A Leadership and Life Skill: Decision Making

In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.

Theodore Roosevelt

Have you ever met a person who couldn’t or wouldn’t make a decision? How did it feel?  For me, someone else’s indecision is frustrating because there is nothing, I can do about it – it is beyond my control.

I had a boss who was afraid to make decisions and to give direction consistently. It was frustrating.  I used to mutter under my breath, “just make a decision.”  I wanted to make the decision for him. I wanted his boss to make the decision for him. I just wanted somebody to make a decision!! The inability to make a decision meant that my work and work of others was delayed and this created more last minute stress to get the work done to meet deadlines.  

Usually, I am pretty good at decision making and I have been told by my family that sometimes I make too many decisions that they then have to implement!  However, there have been some decisions that I have had a tough time making. What if there is no best choice? Then the decision becomes harder to make. What to do?  At some point you have to make a decision, or it will be made for you. Just make a choice and follow it though, you can make it right. You will learn from the tough decisions.

Making decisions is a necessary life skill. Everyone has to make hundreds and thousands of decisions in day, at home, at school, at work, with friends and in the community. Making decisions should start a childhood, babyhood even. Simple decisions that build to more complicated decisions. For some it is easy, for others it is paralyzing.  I share some of my tips on decision making in the takeaway section.

Cornell University research shows that the average adult makes “about 35,000 decisions each day, children make about 3000 per day.” Interestingly, an average of 226 decisions are about food. We should be really good at making decisions after one day!

Getting good at decision making helps us cope with anxiety, it empowers us, builds self reliance and self confidence. On the other hand, if you don’t have good decision-making skills you will be more anxious, dependent on others and lack self confidence.

Making a good decision takes mental energy, so save your hard decision making for when you are at your peak mentally and emotionally. A study, of prisoners who appeared early in the morning before a judge received parole about 70 percent of the time, while those who appeared before the same judge late in the day were paroled less than 10 percent of the time that’s because the judge succumbed to decision fatigue.

Learning from your decisions good or bad

How do you get good at decision making? Good leaders will learn from their mistakes, failures and successes. They will analyze their decisions; what worked and why, and what didn’t work and why.

In most cases a poor decision can be changed to a better one with time and effort. Reviewing your decision doesn’t usually require hours of thought, it is a simple exercise that takes minutes. Writing down your analysis will help and serve as a resource in the future, but it doesn’t even need to be written down. It helps when you face a similar situation, you can apply your learning to it. When you make a great decision, it is empowering and confidence building. For those not used to decision making, it will give you a rush when your decision turned out the way you hoped it would. That success will help you to make more and better decisions.

Families, businesses, friends depend on making decisions. Leaders get good at making decisions because they must make so many and mostly they make more good ones than regrettable ones. They have overcome issues like, fear of the unknown, the paralysis of too many choices/ information overload, procrastination and trusting their instincts.  Why? Because they have taken the time to learn from their decisions and they haven’t let the fear of decision making stop them from making a decision.

Managing your decision making process

  1. Accept that making a decision means you have to make a choice, you will need to choose one thing over another, you can’t have it all. Make a choice.
  2. More thinking is not always better thinking. Get enough information to make your best choice, so that you are not making an impulsive or an emotional decision. Listen to your intuition- then choose.
  3. Don’t defer decisions endlessly. When you don’t choose someone else will choose for you and you are stuck with their decision and the consequences of your indecision. Be in charge of your own life, make a decision.
  4. Some decisions don’t work out as expected; this doesn’t mean that you did anything wrong or made a bad decision. Sometimes life happens and the unexpected happens. It’s OK, you can still make the decision work for you.


When I get stuck about a decision:

  1. I talk it out with someone; it helps to bounce ideas around and helps me see things in a different way.  
  2. Sometimes I make chart and look at the pros and cons.
  3. Sometimes I do some mind mapping (this is my favorite way of thinking, organizing and making a decision) for more difficult or complicated decisions.
  4. After the decision is made and with really tough or complicated decisions, I take the time to review what happened, what worked well and what didn’t, and what I would change. I used this same process with my kids when they made a decision that was a tough one or had a bad day at school or when they had trouble with a friend; What did you learn from this? Would you change anything?
  5. I take a break from thinking about it and do something else that fully occupies my time, listen to music, go for a walk, exercise, gardening, etc.  Once my mind has had a break the answer will come.

Decision making is such an important skill that those who don’t get good at it will get passed over and end up living someone else’s life. Don’t let the fear of decision making be your boss.

Sometimes you make the right decision, sometimes you make the decision right.

Phil McGraw

Photo by Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash

Published by Diane Allen

Hi there, my name is Diane and welcome to my blog site! Leadership mindset is the mindset that embraces, vision, courage and action.

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