They say that the most dangerous behaviour a driver can have is hesitancy. When you’re in traffic or on the freeway, it is imperative to keep moving and make swift decisions without changing your mind mid-manoeuver. The same applies in business; you must keep moving because, like the other cars in traffic, the rest of the business world has an ever-steady forward motion. No one can make the right decision every time. Still, analysis paralysis and a failure to take action have proven more dangerous to profit generation, brand awareness, and overall business growth than making a bad call once in a while.
Why do we find it so hard to make decisions?
- Cognitive bias – This refers to a preference to maintain the current state and avoid change. For example, if you continue to use the services of someone who isn’t reliable or efficient just because they’re familiar to you, this is status quo bias. This bias might prevent you from moving forward, keeping you in a comfort zone that may or may not serve you well.
- Decision overload – As a product or service provider, you may think more choices will attract a broader range of consumers. While this is true, according to this study from Columbia University, you’ll be six times less likely to clinch sales if you offer too much choice.
- Decision fatigue – If you find yourself putting off decisions or following the path of least resistance (as opposed to making informed choices), think about how often you have had to make significant decisions lately. Researchers have found that when people have to make lots of decisions, it can affect the brain’s ability to think clearly and make decisions; this is decision fatigue.
How to make a decision when it feels difficult
Delegate the decision-making – Choose someone who is “in the know” to decide for you, but be prepared to settle with whatever the repercussions might be. For example, inviting a waiter to recommend a dish if you can’t choose one.
Tossing a coin – You can toss an actual coin, or you can use an app. This method will only help with YES/NO answers, but it can give you the confidence to make up your mind and choose a way forward.
Seek advice – Consult someone who can help you to talk through and explore your options. Depending on your decision, your advisor might be a professional like a lawyer or psychologist, it could be a close and trusted friend, or you could use tools that can help you explore on your own. For example, some decks of prompt cards can help you break your current track of thinking and introduce new food for thought that can take you in a different direction. Prompt cards can help you to make choices by:
- Helping you to think about how someone else would solve a problem. An “outside in” view pushes you to step outside of your own biases and inhibitions and gain a fresh perspective.
- Stimulating more ideas and activating your creative thinking.
- Confirming the direction you should take and give you the confidence to do what you already knew you should do, deep down inside. The cards can help solidify what you already know.
Self-care – Looking after yourself, including the elements of self-care that can seem tedious, like getting enough sleep, managing anxiety levels, hydrating the body (which is vital for cognitive function) and feeding the body with nutritious meals.
Managing stress – Keeping stress levels low can help with engaging the prefrontal cortex more effectively. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for logical thinking and problem-solving. Making decisions under stress can often lead to poor decisions because the responses come from a stress response.