You’ve probably spent hours deliberating options without making a decision. Sometimes it’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole and turn a simple selection into a complex problem. However, you can avoid becoming frozen by chronic indecision. Take command of the inability to tip the scale and stop perpetually arguing both sides. This behavior of overthinking into a frozen state is known as analysis paralysis. Leaders are decisive in their decisions and move forward with conviction. When you procrastinate, uncertainty becomes a decision not to act, which might be more detrimental than a poor decision.
Anna Wintour has credited her ability to climb the ranks at Conde Nast to her decisiveness. It is one of her most prominent skills, which led her to be the Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue for over 25 years. Her resolution is contagious, as she puts it, “I learned how important it is to lead and be decisive and to, in a way, empower other people to do their best.”
While it can be challenging to decide, there are ways to hone your decision-making skills and become the leader you know you can be.
Why can’t you decide?
You may wonder why you are obsessively analyzing options. Maybe you hold an idea of perfection in your mind that sets a bar for unreasonable standards. You could be putting unnecessary pressure on yourself to make the right choice, allowing fear of mistake or regret to deny any progress towards a decision. There could be an underlying cause of indecision rooted in past trauma or a lack of confidence triggering self-doubt. You may worry about what others will think. Perhaps you hold a memory of a disagreeable circumstance where a choice you made led to undesirable outcomes. Whatever the reason, you can overcome it with willpower. Trust in your intention and feel good about making a choice based on the tools and resources you have available to you at the time. We only have control over ourselves; everything else is up to infinite factors outside of us.
Here are some tips to improve your decisiveness:
Aim to set deadlines for decisions and stick to them. Hold yourself accountable by telling someone else about your prospective date of completion. This person could be a friend, family member, life coach, boss, or coworker. Set limits for your research because there will always be more to know. Don’t allow yourself to gather all information obsessively. You could schedule a time to think about the decision daily. That way, you are not allowing it to consume your mind 24 hours a day. Filling your mental capacity with deliberation takes away your ability to devote energy and time to other tasks that deserve your attention.
Verify the significance
Not all choices carry heavy consequences. Try stepping back from the scenario for a second.
Ask yourself if it is a life-changing dilemma or not. Do not allow time to muse over decisions that do not hold power for significant outcomes (i.e., they don’t matter in the grand scheme of things). In most cases, things that seem monumental now really do not matter so much in the end.
Prevent a dilemma
Establish clear options among which you can choose. Realize that two choices are a dilemma, and they weigh you down. The biggest challenge with a dilemma is that it paradoxically creates no obvious choice. The best way to solve a dilemma is to force yourself to discover a third option. Think outside the box, ask a friend or colleague for their perspective, ask Google and Reddit if you struggle to find a third viable option. Often, the third option for which you went digging becomes the best choice.
Be clear on options
List your options and understand what separates them from each other. Understand what criteria would make the optimal choice. Identify your deal-breakers, your must-haves, and your nice-to-haves. If you are honest about these, you gain clarity. It is easy to get swept away by all sorts of images and ideas, but without a clear understanding of what your ideal outcome and experience is, it will be difficult to make a decision.
Find flaws in the options
Getting excited about an option can create a cognitive bias towards that option. Rather than going back and forth thinking about all the things you like about each option, use heavier discernment, and focus on the flaws of each. It will be easier to weigh which negative quality you are least likely to settle on. If you write both positive and negative outcomes, look at the list with the most negatives and eliminate the selection without a second thought. Be logical with the method; emotions and biases complicate the choice.
Accept and get out of your loop
Now that you have selected the best choice, it is time to move forward with conviction. If you can’t accept this, make a plan. The organization of the following steps can make the decision a reality for you. Accept that you are having difficulty with it but do not give in to the pull of the indecision thought loop. When you make a choice, you must sacrifice the other options. Opportunity cost is a struggle all leaders must face. Let go of all other options as though they do not exist. Leaders do not ruminate over “what if I had chosen differently” later on. All this does is waste your precious resources of time and energy. If you constantly struggle with letting go, consider taking a breathwork class.
The bottom line
While it is challenging to decide, there are ways to hone your decision-making skills and become the leader you know you can be. It causes anxiety when you cannot come to a consensus over an issue. The world of doubt can keep you trapped in a continuous loop. This chronic mental process wastes precious time, and it can happen just as much with minor decisions as it can with major ones. To a certain extent, healthy debate and analysis are good practices. They help you make educated choices and decisions. The key is to control the lower mind and exercise willpower to refrain from entertaining indecisive behavior. As hard as it may seem, you’ll get through it. Let go of fear and trust your instincts. Look at past mistakes and see what you learned from them. The best way to move forward is to learn from what happened before. Every decision tells you a little more about yourself.