I was asked years ago to do a Goal Setting workshop for a group of High School Seniors. We were talking about short term goals and I asked how many of the students were planning on attending college in the fall.
The answers were varied but one stood out. The student said they had not yet decided about attending college in the fall so they were taking a year off school and then they would decided. I replied “so you’ve decided to not attend this fall.” They again said that had not yet decided about college in the fall so they were taking a year to “review their options” and then decide. So I gave the same reply. I added that by not deciding they had decided. They would not be attending college in the fall.
The young student was frustrated with my answer. They were certain that they had not yet made a decision. But in fact the decision had been made.
You may be tempted to cut the student a little slack given their age of lack of experience with making big decisions. Except the inability to make decisions has little to do with age or experience.
It has to do with confidence. It has to do with being okay with failing once in a while. It has to do with the willingness to suffer the consequences of make wrong decisions. It has to do with with having the discipline to try again. And maybe again and again.
People who can’t make a decision, or more likely, won’t make a decision, fail to understand that not making a decision IS a decision. It’s a decision to not change, to not take action, or it’s a decision to cling to a past mistake because you invested so much time in making the mistake.
Not making a decision is guaranteed to be a wrong decision. I maintain actually making a decision that turns out to be wrong is often easier to fix than no decision because at least you’re now certain what doesn’t work.
When you’re making a big decision and you’re not sure what to do then break the big decision into a series of smaller ones and do the next right thing to do. No matter how little that “right thing” is you’ll be creating momentum towards the big decision. You’ll be making progress and progress is always a good thing to make.
If you think you truly can’t decide between a couple of options then simply flip a coin. I can promise you when that coin is in the air you’ll know exactly how you want it to land. Then, regardless of how the coin actually lands, you’ll know which option to choose.
That may sound silly but it works amazingly well. But in order to find out for yourself you do have to decide to try it out.
3 thoughts on “A Guaranteed Wrong Decision”
In your example. I think that the student’s lack of confidence in making a qualified answer might also have been a factor. The ability to say “I’m taking a year off to consider my options, so yes, I’m not attending college this fall, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t ever be going to college” actually takes a degree of confidence to change the terms of the discussion from what you, the questioner, had decided to make the subject to what they, the responder, intended to do in the future.
The student was probably reluctant to give what they thought might be interpreted as the “wrong” answer – “I am not going to college in the fall.” Understanding that changing the terms of the discussion is a valid reaction and that all our decisions have shades of grey is perhaps one of the first steps to maturity.
Indeed, it does require confidence to make any decision. And yep, it even takes confidence to answer a question or reframe the question to suit your answer.