Do you ever feel like there are so many decisions coming your way, you might as well just give up? In today’s world of instant communication, I often feel overwhelmed by decisions ranging from my Starbucks breakfast order to the direction and vision of my firm. Decision making and learning new things can be exhausting, but did you know there is a physiological reason why?
Our brain creates approximately 60,000 thoughts each day. Many of the thoughts are repetitive. The brain likes to repeat the same thoughts because when it has to think a new thought it expends much more energy. The brain has 3 basic desires - to avoid pain, to seek pleasure, and to automate as much as possible to conserve energy. When requiring the mind to make a decision, we force it out of automation into a new pattern. The brain will naturally resist this. It doesn’t care if we are taking action that is good for us or moves us forward. It just wants us to keep doing what it’s used to doing.
That explains why we are resistant to making decisions, especially decisions that will require us to learn new things or create new habits. However, when we delay making a decision, they start piling up. The brain then puts up more resistance because it’s going to take a lot of energy to work through several decisions. Those resistant thoughts convince us we need more information, more time, and more resources before we can decide. This creates a cycle of not deciding, adding to the pile of unmade decisions, and creating more mental resistance. The result is we find ourselves exhausted, overwhelmed, and defeated.
So, what’s the answer? We need to practice the habit of making decisions. We have to make enough decisions, often enough, to teach the brain that it is easier to make the decision and move on than to let the decisions pile up. There are a few tricks to getting started.
1. Understand that many decisions don’t have a significant impact. Practice making the easy, low-risk decisions and getting those out of the pile. You can practice strengthening your decision making muscle here.
A friend of mine recently started doing a lot of on-camera work but dreaded her outfit selection drama each morning. Now she has selected five outfits and put them in an easy-to-reach section of her closet for her on camera days.
2. Accept that you will probably never have 100% of the information you want to make a decision. I have a 60% rule. If I am 60% sure, I make the decision.
One of my coaches tells the story of buying their last home. She and her husband had narrowed it down to two. They felt the houses were comparable, so they decided to flip a coin. They both felt disappointed by the result of the coin toss, so they immediately offered on the other house.
3. Recognize most decisions aren’t irrevocable. Occasionally, you will get it wrong. You will know quickly. Just make the other choice, and move forward.
I hired a person for a new position we were creating. A few days later I had an employee quit. I moved the new employee into the vacated position for expediency. It was not the right fit. We wasted months of inefficiency because we were unwilling to just acknowledge the mistake, move the employee into the position she was hired for, and move forward with someone who was a better fit for the old position.
What decisions are you postponing? Do you need to make changes to your business model due to new regulations? Are you thinking about hiring new team members? Are you considering acquiring a practice or expanding locations? Just make the decision and commit to realizing the desired result. After you have direction, there will be new decisions to make. Keep the momentum going and eventually, you will be a decisive person.