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The Power of Being Decisive: Why Going For It Always Makes Sense

By Michael Zipursky


When has over-thinking a decision worked out well for you? A research report published by Psychological Science called “When High-Powered People Fail” suggests that overthinking a decision and being indecisive does more harm than good and actually reduces your productivity.

Each time you go to make a decision and back away from it (and repeat this process over and over) it takes a toll on you. Your mind gets tired and then your body follows.

This is interesting because we tend to know what we want initially. We can feel that something is right, that we know the correct decision, but then all of a sudden we create reasons to doubt ourselves.

“What if we make the wrong decision?”

“What will people think of me?”

“Is that really the best?”

“Maybe I can find a better deal somewhere else?”

These are just a few of the questions we tend to ask ourselves that lead to indecision and a feeling of overwhelm.

Indecision Creates Fatigue

A study by the National Academy of Science demonstrated that the more decisions we face, and as a result the more indecisive we are, the more likely we are to feel tired and overwhelmed.

Each time you go to make a decision and back away from it (and repeat this process over and over) it takes a toll on you. Your mind gets tired and then your body follows.

Which Type Are You?

There are two types of people when it comes to making decisions:

Maximizers – the maximizer wants to make the optimal decision. They want things to be perfect. For all the signs and stars to line up. Even when they find an answer or solution to their problem, they hold off making a decision. Instead, they want to see all the possible options that exist before committing.

Satisficers – termed by the economist Herbert Simon in 1956, Satisficers refers to people who take action and make a decision once they find what they want. They set a criteria that they want to see, and as soon as the solution they find meets those criteria they move forward and make their decision. They don’t second guess. They don’t need to see all of the possible options. They seek, they find, they act.

It’s Costing You More Than You Think

There’s a cost to not making a decision.

What many people don’t consider is the price they pay by being indecisive. I’ve witnessed hundreds of consultants who know what they need help with. They’ve identified their problem. It might be a lack of marketing skills, not knowing how to structure and write winning proposals or numerous other areas in their business. They will seek out one resource, then another, and then yet another. They feel like they are making progress by gathering information, but they never make a decision.

The decisive person always has the edge. In the time it takes an indecisive person to analyze every option available, the decisive person has made a decision, acted on it and made an adjustment if needed. They are ahead.

They don’t take action. And that lack of action is what’s holding them back.

In fact, a study of over 500 millionaires found that they all had one thing in common. They were decisive. The author of this study was none other than Napoleon Hill. In his classic Think and Grow Rich, Hill said “Analysis of several hundred people who had accumulated fortunes well beyond the million dollar mark disclosed the fact that every one of them had the habit of reaching decisions promptly.” This was in 1936, a million dollars back then is worth a whole lot more now!

Aiming Straight At Your Business

The other danger of being indecisive is that while you’re spending time considering ALL the options and overthinking a decision, your competitor has made their decision and is already making progress.

Success comes from taking action, not thinking about what to do.

The decisive person always has the edge. In the time it takes an indecisive person to analyze every option available, the decisive person has made a decision, acted on it and made an adjustment if needed. They are ahead.

Secret Powers of Achievers

It’s like a “secret” power yet without it really being a secret. Being confident enough to make a decision without knowing that it’s going to be 100% correct takes guts.

But the “secret” is that even if you make the wrong decision you can always make a change. In the startup world it’s call a “pivot.” Few companies started with the one idea that made them successful. They reached success by taking action, learning what works and what doesn’t, and pivoting based on that knowledge.

The more action you take the more feedback you get from the marketplace. The result is that you are able to continue fine-tuning your approach so it gets better and better.

If you’re the ‘maximizer’ overthinking the decision you’re not going to get very far, let alone get out of the gate.

Trust Me, It Hurts

I was indecisive. Before I started working with coaches and mentors I pushed away the idea. Which is strange, because as a kid my whole life was about sports.

I made the all-star team in baseball and had a coach. Track and field championships – I had a coach. I was the captain for our city champion Rugby team and we had a coach.

Yet when it came to my own business I held off. I didn’t want to spend the money. That was a big mistake and looking back I should have started working with coaches and mentors a lot earlier. Why? Because after hiring my first coach our business grew by 50%. Our next coach helped us grow the business an additional 300%.

In some areas I was more decisive. About 10 years ago my cousin Sam and I started an online business on the side. We went about it all wrong.

We invested $15,000 to build a website application that we didn’t actually know if people wanted. Turns out they didn’t.

We realized this pretty quickly after we’d made the investment. I was faced with two choices and I had to make them quickly.

Either we abandon ship and call it quits. Or we adjust our strategy and market and use what we can from our web app.

I wasn’t about to give up. I never do. It’s probably one of the greatest traits I have from my competitive nature that’s stuck with me since my childhood sportsman days.

So we pivoted. Made a huge overhaul, invested more into the business idea and turned it into a real business that consistently generates tens of thousands of dollars each and every month, and has for years.

What’s Your Choice?

So what can you do about all of this? How can you become more decisive and make good decisions? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Stop information gathering. “Information is power” is an often quoted phrase. While there is truth to it, too much information can hurt you. If you’re spending too much time consuming information, thinking and planning, it means you’re spending less time doing. If you’re subscribed to a lot of newsletters and get pinged with emails all day long, I suggest you unsubscribe from the ones that aren’t making a meaningful difference in your life. Trust me, you’ll feel a lot more focused without all the noise.

2. Perfection is a state of mind. People who have perfectionist tendencies always want things to be just right before making a decision and moving forward. To highlight this consider the consultant who wants to grow their business. They hold off marketing their business or getting the help they need because they believe that they first require a fancy website or marketing materials. Or they tell themselves that they’ll make an investment in their business, by using a contractor or hiring a coach once their revenue gets to the next level, or once they move to a new location, or when the stars align in the shape of a square. Don’t wait for the perfect time. It doesn’t exist. When you know what you need to do, go and do it. If you’re waiting for perfection and for the stars to align, you’ll be waiting a long time.

Taking no action only does one thing, it leaves you where you currently are.

3. Set your decision-making criteria. Ask yourself what you need to know in order to make a decision? As soon as you have met that criteria decide. Don’t overthink it. Don’t create new criteria and don’t wiggle away. If you’re evaluating a CRM platform for your business, sit down and make a note of what features you need. Look at the options, ask friends and colleagues, and as soon as you find a CRM service that meets your criteria sign up. Sure, there might be others out there that are better. Maybe cheaper. But waiting and spending more time to search for them costs you – in many ways. It leaves you without the CRM that you ultimately wanted.

Remember, some progress is better than no progress.

4. Create a habit. Commit for the next 30 days to be decisive. It might hurt. It might make you feel very uncomfortable. By the end of those 30 days you’ll have established a habit and have become a more decisive person. Don’t overthink spending a bit more money, or wonder what happens if you make the wrong choice. There is always time and opportunity to adjust and improve.

So my friend, now you have a choice. Will you become decisive, take action and move forward? Or will you let indecision leave you exactly where you are?

6 thoughts on “The Power of Being Decisive: Why Going For It Always Makes Sense

  1. Lee Werrell says:

    Good piece and very accurate. Many years ago I was introduced to an explanation about making decisions that I have held true ever since, and it has put me in good stead.
    It was explained that life (business or personal) is like walking down a corridor or passageway (similar to an old computer adventure game). At the end of the corridor is a landing where there are many doors and a pile of information about your next decision.
    You have to sort out the items to your priorities and that opens the next door. Once you have entered into the doorway the door disappears (i.e. there is no going back). You have made your decision and you have to live with it (until the next landing).
    No two landings can or will ever be the same.

  2. Lanre Adetunji says:

    Thank you for this exact piece. This issue of decisiveness has been one I have been dealing with the past few weeks. Your article is just like timely practical guide to overcoming indecision.

    Thanks again.

  3. Rose Wangari says:

    This is what I just needed to move forward. I have resolved to become decisive, take action and move forward. Am a start-up PR Consultant and have been holding from making progress in my business because I don’t have a fancy Website yet and enough marketing materials. For almost five months now, I have allowed indecision and a perfectionist attitude leave me exactly where I was.Thanks so much for this article.

    • You’re welcome Rose. It’s YOUR time, time to take action! You can do it 🙂

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