As a child I was impossibly stubborn. There was a day in Kindergarten where our class went to the airport and they were taking all the kids up for a ride in a tiny four-seater plane. And I decided that there was absolutely no way I was getting in that thing. While I remember the day so clearly, I have zero recollection of my rationale behind not wanting to fly. However I do recall my unflinching tenacity in sticking with my decision: I refused to get in the plane, no matter how much cajoling my teachers did, not even when they told me I could have the coveted front seat. I even remember feeling my hold beginning to soften with that one, maybe it would be worth it, since everyone was going to so much trouble to tell me how great it would be, and I could even have the best seat! But NO. I had decided I wasn’t doing it, and nobody was going to change my mind. I never got in the plane.
Fast forward 30 years and I retain very few of the qualities that stubborn and unsmiling child embodied. For better or for worse, I’ve grown up, and I’m no longer as impossibly stubborn as I used to be. In fact, I often find myself being far too flexible, and my decision-making skills are rather insubstantial – I can be coerced into almost anything by anyone charming and persistent enough to try.
While I don’t believe pig-headed stubbornness is a valuable life skill, I do think that decision-making should be simple, definitive, and not lead to sleepless, anxiety filled nights.
A friend recently lent me some books, including “You Are A Badass” by Jen Sincero. I really didn’t think there would be anything new or exciting for me in this book, since I’ve read everything I can get my hands on by amazingly insightful authors such as Brené Brown, Danielle LaPorte, Pam Grout, and dozens of others. To my delight I found this book to be a fantastic amalgamation of many ideas and tenets I’ve been embracing. There’s a wicked little chapter called “The Almighty Decision,” which I think really hits the nail on the head.
So often, we pretend we’ve made a decision, when what we’ve really done is signed up to try until it gets too uncomfortable.
I TOTALLY DO THAT. I sit on the fence for ages. I ask people on both sides how the grass is. I reach over and wriggle my toes around to see how it feels. Eventually I’ll climb down onto one side, but rarely do I let go of the fence, I keep my hand on that wooden post just in case I see something exciting happening on that other side and need to scramble back over. Sure, sometimes I get enjoyment from both worlds, but most of the time I miss out on the best that either side has to offer because I’m holding too damn tightly to the fence to go out and enjoy frolicking in the meadow.
“I’m a terrible decision maker.” “Making decisions gives me anxiety.” I’ve said both of these things, frequently and repeatedly. It’s time to stop. It’s time to start saying, “I’m a great decision maker!” It’s time for me to actually BE a great decision maker.
I wrote about making the decision to quit my favourite job. How that moment was crystal clear and it was the only time I felt 100% confident that it was what I both needed and wanted to do. It would be amazing if every decision came with that amount of clarity, but it doesn’t, and I need to be able to make quick, decisive choices even when the answer doesn’t come ringing.
This is where we turn back to Jen Sincero, who talks about signing up fully, wanting it badly enough, and, as Winston Churchill said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Yep, ok, cool. Then she gets to the good stuff, the How To’s:
In order to do this you need to have the audacity to be honest about what you really want to do, not what you should do, believe it’s available to you regardless of any evidence otherwise, and go for it.
To decide means literally “to cut off.” No wonder so many people are totally freaked out by it! Indecision is one of the most popular tricks for staying stuck within the boundaries of what’s safe and familiar. Which is why a common trait of successful people is that they make decisions quickly and change them slowly. And by quickly I don’t mean that you must know exactly what to do the moment a decision presents itself (although there are those people who do), but rather that you immediately face the damn thing and start working through your decision-making process, whatever that may look like.
If you’re a waffler, or prefer to avoid the process altogether, a great thing to do is practice on the little things to build up your decision-making muscle. When eating at restaurants, make yourself pick something off the menu in under thirty seconds. Once you choose, you are unauthorized to change your mind or your order. Give yourself twenty minutes to go online and research the best garlic press and then make the purchase.
Decisions are not up for negotiation
The whole point of deciding is to stop wasting time and to move forward, NOT to spend time figuring out how you can wiggle out of your decision! It helped me to think of it this way: I’m not going to go home and negotiate about whether or not I’m going to smoke a cigarette just as I’m not going to go home and negotiate about whether or not to snort some horse tranquilizers. I don’t negotiate about snorting horse tranquilizers because I’m not a horse-tranquilizer snorter. Now that I don’t smoke, I’m not going to negotiate about smoking because I don’t smoke.
Whenever I asked all these hugely successful business owners what the secret to their success was, the overwhelming majority answered: Tenacity. Be the last person standing. Wear down your obstacles and excuses and fears and doubts..
GENIUS!!!!!! I never would have thought that you can practice things like being a better decision maker, but it absolutely makes sense.
She also gives an analogy of how birthing your dreams is like giving birth, and it’s pretty spot on. The entire book is worth a read. You can check her out at www.jensincero.com
As for me, I’ve learned that making definitive decisions brings peace and confidence. I’ve also learned that I can get better at making decisions. I no longer tell myself – or others – that I’m a rotten decision-maker. I don’t even tell myself what kind of person I want to be, I just try to be that person.
So when I’m feeling bored and snacky at work, and I’m tempted to sneak a few French fries from the greasy bowl under the heat lamp, I tell myself, “I’m not the kind of person who eats French fries at midnight.”
I think it’s important to remember that being a great decision-maker doesn’t mean you’re ever wrong, or that you never change your mind, it simply means that mistakes are merely learning opportunities, and that if a decision doesn’t feel right any more you give yourself permission to make a different decision.
Get out there and make some life-changing decisions, my friends!!