Decision making is one of the hardest things we have to do as humans. Our decisions are often far more complex than those of nature and the animal kingdom, and we’re so much more capable of weighing those complexities, the various options and assessing the possible consequences. “Analysis paralysis” is a real thing, and the anxiety of “not knowing” which is the right decision can be crippling.
Dale Carnegie said, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” He meant the more you agonise over what the right decision might be, the more your brain will drown in fear and doubt. Once you act, once you commit to a direction, that action will give you the courage and confidence to make the next decision along the road.
Much of what holds us back from making a decision about anything is whether that decision will be right. Whether it’s the best decision. And how much of what we think may be on the other side of that decision we can guess at.
Most decisions create change by definition. They send us off down one path instead of another. Change is fearful because we can’t predict exactly what’s down that path. But is it not worse to sit in indecision and play with the fears of a hundred outcomes, than make a decision and then adjust?
Right now, the world is in the grip of an un-see-able virus. Fear of the unknown is palpable in every conversation, every joke, every head shaking and theorising. Great city centres of the world are becoming ghost towns, borders are closing, tourist industries are grinding to a halt. Do these decisions look pretty? No. Is this fun? No. Do we know exactly what we’re dealing with? No.
Last night, Cyril Ramaphosa, the President of South Africa, made clear a number of large decisions about how his country will move forward. He instigated a travel ban on foreigners from medium and high-risk countries including the USA, UK, Germany, Iran etc. He closed 35 land ports and 2 sea ports out of a total of 72. He closed schools as of March 18th and banned gatherings over 100 people. He identified increased capacity at hospitals for isolation and quarantine facilities in each district and increased testing on certain groups.
The world is in the grip of having to make decisions based on something they can’t see, and based on pre-empting outcomes rather than quantifying them. What could be more flounder-inducing than that? And yet, once a decision is made, at least we can act on it!
Robert K. Greenleaf, author of “The Servant as Leader”, said, “On an important decision one rarely has 100% of the information needed for a good decision no matter how much one spends or how long one waits. And, if one waits too long, he has a different problem and has to start all over. This is the terrible dilemma of the hesitant decision maker.”
Decision making is THE skill that directly influences our ability to move forward and make headway in anything we undertake. Decisions are seldom comfortable because of the variables and unknowns. Yet making a decision means we can take another step forward and then make another decision. Take another step. Make another decision. And so forth.
One of the most powerful things I was ever told was “just release Version 1.0 – you can update it later.” Releasing Version 1.0 gets us off the starting blocks. It puts something in motion and allows us to assess that motion so that we can tweek it from there if we need to.
Assessing information and making decisions is a required skill in aviation and very literally something we train for. We follow various models that help us be effective. You may be familiar with John Boyd’s “OODA Loop” which requires you to “Observe. Orient. Decide. Act.” And then loop back round to observing…. I’ve always found it amusing that “Act” had to be written into that loop – on account of how often we decide and then don’t take the vital step into action!!
In other decision-making models, we’re taught to ask questions such as “have any of us seen anything like this before, and what was done about it then?” Whilst the path to decision making requires the expansive collection of knowledge for perspective, it’s also a skill to be able to decide what’s relevant and “flush” the rest.
Today, I will make decisions about how to get my child home from school in accordance with these new declarations. This week, I will further write a business case which may heavily impact the next few year’s growth of my business. In the coming months, I will make decisions on where to live for the foreseeable future. None of these are small decisions, and none of them are clear, but all require me to move forward.
Deepak Chopra wrote, “Every significant vital sign – body temperature, hear rate, oxygen consumption, hormone level, brain activity, and so on – alters the moment you decide to do anything… decisions are signals telling your body, mind, and environment to move in a certain direction.”
Which direction do you need to move in this week? What area that you’re feeling anxious or paralysed in would you rather move forward to courage and confidence? Where do you need to act and then observe so that you can make the necessary adjustments? Where do you need to create direction for yourself and others? What do you need to take ownership of, before it takes ownership of you? Observe. Orient. Decide. Act. And then loop.
by Christen Killick
March 16th, 2020