How to Be More Decisive
If you find yourself reviewing and revisiting decisions you’ve already made before taking action, then welcome to the club.
More than likely, this means you’re a high achiever who rarely makes a wrong step. After all, who can blame you for wanting to keep the track record going?
It also means you’re likely to be what I think of as a “Type 2” decision-maker: someone who keeps revisiting and agonizing over a decision already made rather than moving forward to take action.
But as Groucho Marx once said, “I don’t want to be a member of any club that will have me as a member.” And the Type 2 decision-maker club is one that is not worth being part of.
While you’d be in good company, it’s emotionally draining and possibly a showstopper if you want to progress to senior levels in your career.
Instead, life gets so much better once you become a Type 1 decision-maker: someone who decides and moves on without all that reviewing, revisiting and doubt.
4 steps to becoming more decisive
For the past six months, I’ve been working on becoming a Type 1 decision-maker. I just can’t stand the mental and emotional churn that comes with all that reviewing and revisiting anymore. Like wasting an extra day agonizing over a business proposal I had already signed off on, and then missing my client before she went away on vacation. Aargh!
But as my friend Professor Dan Brooks (the decision-making expert from Arizona State University) would point out, saying “I’ve decided to change” is not quite the same as actually changing!
If you’d like to join me in becoming a better leader and having a happier life, here are the four steps I’m taking to get better at being more decisive.
The first and most important step is to notice when you’re falling back into the familiar pattern of revisiting your decision.
Once you start noticing and catch yourself in the act, you can interrupt the pattern. That’s when I take a deep breath, remind myself that I’ve looked at all the angles already, and take an action instead. Preferably one that’s irrevocable!
As with most habits, you can’t think your way into making a change. You have to take action and practice. I started with small things like deciding what to order at a restaurant or which outfit to wear for a meeting.
Choosing low stakes decisions makes it easier to make the move from decision to action. If you get it wrong, it’s not the end of the world. As a dinner companion once said as I agonized over a menu choice, “May, you will eat again.”
Once I make a decision and take action without revisiting, I give myself two kinds of positive reinforcement. First, a mini “high five” and a “good job, May!” (yes, I even say that out loud).
Second, I reflect on the result and note that it really didn’t make much of a difference to the outcome, but I feel so much lighter and happier without the worry and agonizing. Allowing myself to feel that lightness makes me want to experience it again.
4. Enlist others
When it comes to noticing, practicing and reinforcing your new habit, it’s helpful to find an accountability partner. This could be someone else who’s working on the same issue, or a trusted person you share your goal with.
They can help catch you when you’re revisiting decisions you’ve already made (“Wait. Didn’t you already decide on X?”). They can help you find opportunities to practice. Plus, they can also help reinforce your wins with a real high five!
Live your life without regrets
In the end, there’s no magic wand. You’ll have to do the work and keep doing the work. After several months of working on being more decisive, I’m starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. That it’s possible to have this become my default approach to decision-making.
In the meantime, I’m taking lots of small steps because they all add up. The key is to not get discouraged. Just keep going.
Someone once told me that a big part of the CEO’s job is to make decisions. Given how much I struggled with deciding and moving on, for a long time I thought I wasn’t cut out to be the CEO. Ironically, now I am one.
Frankly, you are too. You are the CEO of your career and your life. So why not be the best leader and decision-maker you can be? Your employees (that’s you too!) deserve it.
The prize is totally worth it. Imagine living an easier, happier life – one without regrets. It’s going to be awesome.
Whether it’s catching yourself in the act of reviewing and revisiting a decision, practicing being decisive in low stakes situations, or giving yourself a high five when you’ve successfully decided and moved on, go on and take a step. I’m rooting for you!
Now, I’d love to hear from you.
What decision have you been reviewing and revisiting, and how will you apply these four steps so you can finally move on?
Leave me a comment and let me know.