Tuesday, November 29, 2011 / by Nathan Clark
He had never bought a Kindle, and he decided he finally wanted an e-reader. That seemed to be about the only thing he could decide.
Amazon just came out with a new Kindle called the Fire. It’s a touch-pad e-reader, about the same size as the old Kindles, but it’s all-color and has a wi-fi connection for apps, web browsing, etc. When my client read about this new gadget, he decided he was going to finally buy one.
But then the Black Friday sales came, he told me, and several makers of computer tablets dropped their prices much lower – even the iPad, which never seems to go on sale. So now he had a decision to make, he said – plunk the $200 down for the new Kindle Fire, or spend a little more and buy one of the tablets that had come down in price.
I guess the new Kindle can do more than the old Kindles do, but other tablets have more functionality, closer to computers than e-readers. And this guy couldn’t decide what to do.
He questioned whether he would use a new gadget as anything more than a reader. He wondered if spending $50 more for a cheap tablet was better than spending $100 more for a cheap tablet. He wondered if prices would go back down after the holiday season, if he could get more for his money if he waited.
It reminded me of the decisions some people face when they’re trying to buy a house. That is more understandable to me than spending all this energy on a decision over a couple hundred bucks.
I’m not entirely sure what makes some people so indecisive and others extremely decisive. I know there are decisions in life that represent real forks in the road and require thorough analysis. There are other decisions, though, that shouldn’t be as painfully tedious as people make them.
Do you want pepperoni or sausage on your pizza? Do you want to see the comedy or or the action movie? Do you want carpeting or hardwood in your living room?
These decisions – like buying a Kindle – are not life-altering decisions. They might require thought, yes, but agonizing over something that, ultimately, is insignificant causes stress that’s just wasted energy.
True, every decision comes with a consequence. And making rash, hasty choices is sometimes foolish. I wouldn’t tell you to flip a coin if you’re trying to decide between a 4-bedroom home or a 3-bedroom, for example. But I believe in the saying “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” and sweating over white or wheat toast at breakfast is silly.
And while every decision comes with a consequence, indecision has its consequences, too. I’ve had clients who are unable to decide between two houses end up losing them both to other buyers because by the time they thought they knew what they wanted, somebody else snatched up the deal. So the indecision winds up being a bigger consequence than whatever the consequences of an actual decision would have been.
The reason people are indecisive is fear. More specifically, it’s fear of being wrong. The thing is, though, we’ve all been wrong before. We will all be wrong again. Fear of making the wrong decision is a horrible excuse for instead simply making no decision.
I’m all for traditional tools people use to make decisions. Put a list of “pros” and “cons” side by side on a sheet of paper. Ask your friends or family for their opinions. Sleep on it. But, for goodness sake, at some point you must take ownership of the decision. If you think about it, I bet the most successful people you know are some of the most decisive people you know.
That’s not a knock on indecisive people, necessarily. I am not always as decisive as I want to be, and when I struggle with a decision, it is not a comfortable feeling. And I actually know a few very successful people who are also very indecisive. I know far fewer decisive people, however, who are unsuccessful.
It could be a chicken-and-egg question: Does being more successful in general help people be confident enough to be decisive? Or does being decisive help one become more successful?
Either way, you can either make it a goal to be more decisive or you can choose to try to let decisions be made for you.
That decision must be yours.