Whenever a warrior decides to do something, he must go all the way, but he must take responsibility for what he does. No matter what he does, he must know first why he is doing it, and then he must proceed with his actions without having doubts or remorse about them.
- Carlos Castaneda
Business owners identify making decisions as one of the most stressful aspects of self-employment. Even though we make dozens of important and complex judgments every day, few of us have actually been trained in any formal systems for making good decisions.
We started making basic decisions when we were young children, mostly by trial and error. Our first decisions were simple—which route to walk to school, to wear the green shirt or the blue one. These decisions involved little more than choosing between X and Y. Most of us continue to follow the same process as we get older, even though the issues we grapple with have become much more complicated.
Some of the confusion about decisions comes from trying to continue to choose between X and Y, without making certain that we are addressing the real problem that requires our attention.
Many processes, both simple and complex, have been developed to aid in decision-making. And yes, this article is about swift decisions, but rushing into a decision, hurrying to get it over with, rarely results in good outcomes. Step back from the decision and view it in a broader context. When you achieve clarity, the best decision often seems obvious.
A Simple System for Making Reasonable (Not Perfect) Decisions
- Identify the issue with precision. For instance, you and your business partner have the resources to hire another support person and are trying to decide how many hours you need covered, but you are having a hard time agreeing. As you talk about it, you realize the sticking point is that you have different ideas about the new person’s duties.
- Examine the available options. In the above example, you could a.) list possible responsibilities for your new hire, b.) step back and do some planning and projections of what tasks you anticipate them doing in the next two years as your business grows, or c.) re-evaluate whether it would be better to offer increased hours with improved salary and benefits to an existing staff person.
- Evaluate the available options. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each. Evaluate how well each option addresses the precisely-identified issue. A cost-benefit analysis is a method for adding up the value of the benefits of a given course of action, and subtracting the costs. This can be sketched out on a napkin, or applied as a complicated financial tool that allows you to look at many facets of a problem.
4. Implement the decision. Make a choice and carry it out. Recognize that no decision is the be-all-and-end-all. At a certain point, success as a business owner comes from your ability to decide and move on with other tasks.
Making decisions requires both intuition and rational thought. It’s important to trust your gut, but be sure you are thinking logically as well. Information that would have changed your decision may emerge later, but this should not sway you off-course or throw you back into renewed decision-making efforts, unless it is truly crucial information.
You will either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety.
- Abraham Maslow