Have you ever had a tough decision to make? If you’re anything like me you were probably flip flopping back and forth all day, trying to get some more information, and generally being really STRESSED OUT. Finally, your brain just gave up and creatively came up with a way to distract you, by filling your day with little tasks…check your email, read some articles, make some calls, etc.
I call this “creative avoidance” (I don’t think I came up with this, but I can’t remember where I saw it first). The stress of making this important decision is painful, and since our minds are designed to avoid pain, it will “invent” small easy tasks to fill your time.
The problem with tough decisions and creative avoidance is that they can be huge time wasters. The decision causing you all that stress is typically the most important thing you need to get done that day, but it’s also the only thing you aren’t making progress on!
About a year ago I was starting a new company. I had made lots of progress by incorporating, developing the product, deciding on a name, and plenty of other things, but I just couldn’t decide on a logo. I had hired someone to make some sketches, but none of them came back great. Then I designed a bunch on my own, but none of them looked quite right. Finally, I had a few of my graphic artist friends put together some sketches, and still nothing was jumping out at me as being perfect!
As I sat there with all these sketches in front of me (actually they were thumbnails on my computer), I just couldn’t make a decision. I narrowed it down to about 5 designs, and asked the opinion of some friends. Their comments varied so much that there wasn’t a clear winner. This was starting to really stress me out, and my creative avoidance kicked in! I tried working on other things like the website, press releases, and the final revisions to the product, but everywhere I turned the logo was holding me back. I couldn’t launch the website without a logo, I couldn’t send out a press release without a logo, and I couldn’t engrave the product with my logo!
I realized one day that this logo decision was holding back my entire progress and I’d probably spent far too much time on it already. I resolved to decide that day, no matter what, and just went with my gut instinct. I really wasn’t sure I’d made the right choice at the time, but it allowed me to make progress and freed up my mind to focus on more important things.
This story illustrates an important point: AS ENTREPRENEURS WE MUST BECOME COMFORTABLE WITH INDECISION.
Part of the job description is that there will be tough decisions to make and it’s our job to make them! In fact, whenever a tough decision comes up, take a moment to say to yourself “awesome, this is why I’m so successful, I take tough decisions and make the right choice, I’m about to make some big progress”.
Don’t allow yourself to be paralyzed by decisions. I’m sure you’ve been to meetings before where everyone talks and talk but nothing is decided! It’s very frustrating, but the reality is that everyone is too scared of making a mistake down the road, so they don’t act and nothing gets done.
Some great research has been done on the topic of decision making by Bryan Tracy, one of my favorite authors. As it turns out, EIGHTY PERCENT OF DECISIONS SHOULD BE MADE RIGHT NOW, EVEN IF YOU ONLY HAVE PARTIAL INFORMATION!
Of course there are those few decisions that have such far reaching implications, it’s worthwhile to get some more info. The way you remove the stress from these big decisions is by deciding a date to make the decision, no matter what.
Even if you still don’t have all the information by that day, you must decide. If everyone involved knows there is a deadline to make the decision, they can plan around it and minimize their worry.
I think you will find that your fears about making the wrong decision are almost always overestimated. We as human beings tend to vastly overestimate that type of thing.
General George S. Patton had a few choice words on this subject, including:
“Be willing to make decisions. That’s the most important quality in a good leader.”
“I would rather have a good plan today than a perfect plan two weeks from now.”
By Eric Parson