Decisions require making decisions

‘Just tell me yes or no.”

The man is trying to sell me on his company’s services, but his words surprisingly transcend the moment and populate my mind to a completely unrelated situation.

 A friend of mine is wrestling with a big decision in his life. For him the choice before him is large and with heavy implications. But the decision — any decision — must be made. Choices sit before him; the status quo, however, is already decided.

“Just tell me, yes or no,” the words echo in my mind.

As many of us learn the hard way, putting off a decision rarely improves the situation we face. If anything, delaying making a decision is generally a result of us not giving the decision the careful attention it deserves. Big decisions require both deep and broad thought. But they also require a commitment by us to make a decision in a timely manner.

Making a decision is a process — not outcome. And most of us learn this lesson comes via the school of hard knocks. Keeping score is worthless; taking the lesson forward is the real value. The outcome, as you shape this practice, become secondary.

Most of us, myself included, carry a natural desire to avoid making uncomfortable decisions. Making a decision — the stress of assessing the potential result of your decision — is painful. The unknown, the straining to see a future you cannot accurately predict, simply invites discomfort.

But what we learn early on in developing the skills to make better decisions is to factor in the cost of not making a decision. We try to tell ourselves we’re avoiding the pain of the unknown. But the reality is we are discounting the value of how delaying a decision is eroding or endangering the present. If we’re faced with a decision, there is generally a reason. Avoiding a decision only damages the value or potential of either choice.

The school of hard knocks visits me on regular basis. As a matter of fact, I might hold a master’s degree as a result of the time spent in the virtual classrooms I’ve put myself in over the years.

Making decisions, I learned along the way, is holding myself accountable to making the call by a certain point — whether it be a point in time, after gathering enough information, or simply when my gut signs on. But I’ve learned I’ll never have all the time I want, all the information I want, or be fully comfortable inside my gut. At some point you’ve got to make a call and allow your instincts to lead you forward.

The best-kept secret in the decision process is the freeing feeling of moving forward. And from that point you can be assured there will be another decision should the first not turn out as you planned. And this, we learn, is the first step in truly moving forward.

And it all starts with learning to say either “yes or no.”

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