In many cultures and organizations, there’s a pervasive belief that decisiveness is an inherently positive trait and that indecision is a sign of weakness.
The general philosophy is that “Successful people make decisions quickly and change them slowly.”
Ironically, this approach lives in stark contrast to the equally popular business philosophy of “hire slow and fire fast.”
The fact is, sometimes the path ahead is a clear “YES.” Sometimes it’s a clear “NO.”
More often than not, however, we find ourselves in the in-between when decisions regarding the path, the plan or the project is NOT yet clear. In these times, we need to look for the gems hiding inside our uncertainty.
Indecision can carry tremendous clues to a greater truth.
In the arts, there is a significant tolerance for ambiguity during the early phases of a project. Artists know that if they are to stand out on the edge of truth for what will resonate, they need to keep looking below the trite, the obvious and the cliché. Artists learn to embrace the unknown and explore options others haven’t.
Great business leaders do the same.
Being able to tolerate the discomfort of not knowing in order to explore options before making a firm commitment is a sign of strength, not weakness.
When -- in an attempt to appear decisive -- people make a quick choice and settle, the consequences can be drastic: money, time, energy, reputation, stress, talent and a myriad of other issues. The bigger the decision, the greater the potential waste.
You can lose a few weeks…or a few years.
You can lose a few hundred dollars…or a few million.
All the while, had we honored our indecision and probed a bit further, the glimmer of truth could have signaled its light our way.
Through my decades in the professional performing arts interacting with Academy Award® winning directors, Broadway producers and legendary performers – and through my decades working with leading organizations, top teams and CEOs around the world, I’ve found that the most effective people in any field don’t settle.
They sift for the truth.
Below are seven of the most common causes of indecision I have documented as well as a solution for each.
7 Common Causes of Your Indecision & What To Do:
CAUSE #1: You need more information in order to make a decision.
SOLUTION: Gather more answers and details. Ask more questions.
CAUSE #2: What you are looking for hasn’t yet appeared/presented itself.
SOLUTION: Start describing — even if in vague terms — what you “see” and envision. Don’t worry about getting it exact. Just stay alert to anything you sense or see that might be part of what you want.
CAUSE #3: You can’t hear your voice or remember your vision because you have been listening to others for so long that their beliefs and preferences have clouded your own thinking.
SOLUTION: Stop asking for other people’s input. Go back to early notes and ideas. Rewind to when you had some inkling of what you wanted.
CAUSE #4: Your need for validation from others is so strong that regardless of your own intuition and preferences, you will always defer to someone else.
SOLUTION: Think of a friend or colleague who has a knack for supporting you and HEARING your voice. Have them help you reconnect with your early vision.
CAUSE #5: You don’t understand the options being presented.
SOLUTION: Ask questions to people who can skillfully & succinctly explain the options to you.
CAUSE #6: You have “anticipated regret” of making the wrong decision. (Check out the brilliant work of Joe Schwartz who pioneered this concept.)
SOLUTION: Know that you will question your decision either way. No decision in this situation is going to be perfect.
CAUSE #7: You know what you want but are afraid to admit it -- even to yourself.
SOLUTION: Start by writing and admitting the truth to yourself, even if you think you’re never going to show your notes to anyone. Momentum will begin to take over…you will see….and you’ll find yourself emboldened to find ways to move forward.
So the next time you’re feeling indecisive, recognize that it’s not necessarily a bad sign. It could be your hidden genius whispering to you.
Unless you’re facing a life-threatening situation that requires immediate action…
• Pause for a few seconds, minutes, hours, days or in certain cases even a few weeks -- whatever is appropriate to the situation given opportunity costs and deadlines.
• Evaluate - determine which CAUSE of indecision you’re facing.
• Take steps - use the solutions provided above to clarify your next move.
Acknowledging the need for further clarity is a sign of integrity, intelligence and courage. Don’t let people pressure you.
The key to your success is to Risk Forward® and lean into the unknown rather than pretending it’s not there.
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