5 July 2012

Get off the fence…

Should I stay or should I go? Will I take my business in this direction or not? Will I go through official channels and make a complaint or will I let it go? Should I talk to her about how she offended me or will I sweep it under the rug? Will I deal with this now or save it for a later date? Will I buy this house in spite of how it stretches my income or not? Everywhere that I go I meet people who are struggling with very difficult decisions and no doubt you are struggling with your own. That’s not a bad thing – people who are not struggling with decisions are not living in my opinion. A life worth living is one that is full of opportunities for growth and development – one that is full of decisions.

The problem arises when we can’t make the decision – we stay on the fence beyond when it is healthy to do so. We end up either losing our nerve or losing the opportunity and we may not get it again. Then there are the times when we take an overly emotional approach to decision making that results in a poor decision. Many of the decisions we make are matters of the heart but even in these matters, taking a logical approach will result in a better decision.

First we must acknowledge that there are very few sure things. We have no control over what might happen in future, so we have to make our decision based on what we know to be true today. Things may change in future, someome may get ill or lose a job. People do change their minds. That is the reality we are faced with in any decision but we still need to make the decision based on what we know today.

Next, write a list of pros and cons. Sit down and write an extensive list of what will happen if you go in one direction compared with what might happen if you go in another. List every benefit and every pitfall. Leave nothing out. This exercise is beneficial because it begins to make it real for you. It gives you a new perspective.

This next step is underutilized. Ask for a trusted friend or colleague to give you their opinion. Be selective in who you ask. You want them to be supportive and objective. If you want to keep your decision a secret – then choose someone you can trust to do that for you. Instruct your friend to be honest and candid in what they think. They may have insight you had  not thought of.  Now add these considerations to the mix – do they change your list of pros and cons? Does it make you change your mind or are you strengthening your position because of the new information?

Imagine that you’re buying a home for the first time – speaking to another first time homebuyer would be great. They can tell you that buying an older home may mean that you have to replace windows very soon. They may also tell you about the burden of being house rich and money poor. Add this insight to your decision making process.

You’ve collected your information, done your homework and all you have left is to make the decision – what will it be? You have thought about the outcome from either side - what if you stick with the status quo – is it palatable? At the end of the day you have to live with the result — it’s your life.

Understand the forces that will undermine you – pleasing others, catastrophizing about the worse case scenario – turning a blind eye to red flags, failing to heed a very huge warning.

You’ve done your homework and now it’s time to get off the fence. Trust your instinct and go with your gut. Make the decision and live with it.  What if you’re wrong? There is always that chance of course. But let me tell you a secret – there is learning even in mistakes. There are no sure things in life….get off the fence and make a choice.