How to Be Decisive
There it is: the Big Decision.
On the one hand, you've got Road #1. And it is a tempting choice. It seems like a great path to go down... maybe everything you want.
Except you're not 100% sure it'll work out.
And if it doesn't, you'll have lost all that time going down it.
Then, on the other hand, you've got Road #2. It's the safer path by far... but maybe - could it be - too safe?
If you pick Road #2, you'll probably be okay, but you might miss out on the amazingly potential upside of Road #1.
Alternately, pick Road #1 and you risk having it not lead anywhere, and then you won't end up enjoying the benefits of Road #1 OR Road #2.
So, you hem and haw, delay and stall, sending your mind into overdrive trying to figure out which choice is the right choice to make.
Only, your mind can't figure this out. There's no new information coming in.
Nothing else to tip the scales in your head to help you to decide, or force you to.
In the end, you sit there, no closer to a decision than you were when first presented with those two choices, despite endless wheel spinning, mental gears clogged with mud and grass, unable to spin any further, you unable to decide.
This article is designed to help you never have to worry about this ugly (and far too common) scenario again; it the complete manual on how to be decisive, and it's how I took myself from someone who kept ending up in these scenarios to someone who never does anymore.
I remember walking with a group of friends a while back, wrapping up a night after having just had dinner. "Shall we take the metro, or take a cab?" I asked everyone. "We're not certain of getting a cab, but if we can hail one it'll be a lot faster and we'll have a lot less walking to do. Or, if we ride the metro, there'll be a lot more walking, but we won't be standing around wondering if we're going to be able to flag down a cab or not."
They stood there, befuddled. One of them was an out-of-towner like me, but everybody else was from town. I figured they'd have a good idea about how they wanted to get home, but none of them did.
"Well..." started one, "we could take the taxi, I guess. But will we have to wait a long time? I guess it's hard to find a cab right now."
"Maybe we should take the metro?" said another.
They stood around and stared quizzically at each other.
"I'm just going to try and find a taxi," I said, impatient with their indecision.
"I think maybe we should do the metro?" said one of the girls. "What
if we can't find a taxi?" Everyone stood around looking at me,
"Yeah, definitely, feel free to do the metro if you like; I'm going to go take a taxi because I don't want to walk all the way to the subway station," I said, and then I started walking to where the taxis were most likely to see me. Everyone else followed.
But they never decided. They were still debating whether to keep following me to see if we could land a taxi or whether they should turn around and walk back the other way toward the metro, right up until I hailed a taxi and we all piled in.
Not exactly a major life decision here or anything, but nobody else could decide.
The Demon Indecision
I'm convinced you lose more good opportunities to indecision, and the inaction that subsequently follows, than anything else in life.
Indecision is the twisted funhouse mirror that fear hides its ugly visage behind. It is man's defense against the great unknown... instead of taking a leap into uncertainty, simply stay put, frozen in in the middle between two irreconcilable choices.
No one chooses to be indecisive... that would, after all, be making a decision, albeit a decision not to make decisions.
Instead, indecision is the place you end up when your mind has stalled out, unable to accurately gauge, based on your previous reference points and experiences and what you know about these two (or more) choices, which way is the right way to go.
Saying "I can't decide" can feel safe... now instead of doing something, and potentially taking a risk, you can do NOTHING.
So nothing changes.
But if you aren't satisfied with your life as-is - if you want new friends, new lovers, new skills, new resources - you won't get those hemming and hawing.
And if you want to be seen as a leader - as someone respected and revered - that won't happen when you're unable to make a decision.
Why You Can't Make Up Your Mind
The scientific paper "Indecisiveness
and Culture: Incidence, Values, and Thoroughness" published in Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
had this to say about indecision:
“Three studies examined cultural variations in indecisiveness among Chinese, Japanese, and Americans. In Study 1, validated self-report, comprehensive measures of indecisiveness indicated large cultural differences, with Japanese participants exhibiting substantially more indecisiveness than Chinese or Americans. Study 2 provided evidence that such cultural variations correspond to variations in people’s positive versus negative values for decisive behaviors, suggesting that such values are plausibly an important means for motivating and sustaining cultural differences in indecisiveness. Study 3 provided direct behavioral instances of the differences in indecisiveness implicated in Studies 1 and 2. It also suggested that thoroughness might be an important cognitive mechanism whereby cultural differences in indecision actually occur, with thoroughness being especially prominent among Japanese decision makers. Suggestions for theory concerning the nature and foundations of indecisiveness and its cultural variations are developed and discussed, along with plausible implications for real-life practical issues, for example, in politics and management.”
That is to say, looking at Chinese, Japanese, and American decision makers, and finding that Japanese decision makers had a markedly more difficult time arriving at a decision than did their Chinese and American counterparts, the researchers posited that differences in indecision resulted from Japanese decision makers being:
More fearful of arriving at an incorrect decision than excited about arriving at a correct one, and
More concerned with arriving at THE correct, thoroughly selected decision
The people with the hardest time making a decision are the ones who most want to be right, and most fear being wrong.
Could it be your desire to be right is holding you back?
In "How to Overcome Depression" I talked about the psychological overhaul I gave myself back in college when I realized a lot of how I used my brain was limiting me. I did things like:
- Start censoring negative emotional thoughts from my head
- Start forcing my brain to think about projects I was working on and enjoyed
- Remove negative people from my life who were having a bad influence
- Forbid myself from engaging in victim mentality
- Set goals for myself and force myself to start doing them
Another one of the things I did was realize that I was spending too much time being indecisive, and that this led to my life being rather stagnant.
So, I decided to do something here, too: I decided to start mixing it up a bit more.
The Foolish and the Bold
The archetype of the "hero" in movies, comics, and stories of all kinds is often of a man who bullishly - and sometimes foolishly - rushes into taking action to save the day.
Sometimes this leads to problems for him, because he makes the wrong decision, and people get hurt. He's forced to go through strife and difficulty dealing with the fallout, and eventually comes out of it on the other side with better-informed decision-making, and is able to still rush in with brash decisions, but they are now decisions drawn from a richer pool of experiences, and tend to be shrewder moves.
On the converse, you have the indecisive guy - this is a fellow you see infrequently in fiction, but far more so in real life.
This guy never does anything.
As such, he does not make the bold, foolish hero's mistakes... and he also does not receive the bold, foolish hero's lessons.
He avoids looking foolish by making bad choices.
But he also never learns how to make good choices, either, because he doesn't get the opportunity to learn from failure.
So, he ends up looking like the "guy who plays it safe", because he IS the "guy who plays it safe" - he never does anything crazy, wild, risqué, or interesting.
And he's never going to break that mold by continuing to play it safe.
The only way he breaks out of the "guy who plays it safe" mode of leading an unrewarding, unsatisfactory life is by adopting the principles of the foolish and the bold.
How to Be Decisive... When You Can't Decide
The hardest decisions to make are the frequently ones you encounter when you're still new to making fast, decisive decisions.
The reason for that is because when you haven't yet learned how to be decisive and haven't yet pressed yourself to decide, you don't have the experiences to educate you in consistently making correct decisions yet.
You also don't have any "default decisions" in place yet - and these are a key part of being decisive.
"Default decision?" you might ask. "What's that?"
A default decision is how you decide when you can't decide.
It's your decision making contingency plan. e.g.:
What do you do if one of your friends wants you to come have dinner with him at your favorite restaurant, while another of your friends wants you to go see that new movie you really wanted to see on the same day and at the same time as that first friend? How do you choose if you want to do both equally?
What do you do if you're getting a seemingly good offer on something, but you're not completely sure, yet you're being told it's a "now or never" kind of deal - if you don't take it now, you'll never get another chance to?
What do you do if you have a major life decision coming up - where to move to, what kind of career to pursue, whether to quit your job or not, whether to go to college or not, whether to marry a girl or break up with her, something along those lines? How do you decide?
These are the kinds of scenarios in which most people get stuck.
And they always get stuck because of one of two reasons:
They want both (or all) options relatively equally, or
They don't have enough information to know which option to select
Therefore, what we really need are some logjam-busters... a chain to latch onto your car and yank you out of the mud.
We need some default decisions.
Before you can use these to be decisive, the first thing you must be is angry at being indecisive.
You've got to be legitimately annoyed at yourself when you're unable to decide and/or unable to take the lead.
If this isn't something that bothers you, you're not going to care about changing it, or want to change it. So, first thing's first: be able to realize when you're stuck making a decision, and be ANGRY about it.
This gives you the impetus you need to force a decision on yourself.
What kind of decision you force on yourself, of course, is going to depend on what you feel like your options are for deciding - and for that, I recommend a good stable of default decisions to fall back on in various scenarios.
Here are mine:
Pick the scarcer option. If it's something relatively minor - say, going to your favorite restaurant, or going to see that movie that's out right now - sometimes you can pick by selecting the option that's scarcer. For instance, the movie's only going to be playing for a limited time, and maybe you won't have another chance to go see it, or maybe nobody else will want to go and you don't feel like going alone. The restaurant's not going anywhere. So you pick the movie, knowing you can go to the restaurant another day.
Pick the option that's less immediate work. The taxi-metro story from the start of the article jammed my friends' decision making because both options contained potentially large amounts of possible work: you might have to do a lot of walking and standing and waiting to use the metro, but the taxi would be fast and you could sit. Or, you might try to find a taxi, but be unsuccessful, in which case you'd still have to take the metro and do all the work there, but with the added work of having had to walk around and try to find a taxi and backtrack and go to the metro instead if unsuccessful. I was able to decide because I just said to myself, "What's less work right now if it works?" and the answer was "taxi," so I went for the taxi, knowing that I didn't have a way of knowing if it would work or not, so the point was moot.
Pick the more educational option. Ever find yourself torn on what to order at a restaurant, between an old favorite of yours and that new dish that might be good... or might not be? When you can't decide and don't have a clear preference, it's best to say, "Okay then, I'll try the new one to get more information on what that tastes like and how good or not it is so that next time I'll have an easier decision making process."
Pick the less harmful option. You can make $100 working for 10 hours, or you can go stick up that guy who just cashed his paycheck and make $100 in a few seconds. While I don't think this is a hard decision for most of the readers on this site, there are other, more complicated decisions - like how to deal with a girl you're seeing whom you want to break up with, but you know she'll be hurt - where this comes into play. Choose the option that causes the least harm to all parties involved.
When not pressured, say "yes." When you have a "yes" or "no" decision to make and you can't decide what to say, assuming no one is pressuring you for a reply, say "yes." You'll enjoy new experiences and discover if you like something or not, and be better able to decide decisively next time.
... EXCEPT when pressured. Then, say "no." I'm a pretty straightforward person, and because people tend to assume others are like them, people tend to make decisions under the assumption that others are like them. I've had a handful of incidents I can recall in the past where some person (a sales person, a former business partner) was asking me to make a decision right now on something I was very much on the fence on. Because I was in the habit of saying "yes" to all new opportunities, I said "yes" to most of these and ended up losing a great deal of money and getting nothing for my troubles every time.
I ended up adopting that default decision of, "If someone is pressuring you to decide on something and will not give you time to think, say NO every single time." Your conversation with people like this will look like so:
Him: I can perform X great service for $2,000, but ONLY if you sign up right now.
You: I need time to mull it over. Give me a chance to talk to some other folks I know who are educated in this and do a little research on my own.
Him: There's nothing to research! All the information you need is right here. Look - you've got to decide RIGHT NOW, or never. I can't wait around for you to make up your mind, I'm very busy.
You: Okay, in that case - no.
Him: Well, wait - are you sure you want to write this off? You're making a HUGE mistake! It's the deal of a lifetime!
You: Nope, not interested. Thanks. Bye.
Then you exit the situation immediately, unless you REALLY want to stick around and strengthen your resistance to someone trying to hit every angle to get you to do what he wants... better be certain you won't say "yes," though, as these people are good at getting "yes"es out of you.
Flip a coin. If all else fails, just choose at random.
Your "indecision decision tree" (how to proceed when you're not immediately sure how to proceed) ends up looking like this, in order of importance:
- Am I being pressured for a "yes"? If not, say "yes"; if so, say "no."
- Is one of these choices harmful to anyone? Don't choose that one.
- Is one of these choices more educational for me? Choose that one.
- Is one of these choices rare / scarce / disappearing? Choose that
- Is one of these choices less immediate work? Choose that one.
- Nothing else here applies? Pick randomly to just have a decision.
So, first thing you'll avoid are agreeing to things you're being pressured to agree with. Always say "no" to these, unless you have no other choice (e.g., someone's asking you for your money with a gun to your head... probably say "yes" there, unless you're Batman).
Next, if you have a decision to make and there's potential for other people getting hurt, choose the option that's less harmful.
Then, if you have a decision that's hard to make and one of the options is going to be more educational to you than the other option(s), choose the more educational one.
Finally are scarcity and effort. If pressure is not an issue, neither option is especially harmful to anyone, and neither option is going to give you much of an education advantage over the other, then just choose whichever one is likely to be harder to come by, and if both are the same in that regard, do whichever is easier.
And if you're not being pressured, there's no potential harm, no potential education, no difference in availability, and everything's roughly the same amount of work, then just choose randomly. It doesn't matter which one you select; if it did, you'd already have arrived at a decision.
How Much You Actually Need to Remember
You don't need to memorize that "indecision decision tree" to know how to be decisive in one situation or another. Having a good idea about what questions to ask in what scenarios is probably enough.
When I realize I'm stuck in deciding on something, the first thing I'll usually ask myself is, "Which of these options is more educational, or which is harder to come by?" That's because I'm not usually being pressured for a decision, and the things I'm deciding on rarely involve possible harm coming to other people.
If I can't make up my mind still, I choose whichever's easier (or closer, if I'm traveling somewhere).
And if I still can't make up my mind... I'll play some sort of randomness game, like taking the letters "I" and "F" for an Italian and a French restaurant and saying, "I, F, I, F, I, F, I, F, I, F, I..." faster and faster until I trip up, and go with whichever restaurant I said the initial for last before I stumbled over the letters.
The only exception to this are "big" questions, like where to work, where to live, where to travel to, etc. For these, it's best to do as much research on them as you can to give your brain enough information to make an informed decision on.
Yet... if you've stocked your cerebrum with facts and you still can't decide... if the choices are too hard to pick from... and you can't decide which is more educational, or rarer, or easier...
... then just play the role of bold, foolish hero - and pick one and charge ahead.
The only way you learn how to decide better in the future is by deciding right now and finding out later if you decided right or not.
Get Your FREE eBook on Texting Girls
Sign up for our email insights series and get a copy of our popular ebook “How to Text Girls” FREE. Learn more ...
Trying to piece together a seduction strategy bit-by-bit, article-by-article, question-by-question? Stop killing yourself doing it the slow and difficult way - and get it all spelled out for you instead, in detail, in exactly the order you need to learn it... with homework, too.
With our complete mastery pick up package, you'll get our 406-page how-to eBook How to Make Girls Chase, our 63-minute long video Spellbinding: Get Her Talking, and 3 hours of audio training - all for less than the price of the book and video alone.
Quit banging your head against the wall - get it now, to speed your learning curve up dramatically... and start really getting the women you want to want you too. You can go right here to get started and be downloading your programs in minutes: How to Be a Pick Up Artist.