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The High Cost of Indecision and how to Avoid it.

David Hayden Photography

Choices, we can’t live with them . . . We can’t live without them!

We all make choices, every day, all day. Some are simple, some are life changing, some complex and some barely worth the time spent, or any combination thereof.

Our lives, in this very moment, are a direct result of the choices we did or didn’t make, it can be a crap shoot.

You all remember Marcus Tullius Cicero right? The Roman statesman and philosopher who lived from 106-43 BC. Well, he is credited with saying “More is lost from indecision than from the wrong decision.”

His thinking is spot on. What happens when we don’t decide?

1. When we don’t decide we don’t act. We can miss opportunities or bring about unintended consequences. Have you ever ignored a worn tire only to find yourself perilously stranded on the side of a busy highway? Or maybe you missed a great attraction because you couldn’t decide to take a side road.

2. Indecision is fraught with anxiety. That’s why we don’t decide in the first place. We get lost in the land of “what if.” What if I’m wrong? What if it’s not a good value? What if they don’t like me?

The anxiety doesn’t end there does it?

We get lost wondering about the opportunities we might have missed. The dangers we could have avoided if we had just decided. We freeze, can’t move on, get stuck.

Here is the thing, and intuitively we know it when we’re not wrapped up in fear, if we make the wrong decision, it’s a learning experience. We move on. And if we make the right decision, we are pleased and we move on. Granted, the outcomes of some decisions are more costly or meaningful than others.

So maybe you are deciding on whether to drink chai tea or just water. Who cares, make a decision and make the best of your choice. The time spent deciding is far more valuable than the outcome from either decision.

What drives indecision? Fear. How can we deal with fear?

  • Ask ourselves – What’s the worst that can happen if we choose X, Y or nothing?

  • If the stakes are high, gather as much pertinent and quality information as possible.

  • Is timing a critical factor? Sometimes when pressured to make decisions in a hurry it’s because the offer is being made is not legit and someone does not want us to gather more information. Other times, time itself is the problem. If we don’t turn immediately, we’ll miss the world’s largest ball of string? Maybe your favorite photographer’s schedule is filling fast and an opportunity for stunning photography is slipping away. (Notice how I slipped in that shameless plug).

  • We don’t trust our judgement or intuition. All of us have made bad decisions in the past and if it was significant, we may have lost faith in ourselves. So, we should gather the best information we can, investigate the risk and decide.

I taught a Junior Achievement class for a while and in one class there was a big discussion about selling t-shirt. The class was split, worried, confused and heading out to left field. So, I stopped the discussion and asked them. What is your group’s mission?

When we have personal goals, and personal mission statements, that alone can give us direction. We can ask ourselves, “which probable outcome from these choices (X/Y/non-decision) will take us closer to our goal or be most consistent with our personal mission?”

In the case of the Junior Achievement students, their mission was to make as much money as possible having fun selling t-shirts. Their point of contention was whether to do direct hardcore selling. They evaluated their mission and decided fun was a key component. The type of selling they were contemplating did not seem fun to any of the students. As a result, they made the decision to avoid hardcore selling and find fun ways to sell. They did very well because they enjoyed their little company and because they had fun their market responded and bought t-shirts. Being able to decide proved more profitable than the stress and inaction that would have resulted from indecision.

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