Adults make over 35,000 decisions per day. These choices range from seemingly simple things like what to eat for breakfast to the complex such as what career choices to pursue. (No wonder we’re so tired all the time.)
In our work lives, we’re tasked with making decisions day to day as part of our jobs, from the operational (and at times mundane) to the strategic. And sometimes, for whatever reason, we consciously avoid making a choice to act.
Oftentimes, this paralyzation of choice is triggered by fear – fear of failure, fear of success, fear of commitment, etc. The renowned philosopher Descartes has even referred to indecision as a “species of fear,” comparable to jealousy, envy, despair, and superstition.
The science is this: the human brain’s amygdala reacts to a particular decision that our brain processes as a perceived threat, and therefore avoidance. The outcome can be good or bad, depending on the implications of the decision in question.
The problem arises when indecision becomes your decision by default too often. If you don’t decide, especially passively and without purpose, you give up your power to choose. You go from being on offense to being on defense, and lose the advantage of making your move in a proactive as opposed to reactive way.
For example, a colleague might be assigned that project you wanted that could get you promoted, or a competitor closes a major sponsorship deal with the company you’ve been courting for months that meets your annual revenue goal.
Failure to decide also results in resentment from teammates, peers, direct reports, you name the stakeholder – because you’ve caused them to waste time and effort, two un-renewable resources, in limbo. Which is not productive for anybody. We’re swimming in circles and not moving forward, when moving forward should be the goal of every decision in the first place.
In my work life, this is my biggest pet peeve: when someone fails to make a decision that affects multiple people’s jobs because they don’t want to be responsible for insert negative outcome here; something going awry, a potential loss, etc.
So I challenge you to take ownership of your decisions, and be accountable for whatever the outcome might be. You have the power to choose, which is one of your greatest assets. Align your choices with your priorities, your purpose, your “Why.” Decide to act. Decide to choose. Decide to make progress and move forward.