All good decisions, bad decisions, and non-decisions are a step into the unknown – Rob Moore
As I read daily, I finish a book from time to time. And every time I finish a book, I summarize the key lessons I highlighted in my (e)book. Quite recently, I did so for Rob Moore’s “Start Now. Get Perfect Later”, which is about how to begin the next phase of your career, launch your business or idea, and overcome self-doubt.
1 lesson I learned from this book is that making decisions quickly and confidently is (A) a skill, i.e. something we have to learn and train, and (B) crucial to achieving goals.
Rob Moore studied over 500 millionaires and found that they shared a single quality: decisiveness. He claims “decisiveness seems to be both inherent in all success and a prerequisite for it”.
From what I’ve read in other books and all the hours worked in my job as a strategy consultant, I can only confirm this notion. Almost every book on personal development at least scratches this topic. And what I do as a consultant is basically to help our clients make highly complex, difficult decisions, e.g. how they should change their business model to increase their sales.
But why is making decisions so hard, why is it so important to make them quickly, and what can we do to make hard decisions more easily? That’s what today’s blog article will be about.
- We can learn to make hard decisions more easily, and we can learn to make better decisions
- Our current lives are the representation of all decisions we made in the past
- The issues with big decisions are that we (A) don’t make them at all (B) make them too slowly (C) decide for the bad options
- Write down the pros of each option and rate each pro argument with a score from 1 to 10
- Before making the decision, though, I suggest talking to people who already made this decision and asking them to refine the rating and pros of the different options
- Another great technique is to think about what you would advise a friend in this situation
Decision-making vs walking
I used to think about making decisions that it’s nothing I can be good or bad at. It’s something like walking. Nobody would say “I’m good at walking”. Like walking, making decisions seemed like something we just do or don’t do, something that’s easy like walking to school or that isn’t easy like going on a hike (I used to hate hiking).
I used to think easy decisions are just easy decisions like deciding what to eat for breakfast and hard decisions are just hard decisions like deciding what and where I want to study.
But I was wrong.
Making decisions is like every other skill, something we can learn and improve. We can learn to make hard decisions more easily, and we can learn to make better decisions.
The importance of decisiveness
Another thing I didn’t get and was even more important: Improving this skill can make our lives so much better.
Almost every misery can be traced back to a series of bad decisions, and vice versa, a series of great decisions compound to a great life. Ultimately, our current lives are the representation of all decisions we made in the past.
While there’s an enormous number of small decisions we make every day, there’s a small number of big decisions we make once in a while.
Small decisions are at least as important as the big ones as we do them every day and they compound, e.g. what we eat or whether we do sports. Yet, it’s rather the big decisions that pose a major challenge to us. Not only do they seem frightening due to the magnitude of their consequences but also we’re not experienced in making them as they occur so rarely.
Here are some examples of big decisions:
- Choosing a college major
- Figuring out where to live
- Renting or buying a house
- Deciding who to date
- Deciding on a career
- Making a career change or quit to become an entrepreneur
- Going back to school and obtaining an advanced degree
The issues with big decisions are that we (1) don’t make them at all (2) make them too slowly (3) decide for the bad options.
(1) If we don’t make them at all, that’s the worst. Not making a decision is a decision itself. For example, you stay in a relationship with a person even though you wanted to make a decision on whether you further commit yourself to the relationship. Maybe you are lucky and things just get better, but most often things get worse and worse.
(2) If we make them too slowly, we sometimes miss the opportunity. For example, you think about starting a side business selling a product you fell in love with during your semester abroad by importing it to your home country, e.g. Swedish “Snus” – tobacco bags you can put in your mouth. After contemplating the pros and cons for a while, the product already arrived in your home country. And even though you decided to start the side business, it’s already too late as the established sellers already occupy major parts of the new market.
(3) If we opt for a bad option in a big decision, that’s obviously also an issue. But not making a decision or delaying the decision is usually worse. For example, it’s better to fail early with a business (decide to immediately start a business than to wait to start it).
The major reason why we (1) don’t make big decisions, (2) make them too slowly, or (3) decide for the bad options is our lack of decision-making skills. As already stated, decision-making is a skill, something we can learn and improve. Hence, if we want to make decisions (A) more easily and (B) better, we need to improve our decision-making skills.
How to make hard decisions more easily
Next to solely making more decisions and reflecting on them, i.e. gaining more experience, we can apply decision-making techniques to make hard decisions more easily.
There are plenty of techniques that can be applied to various decisions, each with its up-and downsides. A technique I always suggest when someone asks me what to study, what to do for a job after graduating, or where to live, is to write down the pros of each option and rate each pro argument with a score from 1 to 10. The option with the most points is the option to opt for. Before making the decision, though, I suggest talking to people who already made this decision and asking them to refine the rating and pros of the different options. So, the decisions are less biased and the experience of others decreases the likelihood of a bad decision.
Another great technique I read in Rob Moore’s book and want to apply more often now is to think about what I would advise a friend in this situation. Taking this perspective allows us to make our decisions less biased and thus better. For instance, if I need to make a crucial career, I will imagine what I would suggest a friend do.