Decision-Making: A Trap Some Business Owners Fall In

A trap I often see some business owners fall into involves  decision-making: particularly, making the wrong decision. “I want to expand my business but…” “I think this idea will work but I don’t know…..” I could go on with more reasons that I’ve seen business owners hold themselves – and their business- back.

Why is decision-making so hard for some people? Well, I see people not making a decision because:

  • they are worried they will fail
  • they worry about the response they may get (criticism, getting yelled at)
  • they don’t trust themselves enough
  • they don’t think they can live with the decision (even though they don’t know the outcome)

Do any of these sound familiar? I’ll admit I’ve wrestled with one or two of those so I know how real the struggle is. But, the good news is that it’s fully possible to move past any of these blocks, and be more confident in making decisions that are good for your business.

To go back, fears arise from our past experiences that may have started when we were younger, such as getting yelled at for something we did or didn’t do; depending on how we’ve perceived the situation, it will form a belief around that thought which then leads to our actions (or inactions).  The more we think those negative thoughts, the more entrenched those beliefs become which, then, hold us back in some way.

The fundamental fear we all have is the fear of not being good enough, which comes out as the fear of failure, the fear of being rejected, or even the fear of success.  When faced with making a decision, one of those fears will rise if we believe we will make the wrong one. This, then, starts the cycle of having a decision to make, which then elicits a fear, which then prevents making a decision, which then leads to frustration/anger at yourself and then the cycle repeats itself over and over.

So how can you move past any fears around decision-making and move into embracing the very things you say you want? How can you feel more confident when making a decision, so you won’t hesitate when faced with an issue? Here are some suggestions:

  • Begin by identifying fears you’re experiencing when faced with making a decision; look to see how you respond when faced with both big and small decisions. For instance, a small decision would include what tie to wear today, or what to eat for breakfast, while a big decision would be expanding on a service or creating a high-end program. You can rate your level of fear around these, which can help you to see progress you make and for which one(s) you will tackle first
  • Identify the outcome you believe is going to occur with the decision you want to make; as I said earlier, we often let a past event predict our future so what do you believe is going to happen: will someone yell at you, ignore you, criticize or laugh at you; also identify your response if one of these were to occur – shame, guilt, anger, etc. Once you’ve identified your beliefs, then…
  • Challenge those thoughts – how do you know that the outcome you worry about is going to happen with absolute certainty? As we are not mind-readers, challenging those thoughts disrupts the negative pattern so you can ‘see’ that the thought is maladaptive, an then ‘see” that whatever decision you make can have a positive outcome
  • List possible outcomes of the decision on a piece of paper, both positive and negative. This is a great exercise to do as, by identifying an negative outcomes, you can now see any potential ‘mistakes’ and come up with potential solutions for dealing with them if they do occur; it also validates your reasons for wanting to make the decision in the first place
  • Use your most powerful sense, your visual field, to imagine the best possible outcome. This activates dopamine, which elevates the mood and more positive thoughts and gives more mastery to actions you take. It also raises your confidence. Professional athletes use this in their training – as the football player is running down the field and catches the ball in the end zone, he has visualized and practiced it thousands of time: if it works for them, it will work for you (with consistency)
  • Fail – as counter-intuitive as this seems, we need to see that failure is not the end of the world. If you think about it, we all have failed in some way along our life journey but we have survived, even when we thought we couldn’t make it through. Going back and looking at times where things did not go well but that we overcame it helps to see that we will pull through. (I’d recommend doing the opposite and remember times when you did have success to validate your efforts). Also, earn from any failures so you won’t make the same mistakes in the future.

Leaders, of which small business owners are in this category, are faced with making hard choices to grow and sustain; don’t allow your fear around making them hold you back. Decision-making is one of the critical skills a leader needs to possess – you can get better at it so you can be more confident and successful in doing so. The steps above will help you get there.

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Struggling with Making a Big Decision?

As we are winding the last few days of August, we are now facing the last 4 months of the year.  While this can be exciting to create new opportunities, this can also elicit feelings of fear out of making those dreams a reality.  Some of this may involve some major life changes which comes with big decisions, all of which will greatly impact your life.  If you find yourself struggling with making  a big decision, here are some quick steps to think about:

  • really understand the ‘why’ of making the change – this is the need to let go of something that has not been working and wanting to go after what will; if you’re not clear on this then you will be held back
  • recognize what is actually holding you back – is it the fear of change or making the wrong decision; it is worry over money or involves other people; do you actually believe you can make the change – resolving these will help propel you forward
  • do the research – knowing everything about the proposed decision will help you be more informed; you can do this by researching on the internet, talking to people who have experienced the same change, or seeking help from a coach who can help and support you in making the best informed decision

Only with enough self-awareness and knowledge can one make a decision that feels ‘right’ which leads to acting to get the desired result.  Using the simple exercise of taking a piece of paper and writing down the pros/cons of all areas is helpful, as well as using the principles of the Six Thinking Hats, where you list out what the best result, the worst, result, what is known, what needs to be known and then using your creativity to uncover any ideas listed are helpful tools in decision-making, Another is having trust in yourself and and using the ‘voice’ inside (your intuition) as you guide.

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