We all fear making the wrong decision. We gather the information available and make the decision that is going to put us ahead—the right decision. I read a Harvard Business Review article a while back and it mentioned that companies that make wrong decisions are more successful than companies that don’t make any decisions. Naturally, I’ve been unable to track down the article.
Takeaway: The more decisions you make, the more successful you will be. The correctness of your decision is irrelevant.
Sometimes, we’re overwhelmed by the plethora of information available that we fail to make any decision. You may know this as analysis paralysis. Folks, the struggle is real.
An aide once asked Ulysses S. Grant if he was always right.
“No! I am not, but in war anything is better than indecision. We must decide. If I am wrong we shall soon find out and can do the other thing. But not to decide . . . may ruin everything.”
This was during his tenure as General for the Union during the Civil War. He made this statement while acknowledging what was at stake—countless lives of his men and the country’s future. His men were taking a pounding by General Lee’s army. Casualties were mounting by the thousands yet he never complained or whined. He never made excuses. What mattered most to him was getting the job done. He was ready to learn from any wrong decisions and then act accordingly.
Tell me, what’s at stake for you? Do your decisions risk sending thousands of men to their deaths? Will your (in)decisiveness map the fate of the country?
You neglect to make a decision for fear of what, exactly?
Making the wrong decision?
Being held accountable?
The idea is not to be reckless. You still have to be tactful in your decision-making. Sometimes making no decision is the right decision but don’t allow the decision-making process to paralyze you.
Sharpen your decision-making muscle
1. Less is more.
Information – Don’t soak up every piece of information out there. There is an endless amount of information on the web, enough to support and argue your stance. Reviewing various sources at different angles may lead you to spin your head and go nowhere.
Choices – Minimize the choices you have; make the entire process simple by eliminating the choices that are available to you. Most of the decisions we make are trivial. Where to eat and what to wear are some examples. Mark Zuckerberg reportedly wears the same t-shirt every day. Along with breakfast, he doesn’t want to spend time deciding on things that are inconsequential. He does this so he can use energy on making decisions on things that actually matter.
“I really want to clear my life so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.” -Mark Zuckerberg
3. Use your gut if you have to.
My gut never steers me wrong. When in doubt, using your gut is the way to go. Of course, we don’t want you to completely abandon data when evaluating situations. However, when data is uncertain or too much to handle, go with your gut. Your gut usually knows what you want anyways.
4. Practice on the small stuff
As I mentioned earlier, most of the decisions you make are trivial. You’ll scroll through Netflix for a half hour before finding something to watch. You’ll peruse Yelp for 15 minutes before finding a place to eat. You are wasting your time on things that don’t matter. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Exercise your decision-making muscle
It’s time to get started!
When presented with a slew of options, make your decision within 30 seconds. For example:
• What you will wear.
• Where you will eat.
• What you will eat.
• The movie you will watch.
• The next item you buy on Amazon.
Anything else that is trivial in your life. Be mindful to the things you spend minutes or even hours trying to decide.
Not only will this practice get you to make decisions, it will get you to make decisions quickly; a skill very valuable to have.
Humans associate negative emotions to wrong decisions. The emotions from the aftermath of making the wrong decisions are more prominent than when we make the right decisions.
Subsequently, we research, analyze, and investigate before making a decision. I’m all for this. You always want to make an educated decision based on the information at hand. However, there is one emotion tied to indecision that is much worse than the aftermath of making the wrong decision:
You can push through wrong decisions. You adapt. You gain invaluable experience. Although, I guarantee taking no action will hurt a lot more. Maybe not now, but years down the road. You’ll be kicking yourself for not starting that business, or not learning the piano.
The best part about making the wrong decision is you’re at least stepping up to the plate. There is a chance you will fail but it will begin to put you in a good habit. The habit of making decisions. Because making decisions leads to taking action. And taking action leads to taking control of your life.
Get out there and take some swings. You don’t want to upset Uncle Ulysses, do you?