One of the things I joke about with my Japanese friends is how I find some Japanese to be yujufudan (優柔不断) or indecisive, to which they all wholeheartedly agree. It could be out of their innate politeness, but whenever I ask questions such as “What do you want to eat?”, “What do you want to do after?”, “What time do you want to meet?”, etc., I usually get back some form of “I don’t know” or “whatever you want” as the reply.
And that’s only for the small things. You can imagine the headaches I encounter when I up the ante to something bigger like organizing a small trip.
Big decisions aren’t easy. In fact, they’re scaaaary. Too many of them at once, and they can easily drive the weaker-hearted among us to the edge of sanity. And yet, great leaders thrive by making big decisions on a daily basis. Think of these big decision questions most of us have all encountered at some point or another.
Do I like what I’m doing? Should I ask for a raise? Am I qualified to do anything else? What do I really want to do for the rest of my life?
Should I take a leap? Will it work out? Should I stay or should I go? Should I follow my heart or play it safe? Can I start all over?
Here’s how many of us make big decisions: We don’t. We delay decision-making until the situation becomes too uncomfortable, and we’re unhappily forced to make an emotional decision. Or, we make a decisions dictated by other people’s thinking – and almost always, this thinking tends to err on the side of safety and comfort.
Create a decision habit.
Hey, if you’re not good at making decisions, it’s OK! Making big decisions suck and pretty damn frightening. After all, they could be life altering, and we never like to live with “what ifs?” if we made the wrong choice. But we have to make them. I’m not the best at making big decisions, but I’ve seen enough consequences to say that inaction often leads to very unpleasant situations. Starting today, here are some small things we can do to practice leadership-style decision making.
1. Don’t make a big decision out of fear. In fact, avoid it all costs. Fear is usually an indicator of a tough decision, that both choices aren’t so hot, that you’re under time or people pressure, or you just have innate indecisiveness. Breath, meditate, calm your nerves, and do your best to make a decision rationally.
2. Think Outside The Box. Continuing on from the first point, if both choices don’t look so good, then it’s time to summon the leader within you and think outside of the box. Think about how you can make the best out of a bad situation, think how you can win with either decision, or if you’re really good, come up with a creative solution that doesn’t involve the decision altogether.
My son and I were at the airport last week. We miscommunicated while packing our bags, and he was carrying face cream, sunscreen, and toothpaste in his carry-on luggage, which aren’t allowed in larger quantities. Intercepted by security, we were given the choice to leave and check the luggage in at an additional cost or throw the items away. Both choices didn’t look so good, so I thought about it for a minute, and decided to squeeze out some of the containers’ contents until they fell within the allowable limits.
3. Go with your decision. In order to be a good decision maker, you have to follow through with every decision you make, good or bad. You can’t be looking over your shoulder and hesitating as you move forward.
4. Don’t decide on emotion. This one’s hard. Say you love a house that many other people happen to love. You get into a bidding war and go way over budget. One one hand, you got the home of your dreams, but on the other hand, you blew the budget you rigorously set beforehand, skipped all logic, and put yourself in some serious debt. Real estate agents know this, so don’t give in to this tactic!
On the opposite end of the spectrum, decisions made out of anger can burn bridges, ruin relationships, and cause self-harm – avoid that too! Also again, going back to point one, don’t decide out of fear.
5. Stop Aiming. Ready-Aim-Fire sounds familiar, but indecisive people usually gets stuck at the “Aim” stage: Aim. Aim. Aim. Never firing. Big decisions aren’t usually made lightning quick, but I would say the Ready-Fire-Aim approach is well-suited for small to medium-sized decisions. Make a decision. Go with it. Then correct course along the way.
6. Reduce the number of choices. When I’m around my indecisive Japanese friends, I make decision-making easier by avoiding general questions. Instead of “What do you want to eat?”, I might ask “Do you want Indian or Thai food?”. Instead of “What do you want to do?”, I might start by asking “Do you want to do something outside or inside?” Similarly, you can break down your own decision-making this way too.
7. Eliminate the dwelling if you’re a dweller. Eliminate these phrases from your vocabulary: Could have. Should have. Would have. The characteristic of an indecisive person is dwelling on these phrases. Dwellers focus on past bad decisions, and allow that accumulated past history to make them hesitant for future decision-making. You don’t want to be a dweller. Leaders learn from the past, don’t forget but don’t dwell, and make future decisions wiser than before.
Poor decisions and bad luck are contingencies of most horror films.
– Wesley Morris