One of the traits that most highly successful business leaders and entrepreneurs have is decisiveness. They know that being indecisive rarely leads to success.
Here are some keys to becoming a master decision-maker:
Know Your Foundation
The first step to becoming more decisive is to get clear on your values and priorities. When your values and priorities are fuzzy, it’s tough to compare options. For example, say you’re trying to decide between applicants for a new project assistant. Is it more important that she is a great communicator or can gather a mountain of data? Is it more important that he can get the job done quickly or that he builds consensus as the project moves forward? When you are clear about what’s important to you (and what isn’t), often the choice becomes obvious.
One process I teach to clarify values and priorities in my NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) trainings is to have students jot down everything they value within a particular area of life. For example, in business, you might value qualities like excellence, integrity, innovation, and inclusivity. After you generate as many values about your business that you can think of, ask yourself: “If I could only have one of these qualities within a business, which would that be?” Identify that value and circle it, then ask: “If I could have one other quality, which would that be?” Keep asking yourself until you’ve circled five major values.
These five are your core values, the things that are most important to you. When making a decision, compare your options against these core values. Some options will meet your values, and some might even violate what is most important to you. The best choice is the decision that reflects and supports your core values.
Tap Into Your Na’au
In ancient times in Hawai’i, people who trusted their na’au (their gut, core, or center) were considered to be more intelligent than those who relied on the analytical conscious mind. To trust your na’au means you are able to hear messages from your unconscious intuition.
Today’s Western world emphasizes the conscious mind and analytical thinking. We tend to be less respectful of intuition or gut intelligence, especially in business settings. However, highly successful business leaders like Henry Ford and Richard Branson often talk about trusting their gut.
It’s good to think things through, analyze the data, and weigh all factors. However, even if the numbers look good if your gut says “No!” that’s probably the voice to trust. This voice can be exceptionally accurate when it comes to people. Warren Buffett says that he learned from challenging experiences never to go into business with people he didn’t like, respect, and admire.
If you aren’t used to listening to your instinct, how do you do a gut check? Your intuition or unconscious communicates in emotional and physical feelings and images. So, one way to tap your gut wisdom is to play out different scenarios. “If I follow option A, what might it look like in a few days or years? How will I feel about it?” Allow your imagination to run free. What pictures show up? How do you feel about the way this option seems to be panning out?
Another trick is to flip a coin. Establish which choice is heads and which is tails. Then pay attention to the split second between tossing the coin and seeing the result. In that brief moment, did you notice that you wanted one choice or the other to win? That’s your na’au talking.
What if I’m wrong?
Behind most indecisiveness is that vague, fuzzy fear of “What if I screw up and choose the wrong direction?” People somehow think that not choosing at all—which is a choice itself!—will be safer than doing the “wrong” thing. Successful people know that they will make mistakes. They understand that failure is not the opposite of success; it’s an integral part of success. Often, we learn to make good choices only after making a bunch of really horrible ones—and learning from them!
Here’s where you can use the question, “What’s the worst that can happen?” It pulls your hazy fears out into the open so you can deal with them. You can plan to give yourself exit strategies or mitigate potential losses. Usually, “the worst that can happen” with a poor decision in business is not the end of the world.
Sweat the Small Stuff
By this, I don’t really mean that you should worry about every little choice you make! Studies claim that, on average, Americans make 70 different choices every single day. Most of them are insignificant, and we make them on the fly. Does it really matter whether you choose the blue pen or black pen to sign that contract? No. And if being decisive doesn’t come naturally to you, you can use some of these small choices as practice.
Next time you have a blue pen versus black pen-type decision, take a moment with it. Ask yourself:
• Which fits more clearly within your values, your goals?
• Check your intuition: Which feels like the better choice?
• Finally, ask, “What’s the worst that can happen if I make the wrong choice here?”
Be Done and Follow Through
A student of mine told me that her golf instructor used to say, “Once you’ve selected a club for a particular shot, there’s no second-guessing. Trust it. Assume that you have the perfect club in hand and give it all you’ve got. If you’re hesitant with it, you’ll never find out whether it was the right club or not.”
Once you’ve run through the process and made a decision, be done with deciding! Stop continually second-guessing it! Give that decision a chance to prove itself. Follow through as fully as you can. Know that even if this decision doesn’t pan out, you’ll learn something valuable by committing to it.
Empowerment, Inc. is the leading authority on NLP, Huna, Mental and Emotional Release®, and Hypnosis.
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