We’re surrounded by advice to start before we’re ready, push through the fear, and act on ideas quickly. So if you’re feeling uncertain and struggling to make up your mind about what to do next, it’s easy to feel deficient.
(Cue the negative self-talk…)
But when reasonable advice becomes so prolific that you feel surrounded, chances are high that groupthink has come into play. So let’s take a second look.
Maybe your indecision isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe, it’ll serve you really, really well in the long run….
Can’t decide what to do with your life … or even what to do next? Here are 5 ways that it can help you in the long run:
1) At least you recognize that you want change
Sometimes, realization is the most elusive step. But you’re already there. In the words of philosopher Eric Hoffer, “It is the awareness of unfulfilled desires which gives a nation the feeling that it has a mission and a destiny.” The same can be said of individuals. Unlike too many people that you probably know, you have the self-awareness to recognize that something’s not right and the desire to overcome that dissonance.
2) It shows that you’re open to possibilities
If you refrain from choosing an option because you tend to come up with new ideas or your ideas evolve with changing circumstances, you likely have a high level of creativity and openness. And those are two traits absolutely essential to companies that are struggling to innovate and remain relevant. Scientific American describes openness as “the drive for cognitive exploration of inner and outer experience,” and says it is the “personality trait most consistently associated with creativity.”
Besides, your first ideas are usually the most conventional, says Wharton professor Adam Grant in his book Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World. There’s nothing wrong – and a lot right – with stopping to consider the big world of possibilities out there rather than following along with what seems reasonable. Like the discoverers who said, “There might be something there beyond that ocean” despite prevailing wisdom, openness to possibilities is a trait of visionaries.
3) You’re thinking strategically
Even if your hesitancy is due to analysis rather than a constant influx of new ideas, it points to a useful skill: strategic thinking. “If this happens, then that would happen, and then either this or that, and if so then.…” It’s an important survival skill that just happens to be important in business, too.
While the chessboard analogy feels outdated in today’s business environment, strategy and anticipating the future will never go out of style. In the words of hockey star Wayne Gretzky, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” In business (and life), the best players stay ahead of the competition.
4) You want to make informed decisions
There’s an important psychological term called “planning fallacy” which describes is a delusional optimism leading to poor decision making rather than a rational weighing of gains, losses and probabilities. You don’t want that. Information-gathering aids in the decision-making process, period. (Yes, too much information can lead to analysis paralysis, but that doesn’t mean we should throw the baby out with the bathwater.)
When the U.S. military tries to bridge the gap between a complex, ever-changing environment and actionable tactics for moving forward in that environment, they use a process called “operational design.” The key first step in that process? Develop a thorough understanding of all aspects of the surrounding environment.
5) Reflection and introspection are attributes of the gods
Too dramatic? Maybe. Let’s put it this way: experience teaches, but so does “the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract and articulate the key lessons taught by experience.” (Otherwise known as reflection.) Reflecting on the world around us helps us process and retain information better, leading to better decisions.
Even when people are introspective, turning their gaze inward and reflecting upon their own tendencies, feelings and behaviors, it correlates to better consistency in planning and decision-making and increased business performance.
To tie this up, I’ll explain how this all relates to what I’ve been saying over the last month:
A few weeks ago I shared an impassioned story, imploring you not to wait another minute before acting on your dreams. In the following weeks, I talked about the biggest mindset shift necessary to take that leap. Then this week I thought, “But what about people that don’t quite know what they want to do?”
I deeply and wholeheartedly relate to your pain.
For years I struggled with a burning desire to DO … but little direction. It was heartbreaking. I felt like my life and potential were being wasted, and I hated myself for not being more decisive or having more self-understanding.
Today, my job is to help people in similar circumstances get into action … which is why many act surprised when I point out what’s so great about their indecision.
But hindsight and decades of education are beautiful things, and I’m simply telling you what I wish someone had told me:
The inclination towards indecision is grounded in wonderful traits that can serve you well in the future, so hold your head high.
Now I would really love to hear: What kinds of decisions are you struggling with? Which of the points to you most identify with? Let me know in the comments below.
Here’s to taking just the right amount of time to act,
P.S. While it’s fantastic to recognize the positive traits that restrain impulsive decision-making, it goes without saying that your eventual success will require action. If you’re at the point where you’ve spent enough time on analysis and want to move forward, or simply need someone to hash through your ideas with, let’s hop on a call to see if it makes sense for us to work together.