In most professions, you’re paid, depended upon, and expected to make decisions. You’re required to know the risks, consider the facts, and deliberate between options.
Sometimes – you make it look easy. And if you’ve been in leadership for more than a moment, some of what others may consider the most challenging decisions to make have truly come effortlessly for you. It might be experience. It might be because of your strong support systems. It might be a general, stoic view of your professional existence, knowing that you can accept whatever comes as a result of those decisions you’ve made.
And yet, when asked to make a decision on a new office layout, on where to go for your next vacation, on whether to update to iOS 16 or not – you’re stumped. Frozen. Paralyzed.
Suddenly, you’re indecisive.
I was getting coaching myself recently on exactly this, lamenting over my own inability to make decisions that, well, really shouldn’t need such painful deliberation. I bemoaned the blurriness of my decision-making in more trivial matters and ruminated over the complexities I was unwillingly piling onto what should be such simple choices.
“Why is this so hard?” I’d asked my coach.
Her suggestion was startlingly simple, and even more surprisingly – it was profound.
Could it be that we can make “big” decisions seem more clear because they protect your baseline happiness? Could it be that the “smaller” decisions are actually the big ones – because the outcome of those decisions are more refined and subtle – they align with a “want” and not a “need”?
Whoa. Big, right?
Let’s unwrap this for a minute. Consider the fact that the part of our brains responsible for decision-making – our ventromedial prefrontal cortex – is the exact same part of the brain that experiences and expresses emotions. Should we even begin to feel a hint of negative emotion, we immediately feel the need to minimize loss, motivating us to question our decisions long before we’ve even begun to make them?
This indecision isn’t an impairment or a flaw.
It’s a safeguarding practice. We’re protecting our baseline happiness.
So, good news. We may not be indecisive; we may just need a little more practice at creating a window where we can make decisions that are emotionally neutral. In doing this, we’re practicing emotion regulation and learning that our baseline happiness doesn’t have to be threatened by the possibility of a potential wrong turn.
The Big Whipp: As professional peeps, we’ve become experts in framing optimal decisions, creating straightforward and smart decisions with enviable emotional control.
But that right there – emotional control – is the exact reason why we’re good at what we do. It could just be that while we’ve learned to neutralize our emotional responses when it comes to some things, we’ve yet to master the skill when it comes to the things that really matter to us.
Next time you are feeling indecisive, just decide to read this… again.