Imagine this: Life is a jungle, and you are hacking through the underbrush with a machete. Danger and opportunity all around you and each path leads to a distinct destination, full of its own pitfalls and treasures.
Are you going to sit down in the grass and make a spreadsheet of every mathematically possible scenario while the mosquitoes eat you alive? NO!
There are jaguars in those trees, just waiting for nightfall girl. You’re gonna pick up your machete and be on your way to your destination. And when you arrive safe and sound, it will be your swift decision making that brought you the distance.
We are constantly making decisions.
Yes or no? This or that? Left or right? Our brains are always eliminating options so that we get where we are going efficiently. We want to feel that we are making good choices. Most importantly, we want our decisions to save us time.
A mentor of mine once put it this way:
If we accept that time = money… then we have the money value of money, the money value of time, and the time value of time. Of those three, the “time value of time” is by far the most important. Money can be made or lost overnight. It can be grown exponentially. But time remains continuously moving forward, and it is our most precious commodity. Making swift, thoughtful, and committed decisions will save you time. Once you accept that you cannot control everything, you will start making more deliberate choices; and be more able to take advantage of opportunities. This will yield untold benefits in your life.
Why do we fail to make decisions sometimes? It seems that occasionally the emotional weight of a decision is so great that we become paralyzed into inaction. Ironically, the moments when fate calls upon us to act with strength cause us to freeze. Psychologists call this “reactive immobility,” and it’s part of our “fight or flight” circuitry, a holdover from our evolutionary development. Like many of our trauma-induced nervous system responses, our body attempts to protect itself but sometimes makes life harder for us.
We are not in mortal danger, but our brain doesn’t know the difference. Training your nervous system to work for you and not against you requires deliberate action. You’ve got to train yourself to make decisions without equivocation.
Here are a few bits of wisdom that can help along the way:
- 1) Map out why, how, and what. Before you set out to achieve a task, first be specific about what you want, why you want it, and how you will go about achieving it. Success comes with strategy.
- 2) Avoid the status quo. Following a trend may feel like the safe thing to do, but it is, in fact, a dangerous game. Robbing yourself of your own originality, emulating what is already popular, is the only way to guarantee mediocre results. The genuinely brilliant ideas are the ones no one else has thought of, but you feel in your gut.
- 3) Let go of the “Must Be Perfect” mindset: The perfectionist in all of us wants to avoid risk, avoid failure, but will guarantee failure through inaction. Sometimes you just got to say good enough and walk away to allow the universe to take its course.
- 4) Set your long-term vision. You will never know what the specifics Will bring about your success, but if you have a clear idea of what the achievement of your goals will feel like, it will help you get through the hard parts.
No decision is risk-free.
Being decisive does not mean making hasty decisions. Time is precious, but you aren’t in a rush. If you can carry that seemingly contradictory idea in your head, you will be poised to succeed. Presence of mind is what life requires. Rushing helps no one. It inspires carelessness and thus invites more risk into your life. Being decisive will not eliminate risk altogether, but it will eliminate the risk of unfulfilled potential. Every path you take will necessarily exclude other possible ways. But if you can embrace this fact, you will be more satisfied with the path you take. You will eliminate options that are not meant for you and avoid wasting your time on pursuits that will sap your energy. Human energy, or motivation, is also a finite resource. You must set deliberate goals and plans of action into motion in order to maximize your own personal momentum and motivation. As Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” So take a step forward. Life is a game, and you only get so many runs around the board, so roll the dice.
Would you consider yourself decisive? Share in the comments.