stuck in making a decision, yet realizing the time pressure of needing to move forward. “I was dead with deciding; afraid to choose/I was mourning the loss of the choices I’d lose/But there’s no choice at all if I don’t make my move…” When I’m feeling stuck, I find it helpful to evaluate what I need to make a decision. Is it more data? Or is it just courage? If it is courage, then I make the decision right then — because, as David Wilcox also writes, “As soon as I’m moving, my choice is good.”
This week’s Challenge: This week, if I am feeling stuck, I will ask myself, “what else do I need to make a decision”… and if I just need courage, I will make a decision right then, given what I know at that time.
Avoiding being Dismissive (overuse): While making decisions in a timely manner allows for forward progress, being too hasty in doing so can cause problems. Depending on what the decision is, the effects of false starts can range from personal disappointment to wasted resources to public relations challenges. If it happens often enough, it can lead to others mistrusting you and feeling unmotivated. If you tend to make decisions too quickly, I still recommend the question “What else do I need to make a decision?” — but to use that question to slow yourself down just 5–10%. That way, you can ensure you have gathered enough data to make a reasonably sound decision. Some of the most valuable data comes from the insights of others — so don’t dismiss others’ thoughts and opinions. By considering others’ input, you are more balanced in your approach.
Commendable Trait: Decisive
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