Every day during the regular course of our lives we make hundreds of decisions. I was thinking about this other day when someone I had been talking to that morning was all twisted in knots over what I honestly thought was a pretty minor decision so I said to him that just treat it like any other decision and move on.
It got me thinking about the plethora of decisions we make and it is seriously an astronomical number. I traced back a half an hour of time that morning and worked out that I’d made probably 100 decisions that I could remember.
Most of the decisions we make are autonomic decisions – they’re involuntary and we make them unconsciously. For example, in the half-hour sample I thought about, I went to the bathroom. That one small task was littered with decisions – “Do I need to use the loo? Yes, I do. Should I go to the loo now? Yes, I will. Which path will I take to get there – left around the comms room or go right?”
I could go on but then we’d be talking a bit too much about my toilet time and that might be a bit uncool. Needless to say, that one trip to the loo probably resulted in about 30 micro decisions. They were all largely autonomic decisions.
Beyond that though, we make dozens of larger, more impactful conscious decisions all the time as well. During that same half an hour sample, I decided to reach out to a client to discuss a potential project. Before I picked up the phone I had decided that it would be in my best interest to call this person, I had worked out what I wanted to talk about and I had concluded that if I couldn’t get him on the phone, I’d send him an email to touch base.
These decisions we make, both autonomically and consciously add up over the course of a day to an absolutely astronomical number. When you think about it, this really demonstrates just how unbelievable your necktop computer actually is.
So what fascinates me to no end is how sometimes people can get entirely hung up on one solitary decision and basically paralyze themselves into a state of inactivity.
I will say, unequivocally that this almost never happens to me. I qualified that statement with “almost never” because I seriously can’t remember a situation where I did get all locked up and unable to decide something, but I’m sure it probably has happened more than once. But generally speaking, I never allow myself to be indecisive.
The reason is simple, I just don’t sweat the small stuff. There are very few life or death decisions that we make. The overwhelming, vast majority of “serious” decisions that we make are largely insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I did read Sartre today and I’m not trying to be some kind of weird Existentialist, but the fact of the matter is that pretty much every “big decision” is kind of small in the context of your life.
Let me give you an example of this recently. I had someone contact me about joining my coaching program last week, but they were unsure about whether or not it was right for them or if they were ready for themselves to take that step. In my coaching, I often deal with people who are just starting out or who have some confidence issues, so a certain level of indecisiveness is par for the course.
At this point, I said to this lady, “Ok, maybe what we should do is start with one of my Express Coaching sessions – half hour, you tell me where you’ve been, where you’re at and where you want to go and it costs $150, no commitment.”
She hesitated again and made a bunch of weird excuses while also saying how much she wanted to proceed. I knew the issue wasn’t money, she had confidence in me and she had a few problems in her business I knew I could help her with. She was just utterly unable to make a decision.
The problem you have in a situation like this is that your indecisiveness is just holding you back. The honest truth is that $150 is a low barrier to entry to see if something is going to help you or not especially when you know you need the help. Of course, I can’t say that to her because I’d look like Douchey McDoucheFace applying pressure sales tactics on her, so I simply said, “Look, why don’t you go away and think about it and you can email me when you know what you want to do either way.”
A couple days later she sends me an email saying she’s still trying to figure out her next step and she’s really stressed out thinking about it. I emailed her back and told her not to stress, just make a decision and go with it.
I appreciate that when you’re starting out in business or you’re stuck, you feel like every decision is critical, but I can honestly say, that’s just not the case. You can make a dozen bad decisions in a row and there’s almost always a way back – it might hurt, it may take time, but almost everything is fixable.
The one thing I tell people all the time and it’s something I hope you take this away and remember it, “When you make a decision, something good might happen or something bad might happen, but when you can’t make a decision, nothing happens.”
Business is about making things happen, so make a decision and move forward!