What Kind of Decision-Maker Are You?
I believe in living a life of no regrets. That means taking action to do the things you want to do without worrying about what everyone else thinks or does. Living life by your own yardstick and not holding yourself back.
Doing that requires making conscious decisions followed by taking action.
But for many of us, it’s not so easy.
When a decision isn’t a decision
My friend Dan Brooks, Emeritus Professor of ASU, is an expert in decision-making. He defines decisions as “the irrevocable commitment of resources”.
Said another way, if you haven’t taken action, then it wasn’t a decision.
Like saying, “I’ve decided to go on a diet” or “I’ve decided to quit my job”. In Professor Brooks’ world, it’s just a bunch of words until you start eating differently or hand in your resignation letter.
So it goes like this:
Step 1: Consider
Step 2: Decide & Act
Where many of us fall down is that we think of “decide” and “act” as two separate steps. So it looks more like this:
Step 1: Consider
Step 2: Decide
Step 3: Act
Then we take it a step further to create a space between deciding and acting. That’s the alluring period where we achievers like to revisit, review and pressure test the decision to make sure it’s right. After all, hasn’t caution paid off handsomely for most of our high-achieving careers?
Step 1: Consider
Step 2: Decide ↔ Revisit
Step 3: Act
The trouble is it’s tempting to stay in this deciding stage because it’s the step before making an irrevocable commitment. We’re extending the length of time where we still have a choice.
It can happen to the best of us
I came across an example of just this just the other day. My parents had just put a down payment on an apartment in a retirement community and called to tell me the big news.
About halfway through the conversation, I realized my mother was still debating whether it was a good idea. Was it too expensive? Did they really need it? Was this the right time?
“Why are you even wondering about this, Mom? I thought it was a done deal.”
Turns out the down payment is still fully refundable for another 30 days. No irrevocable action has taken place!
That’s when I realized my mother was doing exactly what I tend to do after “making a decision”: continue to evaluate, worry and even obsess about all the “what ifs” until I reverse my decision or things move forward because it’s too late to change my mind.
The irony is, when I pull back it’s because I fear I’ll regret having said or done the thing, mostly because how others might judge me. But in the end, it doesn’t matter who judges anybody because the only person you really have to answer to is yourself.
Two kinds of decision-makers
I’ve come to see that there are two kinds of decision-makers in the world.
Type 1 are those who make a decision and move on. My father is one of these fortunate (or do I mean talented?) people who acts without worrying or obsessing.
Type 2 are the people who make a decision but then revisit it dozens of times. Sometimes it leads to changing your mind and that can lead to regret. Other times, you stay the course and follow through but only after wasting a lot of time and emotional energy.
Up until recently, I’ve been firmly in the second camp and apparently so is my mother.
Why being a Type 2 decision-maker is bad for you
If you’re also a Type 2 decision-maker, you’re in great company. But it’s hardly a badge of honor because it makes life so much harder.
From a personal standpoint, it’s exhausting. The emotional wear and tear can really drain you of precious time and energy when you could be enjoying your life.
From a career perspective, being a Type 2 decision-maker can be a showstopper. As a leader, you’re expected to make good decisions and act on them. If you can’t do that, your career will end up going sideways.
And whether it’s at work or at home, the 80/20 rule still holds true. Most of the time you’ll be better off getting it 80% right and saving time rather than getting it perfect but spending loads of time agonizing about it.
As American General George S. Patton said, “a good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” While I’d prefer the word vigorously instead of violently, the General was certainly someone to “decide and move on”.
Don’t worry if you’re a Type 2 decision-maker too. You can change and next week I’ll tell you how.
Now I’d love to hear from you.
What was one thing you recently found difficult to decide and take action on? And why did you find it so difficult?
Leave a comment and let me know.
Great topic, May. I have spent too much of my life as a Type 2, but occasionally I had the clarity and confidence to be a Type 1 and make a decision and move on. It is so much more refreshing not to spend a lot of time second guessing every decision! I’m looking forward to next week’s post from you!
It’s great that you have some Type 1 decision-making under your belt, Marty. Now it’s just a question of shifting the mix to spend more time in that zone!
I look forward to hearing what you think of the next blog post…
I have to say May I am a type 2. It may be because I am a Libran who likes balance. I prefer to keep the peace rather than have conflict. Great post May. I WILL be more affirmative in my DECISION-MAKING from now on.
I hear those Librans can be some great decision makers!
I’m sure your affirmative decision-making will pay off.
I can definitely say that I am a type 2. I have been contemplating the decision of pursuing a Masters degree from a business program (Thunderbird School) that is outside of my current field in Exercise and Wellness. Your insight have been very helpful in helping me bwcome more assertive in my decision making and to learn to not worry what others may think. Thank you!
That’s awesome, Frank! Being assertive on your own behalf builds confidence. And most good things come from having that bedrock of confidence.
As someone once said to me, “Give yourself permission to go for it, all of it”, whatever that “it“ is for you.
May you live a life filled with joy and prosperity… and, especially, a life of no regrets.
Eek! I definitely needed to read this to see exactly what I WILL stop doing! Thank you, May!!!
You are welcome, Miriam!
I can’t wait to hear what you start doing differently. Taking action is the key.
Only just getting to this blog tonight May, but it was a really great read. I know which things I have been a type 1 and which things in my life I have been a type 2. I want to be a type 1 go forward as you recommend.
To answer your question about a recent decision, I have been asked to accept a somewhat personal commitment within our community, but trouble is I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by it and have stayed on the fence. It is a volunteer thing with our church, which at my age it is certainly time to give back to an institution which has helped me. I am looking to live by a yard stick mentality but do take point in the use of irrevocable resources in my next move for employment. If I move away for work there will be other volunteers and I can revisit in the future, so right now I plan to simply receive job offers and then decide and act.
Glad this blog post resonated with you, Joseph.
Awareness is the key to making the changes you want to make, so it’s great that you know when you’re a Type 1 vs Type 2 decision-maker.
I like the way you’ve made a Type 1 decision to “simply receive job offers and then decide and act.”
Wishing you a joyful journey!