A confused young man went to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist intently listened to his patient and then offered his insight.
“It appears to me you have trouble making decisions. Would you agree?”
The young man pondered for a moment and then responded, “Well, yes and no.”
Many people struggle with making decisions. Whether the issue is personal or professional, the inability to decide on a course of action can ruin relationships or careers.
“Inability to make decisions is one of the principal reasons executives fail,” said leadership guru John Maxwell. “Deficiency in decision-making ranks much higher than lack of specific knowledge or technical know-how as an indicator of leadership failure.”
Remember the time-tested adage: Not to make a decision is a decision. Or as the always entertaining Yogi Berra put it, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
To make better decisions, or to teach employees to do so, try this counterintuitive approach: Assume that whatever decision you make will be wrong. If you have a choice between several options, just ask yourself which alternative you would regret most.
This will help you identify the option that, even if wrong, would cause you the fewest problems. You may not arrive at the perfect answer, but you’ll at least identify the decision you can live with most comfortably.
Here’s a perfect example. General Dwight Eisenhower struggled mightily with the timing for D-Day because he could not make up his mind about the best moment for the attack. The strategy had been planned for years, but it came down to the weather conditions. The airborne attack needed a full moon and the navy needed low tide.
He had teams of meteorologists advising him, who determined that June 5 would be disastrous because of a looming storm. The weight of the decision was enormous for the more than 150,000 Allied troops involved.
Finally, he came to a decision to postpone the operations for a day. “No matter what the weather looks like, we have to go ahead now. Waiting any longer could be even more dangerous. So let’s move it.” As the history books tell us, the June 6, 1944, attack marked a historic shift in World War II.
Few of us will ever face such a momentous decision. But for many day-to-day problems, we must recognize that there is a point at which we need to take a leap of faith, because there comes a point after that when the right decision becomes the wrong decision because it was made too late.
Consider these basic strategies for making good decisions most of the time:
You will occasionally second-guess yourself, and you might make a bad decision from time to time. But Robert H. Schuller’s sage advice will help you: “Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass.”
Mackay’s Moral: A good decision is the best thing you’ll ever make.
Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.
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